In winter, you can drive through the village of Marciac unaware of the preparations underway in this little corner of southwest France. The festival is once again getting ready to don its "*suit of lights" and write another chapter of this ephemeral yet all-encompassing summer event. This fleeting phenomenon -with its permanent echo in the annual L’Astrada programme- bears a name that portrays the coming of a major musical genre to its adopted land : “Jazz in Marciac”. The decision to embrace jazz defines Marciac in the existential sense evoked by French philosopher Sartre. The village is happy to lead its double life. It has made its choice freely : Marciac has chosen jazz. Or perhaps is it the contrary ? Jazz is too simplistic a word to convey its multifaceted reality : the 39th edition of Jazz in Marciac consecrates stars, anoints newcomers, explores uncharted territories. The marquee, large enough to pack in 6,000 worshipers, will take on all the trappings of a place of worship this summer. Pianist Ahmad Jamal will give his only concert of the year, replete with vertiginous vamps and open spaces suggestive of beautiful notes to come. This will be an event to remember. The programme will feature irrefutable voices, ones that never disappoint. Dianne Reeves, crystal-clear, yet deep-rooted. Jamie Cullum, potent punch of jazz and pop. Hugh Coltman, who artfully brought Nat King Cole into the 21st century. There will be Latin flavours—a fixture on the Marciac menu—in which the clave ingredients are sprinkled in an array of delicate, inventive, combinations by artists such as David Sanchez, Michel Camilo, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Roberto Fonseca. Lips and fingers of gold. Yet jazz wouldn’t be jazz without precious encounters. What sort of concoction should we expect from Yaron Herman and "M", the most refined of French pop artists ? And what about the sharp, potent sax of Stefano Di Battista buoyed by Kyle Eastwood’s rhythmic bass ? Not to mention a smattering of stardust from recent Grammy winners guitarist John Scofield and the non‑conformist collective Snarky Puppy. There will be another chance to catch up with John McLaughlin, a man synonymous with spiritual fusion, Lucky Peterson, back at the Hammond organ to pay tribute to Jimmy Smith ; Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker, the essence of funk and soul, both of whom first honed their talents to public plaudits alongside the late James Brown. Last but never least, there is that sense of eternal recurrence from a man who is a fixture and favourite in Marciac, his deft and noble trumpet in hand, imbued with the timeless sophistication of a gatekeeper to history that claims his place in the present : Wynton Marsalis. He still is Marciac´s secret weapon.

Chazz Belmonte

* traditional clothing that bullfighters wear in the bullring.

29 July to 15 August 2016