12 Points! Jazz Festival, Stavanger, Norway: Europe's New Jazz
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, Tim Berne and, maybe, Marc Ducret 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 narrowperhaps a producer sensitive enough to introduce more light and shade without compromising her individuality might helpbut 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 Monkeypianist Eve Risser and drummer Yuko Oshimamixed 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 Bakervocal, his virtuoso command of the trombone was astonishing. Bassist Vesa Ojaniemi's mature conception, though, was a crucial factor in the group.
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, but also the unmistakable taste of Lennie Tristano.
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 Muthspieland 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'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 togetherincluding 14 separate organizations in Norway, Ireland and other European countries, as well as the help of a number of embassies and cultural institutesbut the payoff in musical and cultural terms is incalculable.
All Photos: Jan Granlie