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Live Reviews

12 Points! Jazz Festival, Stavanger, Norway: Europe's New Jazz

By Published: March 1, 2010
So, too, could Trio VD. Guitarist Chris Sharkey, saxophonist Christophe de Bézenac and drummer Chris Bussey thrashed around with the demonic energy (and volume) of punk and heavy metal. This raw, deconstructive music is not the stuff of emotion recollected in tranquility.

But their intelligent, witty, intricately conceived, polyrhythmic, contrapuntal work has the kind of precision, improvisatory freedom and mutual trust and inspiration that comes only from intense application. Think John Zorn

John Zorn
John Zorn
b.1953
sax, alto
, Tim Berne
Tim Berne
Tim Berne
b.1954
saxophone
and, maybe, Marc Ducret
Marc Ducret
Marc Ducret
b.1957
guitar
and you have a glimpse of what goes into their sound world. Unsurprisingly, their mentor in Leeds is the gifted, explosively maverick pianist, Matthew Bourne.

Another who may go places was the festival's only solo performer this year. Singer Mari Kvien Brunvoll is a one-off, with a plaintive voice every bit as singular as, say, Björk. She builds textures with loops, pedals, thumb piano and even a zither for her musical home planet, a place somewhere between jazz, blues and pop. The emotional climate she inhabits is a bit narrow—perhaps a producer sensitive enough to introduce more light and shade without compromising her individuality might help—but it's an insinuatingly captivating, elusively compelling experience to hear her.

There were other things to take away from this year's festival. France's Donkey Monkey—pianist Eve Risser and drummer Yuko Oshima—mixed rock, stride, boogie, free jazz and song with a quirkily subversive wit. And though Finland's Quartester produced an "oh dear" moment when leader Kasperi Sarikoski essayed a sub-Chet Baker

Chet Baker
Chet Baker
1929 - 1988
trumpet
vocal, his virtuoso command of the trombone was astonishing. Bassist Vesa Ojaniemi's mature conception, though, was a crucial factor in the group.

Mark McKnight

Ireland's Mark McKnight, runner up in 2008's Montreux Jazz Guitar Competition, headed a fine trio with Scotland's Euan Burton on bass and England's brilliant young drummer, James Maddren. And Belgium's Eve Beuvens Trio made a good impression with a set that reflected not only the contemporary impact of Brad Mehldau

Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau
b.1970
piano
, but also the unmistakable taste of Lennie Tristano
Lennie Tristano
Lennie Tristano
1919 - 1978
piano
.

Trumpeter Lorenz Raab's XY-Band from Vienna was notable, among other things, for its use of two bass players and for his virtuoso command of the instrument. The group's overall style was effectively a musical amalgam which, to a degree, reflected Raab's collaborations with electronic artists, jazz players like the Muthspiel brothers (guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel

Wolfgang Muthspiel
Wolfgang Muthspiel
b.1965
guitar
and trombonist/pianist Christian) and his own background in the Viennese Volksoper. If the extra bass didn't seem to add much to the color, texture or internal dialogue, the music that emerged was polished, kaleidoscopic in its mood shifts and very controlled.

Sadly, the festival's weakest concert came from Jazzanitsa, a Bulgarian-led sextet with a trumpet-tenor-alto front line and personnel drawn from Bulgaria, the Netherlands and Poland. The style was something like Art Blakey

Art Blakey
Art Blakey
1919 - 1990
drums
's Jazz messengers with a Balkan accent; alas, the execution wasn't.

Significantly, the audiences in Stavanger's well equipped and central Folken venue included a large quota of agents, festival programmers, club owners and label managers, as well as journalists. But if the festival is a good place to find new European talent, it's also a public event. It could have done with more non-professionals in to savor the music.

As the success of the Dublin experience has shown, it takes time to build a local audience for an event with no jazz celebrities. Yet, overall, the stunning quality and diversity of most of the talent on display in Stavanger underlines the uniqueness of a festival like this. It takes a lot of putting together—including 14 separate organizations in Norway, Ireland and other European countries, as well as the help of a number of embassies and cultural institutes—but the payoff in musical and cultural terms is incalculable.

Photo Credit

All Photos: Jan Granlie



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