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Live Reviews

Jazz em Agosto 2008: Days 1-3

By Published: August 15, 2008

Yoshihide's performance began in the soft, wordless vocalizing of Kahimi Karie against Cor Fuhler's rattled and scraped piano strings, guitar and bass joining in until improvisation suddenly broke into a tune, Dolphy's "Hat and Beard," a composition dedicated to Thelonious Monk that first appeared on the album Out to Lunch. That theme led in turn to a free tempo improvisation that would range from the subtle detailing of Yoshihide's guitar against Axel D?rner's trumpet to the post- punk noise of Mats Gustafsson's baritone and Yoshihide's over-driven guitar. "Something Sweet, Something Tender" followed, also from Out to Lunch as the Dolphy invocation became increasingly specific. Following a long improvisation between bass and baritone saxophone (that seemed to include a passing reference to "Stormy Weather," a pop song memorably etched by Dolphy with Charles Mingus). There was more Dolphy to come— "Straight Up and Down," also from Out to Lunch—but there was also Yoshihide's own music, including "Lost in the Rain," an incredibly complex drone employing every instrument on the Orchestra. In the near-forest of the Gulbenkian it took on the life of a vast insect hum. As an encore, the band played "Looking up at the Stars in the Night Sky," a song popular in Japan in the sixties.

Day 2: August 2

In the afternoon the festival screened filmmaker Hans Hylkema's ,em>Eric Dolphy: Last Date, his 1991 account of the great multi-instrumentalist's last month alive, June 1964, filtered through the recording released as Last Date. Most arresting are the images of Dolphy's practice room and interviews with California associates Buddy Collette and Roy Porter. There are also interviews with the musicians Dolphy played with on Last Date: Han Bennink reads from a diary he kept at the time, while Misha Mengelberg's recollection is refreshingly combative. The featured band was Satoko Fujii's Min-Doh Ensemble. Her most lyrical performing unit, it combines her piano with Andrea Parkins' accordion and laptop and the brass of trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and trombonist Curtis Hasselbring.

A fascinating grouping, it began with a storm of sound, dense chromatic clouds of piano cut through by knife-edge brass and an odd breathing in and out of accordion. It was a dramatic opening for a subtle performance that often emphasized brass overtone patterns and an intense sensitivity to timbre, often employing its voices in solo and duet formations. The program was a mix of Fujii's broad-ranging compositions and traditional Japanese folk songs, and the music seemed particular attuned to the urban garden of the amphitheatre setting. A duck quacked loudly as the band took the stage, while airplanes passing overhead (Lisbon has its airport in the city core) managed to coincide with both the opening and closing notes of the performance. Fujii herself was using the piano interior almost as much as the keyboard, employing metallic resonators and sliding glass to create a rich tapestry of sound.

Tamura is an intriguing trumpeter, one whose experiments with sonority have taken him deep into Japanese traditional music, his half-valves and bent tones often suggesting the wail of the shakuhachi, wistful, elusive and breathy until sometimes not a hint of trumpet remains in his sound. At other times there's a jazz-based lyrical intensity that suggests deep roots in Miles Davis. The sonic elements in Fujii and Tamura's playing receive greater emphasis in this context and they're expanded on with Parkins' highly electronic use of the accordion, often creating feedback and percussive effects, and Hasselbring's beautiful upper register and his own near-shakuhachi-like sounds combined with extensive use of quarter-tones. Every trombonist has a slide, but Hasselbring also has the ears to use it. Register was almost a point of play between the brass, Hasselbriing with an upper-register sweetness evocative of Tommy Dorsey, and Tamura exploring a lower register few musicians have uncovered. In the concluding traditional song, "Kariboshi Kiriuta," Fujii—a skilful practitioner of traditional music—added her voice to the performance while Tamura seemed to play a duet with himself, shifting between flute and trumpet timbres and high and low registers. The group's repertoire has been very well captured on their Victo CD from 2006.

Day 3: August 3

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