Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2010
The sound of this all-star group was simply wonderful as the musicians navigated through a program of melodic material, including Koppel's groovy "Hammond Street" and Werner's "Untitled Lament" where the pianist showed a sense of deep lyricism comparable to Keith Jarrett, developing melodic motifs like pearls on a string that resembled carefully constructed songs within the larger compositional framework. Werner's playing throughout the many sessions was continuously awe-inspiring and close to transcendence.
In many ways, Søren Bebe might be seen as a student of Werner. He certainly belongs to the tradition of lyrical pianists that goes from Erroll Garner and Bill Evans through Keith Jarrett. What Bebe adds to the lyrical tradition of the piano is a sense of folk-like simplicity, with mourning melodies blossoming like shy night-flowers. His trio with versatile drummer Anders Mogensen and electric bassist Niels Ryde is capable of the kind of close interaction that spawns magic moments. For the concert at the intimate Spanish bookstore Rayuela, situated in the charming quarters of Nørrebro, the trio went well beyond the melancholic mood that characterises their latest offering, From Out Here (Your Favourite Jazz) and stretched across a wide repertoire, sporting some solid blues-based workouts. Still, the highlights, and what Bebe does best, were the ballads where his lyrical playing really shone, especially in the reading of Ryde's "Heimat" and in his own "Song for Andrea" and "Song for Sophie."
Piano-lovers were not alone in being treated to a feast of outmost musical excellence, connoisseurs of the saxophone also had the possibility to enjoy some of the instrument's most idiosyncratic and elegant practitioners. While Joe Lovano played with the grand backing of The Danish Radio Big Band, some of the festival's greatest moments arose in more humble, chamber-like settings. The trio Fly, with bassist Larry Grenadier, drummer Jeff Ballard and saxophonist Mark Turner, have become one of the most interesting explorers of the saxophone-trio format. Their name is particularly well-chosen, because while the group certainly swings, it does so in a light, almost featherweight way, where the instruments seem to blend into each other. They play upon the pulse, instead of the beat, transferring the principles of Claude Debussy's impressionism to jazz. The concert at Copenhagen Jazzhouse showed a group at the height of their powers, with especially Turner sculpting each phrase into a work of art as the group explored the material from their ECM-album Sky & Country, peppered with a selection of standards and other favourites.
Joshua Redman, another young tenor saxophonist, whose profile has risen in the later years, played a stunning set at the Jazzhouse, introducing his double quartet to an enthusiastic Danish audience. Redman took the bulk of his material from the album Compass (Nonesuch, 2009) and while bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gregory Hutchinson, who play on that album, also played at that concert, Larry Grenadier (bass) and Brian Blade (drums) were replaced by Bill Stewart (drums) and Matt Penman (bass). This replacement gave an interesting change in the dynamics of the group, with Stewart adding a more hard-hitting, funky feel to the proceedings. Redman-compositions like "Identity Thief" and "Hutchhiker's Guide" were captivating studies in harmony and groove, but it was when the group played Gil Evans' "Barracudas (General Assembly)," in the Wayne Shorter-inspired version found on Etcetera (Blue Note, 1965), and Redman called in Mark Turner as a guest star that the concert changed from being excellent to becoming purely sublime. Here, the two saxophonists acknowledged the debt to the classic Blue Note hard bop recordings of the sixties, while adding a whole new sensibility to the tune, their fiery lines cascading like cathedrals into the air. Both Redman and Turner showed that they have become style-icons in their own right, stepping out of the shadows of their predecessors.
For a brief moment, the unification of Joshua Redman and Mark Turner gave the blueprint for a dream blowing session. However, the idea of an all-star saxophone meeting was fully realised at Prøvehallen in Valby where saxophonist Benjamin Koppel and pianist Kenny Werner had invited Chris Potter and Bobby Watson to a steaming symposium of sax playing.