Tampere Jazz Happening 2010: Day 2, November 5, 2010
Tampere Jazz Happening
November 4-7, 2010
Day two of Tampere Jazz Happening kicked the festival into high gear, with a terrific line-up at both the festival's primary venues: Pakkahuone's Old Customs House Hall, which seats upwards of a thousand people and is used for the larger, primarily international acts; and Telakka, a smaller club that seats a couple hundredthough the standing room only crowd that gathered well in advance of the evening's 9:00PM start time, easily pushed that number up by another hundred. The good news is that there's a second floor at the venue where, with an additional bar outfitted with a video screen and sound system, it was also possible, for those who arrived too late to be on the main floor, to sit down, have a drink and watch the shows in greater comfort.
The two venues are across a pedestrian square from each other, with another club, Klubi (to learn the Finnish language, TJH Executive Director Minnakaisa Kuivalainen joked, just take the word and add an "i') situated kitty corner to Telakka; the site of late-night shows that start each evening at 1:00AM. The same building that hosts Klubi also houses the festival offices as well as an artist lounge, where it's possible to meet and hang with many of the artists performing at TJH. Completing the picture, the main festival hotel is just around the corner, making everything within only a couple minutes walk; a good thing, since the weather has been very unsettled, with rain on and off the first couple dayseven light snow falling on the morning of festival's third day.
Telakka is where the majority of the Finnish acts perform, and the first evening at the club provided a real cross-section, ranging from an opening guitar duo to a centrist acoustic jazz quartet and, finally, a rock-tinged group that combined psychedelic guitar pyrotechnics with freewheeling saxophone, thundering drums and some vintage synth sounds. It all made for an evening, in an intimate club environment, that went from the sublime to the extreme over the course of three-and-a-half hours.
By the time Teemu Viinikainen and Niklas Wintertwo guitarists well-established in the Finnish scene, with over forty albums released individually as leaders or sidemenhit the small stage at Telekka a few minutes late at 9:15PM, the club had gone, over the previous couple hours, from lightly populated to jam-packed. Considering the size of the room, the number of people standing throughout, and supporting posts partially obstructing the view from different angles, the crowd was remarkably focused on a duo weighing heavily on the side of subtlety and lyricism. Viinikainen and Winter demonstrated a kind of comfortable and mutually respectful empathy, and control over dynamics that grabbed the audience's attention and kept it, from the first notes of a set which combined original compositions from each guitarist with a couple of well-known standards, including the well-deserved encore, a wryly reverent look at Thelonious Monk's classic blues, "Blue Monk," that is also the opening track to the duo's first release, Eight Songs Seven Keys (Abovoice, 2010).
From left: Teemu Viinikainen, Niklas Winter
The duo's rearrangement of the classic "My Funny Valentine," which came about half-way through the pair's 45-minute set, was more eminently adventurous, taken at a faster clip and with a rhythm guitar pattern that, at the beginning at least, was tinged with a hint of Latin. But, as was the case with most of the music in the set, the song's structure drove a constant evolution and shift, as Viinikainen and Winter traded roles, each supporting the other in a relatively conventional fashion.
Still, as centrist as the duo was, its harmonic sensibility sometimes took it to other places, with a dark ambiguity recalling guitarist John Abercrombie solo, and in duet with Ralph Towner, from the '70s. Already demonstrating a synchronistic evolution since the recording of Eight Songs Seven Keys a few months back; other than the two standards, the duo surprisingly performed very little from its recording. That said, the hollow body tones of both Viinikainen and Winter were brighter and more direct, and far less reverb-drenched than, say, Abercrombie back in the day.
Of the two, Winter tended to be the more oblique and angular player, though he never sacrificed lithe dexterity entirely. Viinikainen was the smoother, more fluid of the pair, delivering long, serpentine lines that weaved in and around Winter's combination of finger-picking and propulsive strumming, just as Viinikainen's own strong rhythmic sensibility created a backdrop upon which Winter could completely trust, when he took over the spotlight.
Trust in fact, was key, as was a fundamental sense of good time. Without a drummer or a bassist, and with the two guitarists sometimes dissolving into spare sections where time was, at best, suggested, it became even more essential that the two could internalize that time and know where it was, without it being explicitly there. It's in the context of the duo that an artist is at his/her most exposed; not only are their abilities, instincts and improvisational élan laid bare, but their communication skillsor lack thereofare impossible to disguise. Viinikainen and Winter needn't have worried, as it was clear, from their Tampere Jazz Happening performance, that this was a duo communicating at a very deep level, playing relatively quiet music that was, nevertheless, thoroughly captivating.