Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2010
Jörg Brinkmann Trio
A more meditative approach to the future sound of jazz than the outgoing Emil de Waal and Jörg Brinkmann Trio was given by the British Portico Quartet, who built their concert around the critically acclaimed albums Knee Deep in the North Sea (Vortex, 2007) and Isla (Real World, 2009). As good as their debut is, it is the follow-up, Isla, which has defined and perfected the unique sound of the quartet. Carried by the florescent and electronically manipulated saxophone lines of Jack Wylie, the tight but yet elastic rhythm section of drummer Duncan Milo and bassist Milo Fitzpatrick and the signature sound of Nick Mulvey's hang drums, whose ethereal, ringing sound adds a flowing counterpoint to the groovy pulse of the rhythm section, the four musicians gave stunning interpretations of tracks like "Dawn Patrol," conjuring images of lonely birds flying in mountain mist, and the dynamic "Clipper," with Wyllie's saxophone singing over Fitzpatrick's funky bass patterns. While the compositions gave room to make the individuals shine, the aesthetic of the band is more songlike in its nature, with sophisticated structures emerging out of melodic motifs and rhythms. Portico Quartet has transferred the complex nature of jazz into the tight structures of pop, adding a feel of atmosphere from unknown movie soundtracks. Live, they gave a performance which fully justified the praise that has been heaped on them.
Well-tempered Jazz Pianos
As well as enjoying the future sounds of jazz, the festival also gave a special opportunity to hear some of the past, present and upcoming stars on the piano. The Jazzhus Montmartre had booked two living legends for several dates: Martial Solal and Kenny Barron, and both delivered the goods. Solal played two dates at Montmartre where he played in a duo constellation with Danish bassist Mads Vinding. Without any unnecessary talk, the pianist engaged in a musical conversation, deconstructing standards while wearing a quiet smile. Like Art Tatum, Solal is sometimes too much of a virtuoso for his own good, but it is hard not to be impressed by his technical skills and knotty sense of swing.
Kenny Barron, on the other hand, brought a more straight-ahead approach to jazz piano, playing with his quartet, including masterful tenor saxophonist David Sanchez. During the three dates he played at Montmartre, Barron spoiled the audience with a mixture of self-penned tunes, standards and newer original material. One of the highlights of the engagement was a smoking version of Tommy Flanagan's "Freight Trane" where Barron showed his ability to stretch a tune with emphatic elegance. The response from the audience was also overwhelming; smiling faces all around.
When it comes to attracting a mainstream audience, Vijay Iyer has been known to be notoriously difficult to comprehend, but his album, Historicity, with its more groove-oriented compositions and inclusion of popular songs, has opened the gates towards a wider audience, and the concert Iyer played at Copenhagen Jazzhouse also showed an inclusive pianist, whose advanced harmonies never lost track of the basic, earthy groove. Iyer, who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of music history, also served up a slice of jazz history when he played a stride version of "Darn That Dream," making a graceful translation from the past to present.
While Iyer has finally emerged from the avant-garde shadows into the limelight, it was also possible to hear a pianist who has long time ago received his breakthrough, but yet hasn't received the full critical acclaim he deserves: Kenny Werner. Together with saxophonist Benjamin Koppel, Werner arranged a mini-festival in the suburb of Valby where he and Koppel played in a number of all-star constellations. Among the highlights of the many sessions there was played was a band consisting of Werner and Koppel with bassist Scott Colley, drummer Al Foster and guitarist John Abercrombie.