Enjoy Jazz: Mannheim, Germany, October 2-November 18, 2011, Week 5-7
Enjoy Jazz Festival
October 2-November 18, 2011
Colin Vallon Trio
The performance of the Swiss trio surprised from the onset, through their pronounced experimental character. Other than the steady narrative flow featured on their most recent album Rruga (ECM, 2011), the show became a fairly staccato exercise that combined pianist Colin Vallon's restrained, intellectually interpretive style with picks of chords and rash chafes of the cymbals that gave a transparent texture to an instrumental dialogue at times penetrated by melodic peninsulas.
The drums, played by Samuel Rohrer, offered a somewhat dissipated backdrop for Patrice Moret's very present bass lines that followed the meanderings of the piano in and about the theme, in which passages of retained lyricism were alternated with furious left-hand accents, brought to climax by obsessive crescendos.
The show ended with "Fjord," a well-tempered ballad with energetic, rhythmical bouts like wild gusts of wind that whirled the sands of a deserted beach, lending the evening the tinge of a tempestuous experience.
Mathias Eick Quintet
The low tides of "Skala," the first track of the evening from the eponymous album (ECM, 2011)sustained by Andreas Ulvo on piano and Audun Erlien on bass, and pierced by the solitary high tones of Mathias Eick's trumpetacquired the solemn stance that is bound to bring about the birth of a new jazz standard. The theme engulfed the solo performances in a continuous sonic flux that gained an almost 3D spatiality through the compact interaction of the two drum sets played by Torstein Lofthus and Gard Nilssen.
The haunting tones in "Oslo," mixing Radiohead influences with a touch of minimalism in a synthesis that gained elegiac dimensions, became gradually energized by an inner bass combustion that merged diffuse tones of earth vibrations with highly tuned static.
"Edinburgh" opened on an energetic note, creating a world of airy mazes floating over misty waters transported languidly by the constant lyrical flow, a trace that unmistakably marks the sonic stamp of the group in which the spatial dialogue of the drums deepens the feeling of living inside the music.
The visual impact of Anoushka Shankar's stage presence was so strong that one could forget for awhile that one has come to the show to listen. The gracefully seated figure in the middle of the stage gradually drew the attention to the hands that were touching the sitar chords with expert lightness, as if caressing the neck of a swan. The encounter of raga and flamenco, two styles belonging to cultures so different in their musical heritageupon which the concept of the recently released album Traveller (Deutsche Grammophon, 2011) is basedwas a striking idea soon confirmed by her performance of that album's osmotic fusion.
With the first piece, Shankar engaged in a delicate prelude, modulating in concentric waves as if exploring the possibilities of the instrument. Each idea was developed during the evening with the languor of a lotus flower opening in the morning dew, reaching its full potential in a masterful performance with the technical versatility needed to engage and explore the deep wells of her musical and emotional sensitivity.
The musical territory was allotted rhythmically to the flamenco beats, while the melodic part was carried by the traditional Indian tones. Later on the sitar entered in dialogue with a Cajun feeling to join in an Oriental groove, rhythmically sustained by ample flageolet-like notes.
In "Si non puedo verla" Sandra Carrasco's deep-voiced inflections, reminiscent of sun-parched Spanish plains, launched the dramatic accents of a love song that fused the raga harmony sustained by Pirashanna Thevarajah's Indian percussion with the tones of Melon Jiménez' flamenco guitar, in a passionately harmonized cultural encounter.
In the end, "Bhairavi," conceived in a tensioned crescendo masterfully enforced by the complex rhythmical interference, opened a world where solid Indian texture, sustained by Sanjeev Shankar on shehnai and Kenji Otaon on tanpura, was permeated by colorful silken threads of melody that kept on floating lightly in the air long after the show was over.
Nik Bärtsch's Ronin
One of the festival's permanent guests, performing at Enjoy Jazz for the 10th time, Ronin opened the show with "Module 47" with a subdued tension that seemed to emerge from the depths of consciousness, but soon made it clear that this was not going to be in the style of Lyria (ECM, 2010) we were witnessing a year ago.