Jazz comes to Gibraltar from 20 - 25 October (Getty)
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Bebop on the Rock: performers at the upcoming Gibraltar Jazz Festival (20 – 25 October) share their favourite artists, albums and tracks of all time

George Posso, president of the Gibraltar Jazz Society

“What’s the history of the Gibraltar Jazz Society, and who’s your favourite jazz artist?”

The first Jazz Appreciation Society was formed in 1998 by Paul Riley, Dennis Mander and Liz Carr to promote jazz in Gibraltar and I was assigned to organise jazz nights. I started getting musicians together and organising a weekly jazz night. By 2000 I had formed the Gibraltar Jazz Society and started jazz nights at the O'Callaghan Eliott Hotel every Thursday. I also started hosting jazz workshops in secondary schools.

I have now been organising the Gibraltar Jazz festival in conjunction with the Gibraltar Ministry of Culture since 2012. This year’s festival it our third. The jazz workshops provided during the jazz festivals have generated a lot of interest amongst young music students, and have even resulted in one local school student going off to Berklee College of Music in Boston to further his musical education in jazz.

I have kept the weekly jazz sessions going at the O'Callaghan Eliott Hotel now for almost 15 years and with the addition of the yearly festival with expect the interest for jazz to keep growing.

My favourite artists? It's late and I'm lost for words, but I can say that amongst my many favourites Eliane Elias is definitely top of the list along with Marc Johnson, who has been a great influence on many upright bassists and formed part of the Bill Evans Trio, along with Randy Brecker's distinctive horn sounds and groove and immense background with the Brecker Brothers. What could be better than having these three greats for our third Gibraltar International Jazz Festival?

Eliane Elias, pianist, singer and songwriter

“Favourite jazz album?”

I have been asked this question dozens of times and my answer has always been the same. There are way too many for me. One of my favourite albums is “Seven Steps to Heaven” by Miles Davis, and one of my favourite tracks is “Maxine” on Bill Evans' album “New Conversations”.

Randy Brecker, trumpet and flugelhornist 

“Favourite jazz track?”

My favourite jazz track of all time is my own track “Some Skunk Funk”, recorded on The Brecker Brothers Band's first record in 1975. It's also featured on our album “Heavy Metal Bebop”, a best-selling record which recently won a JazzPoll in Japan as the best horn record of all time. There are over 4,000 versions of this song on YouTube, and it's a kick every time we play it live and watch the audience's reaction when we start playing it. Sorry, but I'm my biggest fan!

Craig Philbin, band leader of the Soulmates

“Favourite jazz album?”

My favourite jazz album of all time would have to be the GRP All-Star Big Band live in concert. Every member of the band are exceptional solo artists in their own right and together they make what has to be the greatest big band of all time. Two tracks that really stand out for me are “Cherokee” and “S'wonderful”. George and Ira Gershwin's much loved tune “S'wonderful” is performed on two pianos by Dave Grusin and Russell Ferrante. The interplay between them is simply amazing and well worth a listen. 

Ray Noble's classic composition “Cherokee” is played by the trumpet section featuring some awesome trade-offs between Arturo Sandoval, Randy Brecker, Byron Stripling and Chuck Findley - who between them deliver a master class in jazz improvisation. Sandoval utilises his trademark screaming upper register, hitting notes that trumpet players across the world can only ever dream of. Being a trumpet player myself, I never tire of listening to this track and I can't wait to meet the legend that is Randy Brecker in person when he visits Gibraltar! 

Peter Martinez, from Levanter Breeze

“Favourite jazz artist?”

John Mclaughlin. Recommended by other musicians, I first started to listen to John Mclaughlin’s work around 1978/9. What captivated me was his sound and his unique, particular style of playing. Fusing jazz with flamenco and other ethnic sounds certainly gave me ideas about how to approach jazz in a different way, which that at the time seemed impossible as it was usually presented in the traditional manner. Today, I still reinforce my work with his influences.
“Favourite jazz album?”

“Electric Guitarist”. This is the first album or contact with Mclaughlin’s work. Again, his capability to fuse so many influences is a true reference for any jazz guitarist who wants to perform something different.

Click here to read more about the Gibraltar Jazz Festival.

Photo: Getty
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Studying in the UK

The University of Gibraltar opened its doors for the first time last month but not all students from the Rock will want to go there. Mark Montegriffo started his studies in the UK last week and offers his impressions.

Every year a new batch of Gibraltarian first year undergraduates move to the UK to start their degree. Like every other student having to live abroad to study and obtain their qualifications, the experience of having to fend for oneself in a different environment away from family will potentially be a daunting one. Typically, the experience will be no less daunting for the student born and raised in Gibraltar. But being a Gibraltarian student in the UK fosters very unique and idiosyncratic concerns.

Something that isn’t usually a concern is finance. This is not only thanks to the relative wealth that Gibraltarian middle classes earn but also thanks to the Government student grant scheme for students which gives a great amount of economic freedom to students. This makes one feel an irrational sense of guilt and embarrassment when discussing tuition fees with fellow students at the university who have had to pay their way more and face strong financial pressure. In fact, one is advised in Gibraltar to refrain from mentioning the grant scheme that has served students well for years.

If you do mention it, you can face alienation from the peer group as you don't form part of the same struggle, even if you sympathise with it. In Manchester I recently attended a march against grant cuts with over 80,000 people - nearly three times the Gibraltarian population. Or, and arguably worse, you'll get pestered for your money to buy drinks for students and strangers.

Something that can gravely concern a Gibraltarian student is being alone. It is a badly kept secret that we are a very close knit, family-orientated society. Our family is the community and usually until the age of 18, it's all we know when it comes to everyday life. Moving from the Rock to a city like Manchester where you're the only Gibraltarian on your course and there are only two of you in the entire university could certainly be daunting for some.

Undoubtedly, it makes one appreciate the homeland climate and way of life even more, even though the weather has been relatively decent so far this semester. [This piece is dated already – ed] It's not just the climate; university life and budget takeaway mealss create an insatiable appetite for Mediterranean cuisine and homemade gourmet grub.

It is not completely rare that Gibraltarian friends try to ensure that they stick together somewhat for university for that extra comfort. Hubs such as Leeds, Kingston, Cardiff and Twickenham are known to consistently feature Gibraltarian students. In order to fight this fear of loneliness, the Gibraltarian student is left to socialise with new groups of people (while refraining from small-town boasting. Leave the talk on your grandfather's political career or your experiences in the UN and EU for later) who are also likely to want to make a good impression so as to make friends.

This process can be interesting when you tell people where you're from. A barrage of fairly obvious and often repeated questions (at least to the Gibraltarian) will be spewed forth ad infinitum. The topics will range from monkeys to national identity and sovereignty; but it's rare that many will understand the unique complexity of the latter when it comes to Gibraltar. Some don't seem to understand why a mostly autonomous nation would want to remain British. Others don't seem to understand why Gibraltarians don't want to be Spanish. Hence, the small talk elevates to a speech on international relations, the Franco dictatorship and self-determination.

And just like that you've lost potential friends...or gained them if you've managed to be convincing enough to lobby them. Political ignorance among students is largely a media myth but the Gibraltarian has to keep a composed front and explain Gibraltar's political and historical landscape simply because it merits clarity; and also because you don't want to be mistaken as 'the Spanish guy', or perhaps not nearly as worse, 'the Gibraltan'.

Please, it's Gibraltarian or British.

Mark is a student of politics and philosophy from Gibraltar.