Gent Jazz Festival 2010: Days 6-9
Following a period of drifting into near intangibility, London's Cinematic Orchestra have now re-grouped and returned to their powerfully pulsating sound of old. Directed by musical mastermind Jason Swinscoe, the band features players that have forged their own separate identities within the British jazz scene. This is particularly the case with guitarist Stuart McCallum, who's now developing a completely solo performance platform, and keyboardist Ivo Neame, who is a pivotal part of the Phronesis trio. A few years ago, they were submerged in the contents of Ma Fleur, their rather lightweight 2007 album. Now, they've eased off on that concentration, revisiting the classic Every Day collection, with this set's masterwork inevitably being the transcendental "Evolution." Mention should also be made of Tom Chant's frequent saxophone escalations.
This second week of the festival reveled in extreme contrasts. After its semi-acoustic Portuguese-lingo nite, what could provide a more slamming shift than a touch of pumping Austrian DJ directness? Kruder & Dorfmeister have almost become veterans of the intelligent, funky, jazzy house scene, but their sessions remain vital and, in the end, almost danceable. For much of the set, most of the crowd were simply transfixed by the pulsating basslines and hopping beats. Because there's usually never much to watch when a pair of DJs are working, (Peter) Kruder and (Richard) Dorfmeister adopted the brashest visual experience possible. Large banks of pixel-ated screen-blocks were ranged in front of their desks and behind them, in tiers. Images flashed into overload, created by Fritz Fitzke. Added physical interest was provided by the two capering MCs, Earl Zinger and Ras MC T-Weed, who almost became singers at several points.
July 17: Gil Scott-Heron/Root
The Gentian trio Root sounded like they should have been born in Norway. Keyboardist Dominique Vantomme plays a spread of Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric pianos, plus clavinet and various organs. He's joined by bassist Mirko Banovic and (Dutch) drummer Geert Roelofs. Of all the Belgian bands on show here, Root were amongst the hardest, but also the funkiest. At one extreme they were indebted to the sounds of Supersilent, but with their limber soulfulness, they could be plundering the outgoing aspects of New York's Medeski, Martin & Wood. The end-sound became their own Root-sound amalgam.
Gil Scott-Heron almost speaks another language. The combination of his drawling accent, his subterranean-toned voice and his abstractly rambling nature forms a verbose stream that demands close attention. He opened his relaxed, at-one set with just such a narrative, allowing the audience to get comfortable before he cracked open his classic songbook pages. Gone are the days when Scott-Heron used to tour with a full band, funky and strong. His recent appearances have involved a stripped down, investigatory unit that unites old friends from the Midnight Band and the Amnesia Express, representing two different eras of Scott-Heron's decades-long career.
Lately, the Harlem resident prefers to drain maximum soul-juice out of each number, relaxedly stretching out the minutes so words and music can be savoured. This is a largely successful ploy, allowing deep development, particularly when most of the audience are probably steeped in his old vinyl output. The only time this tactic became tiring was during "The Other Side," which seems to get longer by the gig, its repeated 'tomorrow' lines approaching realms only inhabited by Philip Glass. Conversely, the revived "We Almost Lost Detroit" and the oldie-from-the-latest-album "I'll Take Care Of You" (penned by Brook Benton) sent quivery sensations up'n'down the collective spine, benefiting from their protractedness.
Scott-Heron was about to launch into "The Bottle," one of his biggest songs, but had just received the signal that he'd already overplayed the allotted time-slot. He probably doesn't own a timepiece, but such a lack wouldn't ever impede the great man's poetic-phrasing precision.
July 18: Joe Bonamassa/Soil & Pimp Sessions