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Live Reviews

Tel Aviv White Night Festival 2008

By Published: August 1, 2008

Sommer's musical language is clearly indebted to great African-American drummers like Roach but even more so to hard-bop master Art Blakey, and he enjoys incorporating African polyrhythms and swing into his music as primary references. Yet Sommer always strived to vary his vocabulary with other musical traditions and his conventional drum kit with inventive toys and artifacts, which he played with an almost childish and innocent joy sufficient to turn this performance into the emotional peak of the festival. On one of his solo improvisations Sommer even added a mouth harp and began to play on a blues scale that flirted with European folk songs, frequently alternating rhythms and accentuations.

Gunter "Baby" Sommer

Sommer demonstrated he is also a true collaborator, and his first-time meeting with Danish Irgens- Moller, a member of the Danish composers collective Skraep, was a kind of heavenly match. Both of them investigated non-European musical cultures (Irgens-Moller has studied Ghanaian and Afghanistan musical traditions), both of them rarely succumbed to conventional linear articulations of their improvisation, and both of them proved highly inventive and resourceful musicians with a healthy sense of humor. Their brief duo showed how even the most obscure and often abstract musical ideas can gel and mutate into sensible and charming themes, if you have ears large enough and are sufficiently sensitive to pick up on one another's gestures. It was a fantastic set but, again, too short.

Irgens-Moller stayed on and continued to conduct the White Night International Big Band, which united members of all the performing ensembles and members of the Tel Aviv Art Ensembles and Israeli sax players Albert Beger and Abate Brihun . Irgens-Moller cleverly played among the horns, the chamber-associated instrumentalists, the audience members who happily filled the role of the intoxicated choir (shouting in Hebrew Irgens-Moller's invented phrases such as "move the mountain," "ant colony" and "white night") and the unstoppable Sommer. He left enough room for solos, especially for the sax players, and Horenstein and Brihun shined in these segments, but throughout he never allowed this open-ended, improvised-spontaneous composition to lose its imaginary focus, and he kept surprising the players as well as the audience with his original ideas and unique way of creating a most satisfying, bold and inspiring musical statement out of a seemingly chaotic assemblage of musicians.

Christer Irgens-Moller Conducting the White Night International Big Band

The festival concluded with another too-brief set by Israeli pianist Maya Dunietz and New-York based multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily, a member of Carla Kihlstedt's 2 Foot Yard and Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog. Dunietz played inside the piano, plucking the strings and sticking objects and rubbers into the strings, while Ismaily lightly rubbed the strings of the electric guitar. The sounds that both of them extracted from their instruments were atmospheric and dreamy, floating slowly in the large hall as if coming from other worlds, yet serving as a fitting, optimistic finale to the festival.

Photo Credit

Eyal Hareuveni

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