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Live Reviews

European Jazz Jamboree 2009

By Published: November 18, 2009
Takase's two nights in duo with one-time student Eberhard (alto and clarinet) at Jazzwerkstatt + Klassik Shop brought fresh colors to arrangements of Ornette Coleman's music, as heard on their 2007 release Ornette Coleman Anthology (Intakt): from "Peace" (Takase's inside of the piano expertise and modern classical approach stressing heavy, resonating bass notes and un-boppish impressionistic work in the treble register), "Long Time No See" (originally from Ornette's Friends and Neighbors 1970 recording, and fifteen years later featured on his Song X collaboration with Pat Metheny) and "Beauty is a Rare Thing" (its inherent spacious quality ideally suitable for the duo to exploit) to an extended "Una Muy Bonita" (a set highlight with each player at their most uninhibited).

Eberhard's work on the two clarinet family instruments (clarinet and bass clarinet) further removes the potentially overbearing tribute concept element without the common denominator instrument between performer and tributed composer. Saving her bass clarinet for the following set, however, Eberhard focused almost exclusively on Ornette's primary instrument, and his influence as a player admirably rarely crept up. Another unique aspect to this dedication is that Ornette rarely has ever included piano within his music, adding an even more refreshing dimension with Takase's masterful handling of the material while maintaining her own persona at the ivories. And like with Schlippenbach's Monk's Casino, these two performed without sheet music, impressively adding an even more daring element of spontaneity to their interpretation of the familiar themes while striking a trapeze artist balance between tonality and atonality through rather succinct and altogether new approaches to each piece. Not as far removed from the originals as the recording (being that Eberhard's featured on three reed instruments on the CD), it is quite an incredible feat live that the two played Ornette tunes in their own way utilizing his melodies as hooks, reeling in one unique interpretation after another.

Zurich-based soprano saxophonist Jurg Wickihalder performed originals and Steve Lacy works solo at the French Institute (he also performed a tribute to his former teacher Lacy at Babylon Kino). Unconsciously casting a double sometimes triple shadow of himself on the perpendicular walls of the fifth floor chamber music space from the room's lighting, the extraordinary visual and aural effect reflected at least a trio of musical personalities heard through a mix of interestingly titled and performed originals and covers, including "The Last Breath," "The Soprano Goes Shopping," Lacy's "Ducks" and "Art." A real experimentalist, at times found blowing from the opposite end of his horn, the saxophonist incorporated a well established vocabulary of solo performance on his instrument in addition to a full range of extended techniques including an obvious mastery of the instrument's altissimo register. Wickihalder also proved to be quite the melodicist, working within and around themes. The only downsides to the single set were his occasional paced right-foot taps which became more and more an unmusical distraction; and even though it was an exquisite set of music there did seem a certain element not present: stretched notes and portions could have been more raw, less-planned. It came across just a tad too "perfect." These observations aside, it was a perfect match of artist to venue, with sound acoustics carrying every breath and pressed sax pad, an excellent showcase for an up and coming talent.

Of the rare non-tribute events, and another example of a perfect artist to venue match, a standout included The Salmon duo of reedman Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky (clarinet and alto sax) and Griener (drums) at the Oval Room. Their project, documented on the superb eponymously titled Intakt release of the same name, showcases the duo's now matured near 5-year musical relationship in this context. Petrowsky— a veteran of some of Germany's earliest free jazz—firmly planted his feet and dug deep for unreserved experimentation, while Griener the self-taught and active drummer in Germany (and this year's edition of EJJ) successfully fed his duo partner rhythms to ricochet improvisations off of.

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