Jazz em Agosto (simply Jazz in August) has now reached its 39th edition, presented in the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundations gardens, in a recently refurbished amphitheatre. The concerts take place over eleven days, at 9:30 each evening, when the sun has toned down its blaze. Artistic director Rui Neves favors the alternative avenues of jazz, inviting free improvisation, folkloric infiltrations, electronic attachments, and loud guitars.
In this world, however, jazz and improvised music do have that quality of being a constant undercurrent of thought, imagination, and practice, something that comes through prominently in public at certain times and on certain stages. More than anything else, thats the fundamental value of the annual Vision Festival, which hit stage and screen at Roulette and The Clemente from June 10 through June 18 with panel discussions, documentaries, and of course a ton of vibrant music.
Adding to the chiarascuro is that Johnston doesn't record under her own name but as various project monikers. The most recent is Midwife, while Sister Grotto was her "past, ambient-based project that lived from around 2013-2016." As with many artists, various external labels apply, yet fall short. Minimalism, shoegaze, even the dreaded singer-songwriter are there, but Johnston prefers her own term: heaven metal. "I think my project lives in a lot of different genre-spaces and can exist alongside almost any kind of music," she says. "I describe Midwife as heaven metal because it seemed fitting when other genre descriptions couldnt contain it...its ethereal and emotional yet its often about dark subject matter. I made up the genre to try to describe this cathartic interplay between worlds, angelic and devastating."
What is a young Palestinian-American artist to make of these seismic changes? For electronic musician Omar Ahmad, raised in Brooklyn but with strong family ties to his ancestral home, the way forward is through the creation of open sonic space in which to explore possibilities.