Inntoene Festival: Diersbach, Austria, June 10-12, 2011
Saxophonists Azar Lawrence's quartet gave a high-energy, hard-hitting Coltrane tribute, in which the least surprising thing was that a drumsticks broke into pieces. Bassist Essiet Essiet was particularly impressive, not just for a solo in which the body of the bass got slapped hard, but for strong characterful and muscular playing throughout the set.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
A Sunday, a sunnier day with no fewer than eight gigs.
Oliver Steger's education project, Around the World with Brother Jacob, showed off a late group of local students for whom being onstage and performing seemed like the most natural thing in the world. It was good to be reminded that this festival is rooted in its community. The province of Upper Austria, "Kulturland," is rightly renowned for a well-funded high quality music education system.
The first of the day's professional gigs was from a Hammond trio led by saxophonist/flautist/bass clarinetist Klaus Dickbauer, a former member of the Vienna Art Orchestra. A strong, rhythmically assertive player, he led the group at the start through tricky meters, but then just seemed happy to attach the funk engine, lay back in the grooveand, highly successfully, please the crowd.
The next two afternoon gigs showed the boldness with which Paul Zauner's adventurous programming can bring the audience with him into uncharted territory. Xavier Diaz Latorre's duo was highly successful, resulting in a lovely gentle gig. Latorre is an awesomely equipped baroque guitarist who keeps, mostly, within the courtly and restrained mode of delivery of the period. When producing multi-fingered contrapuntal playing the quality of the voice-leading was quite stunning.
The crowd was won over, but there was less to enjoy in pianist Aki Takase's duo with Xiu Fengxia. Both women musicians, from the Far East, are based in the Germanic world, but until this gig had not played together.
The Eric Sava Quartet from Franceconsisting of baritone saxophone, piano, accordion and drumshad no such problem convincing everyone in the room and received a rapturous reception for their blend of fast-moving and energetic folk-jazz.
Bleu is a trio led by trumpeter Lorenz Raab, who doubles occasionallywith one handon harmonium, with Ali Angerer's tuba/zither/cimbalom/electronics and drummer Rainer Deixler. An extrovert trumpeter (is that a tautology?), Raab plays in the Volksoper, and mainly explored quieter sound-worlds and Austrian-inflected, Nordic-inspired electronica.
One of the moments which Paul Zauner had been evidently looking forward was to reunite a group of American musicians. Two are now based in Europecomposer/drummer/educator Doug Hammond, originally from Tampa Florida, and now based in Linz; and Detroit pianist Kirk Lightsey, based in Pariswith young bassist Aaron A James. They played standards, the trio providing lively and first rate support, leaving saxophonist Larry Smith free to roam. Lightsey produced a moment of pure magic with his brief solo feature on "Never Let Me Go," which he segued into Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way," for trio.
Larry Smith was close to tears, as he thanked Paul Zauner for having made something extremely special at Diersbach, enthusing, "This is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in 57 years of making music." That moment of introspection, however, was not yet the last word. The audience's chairs were cleared, suddenly the vibe got a lot younger, the barn became a club, and the lively French band Les Lapins Superstar just let rip.
Page 1: Reinhard Winkler
Pages 2, 3: Michael Fruehmann