Jazzfest Berlin 2012: Berlin, Germany, November 1-4, 2012
The musical heritage of the briefly prospering musical miracle Jutta Hipp was committed to two musicians from Berlinpianist Julia Hülsmann and clarinetist Rolf Kuhnalong with an ensemble consisting of saxophonist Joe Lovano, bassist Greg Cohen and drummer Christian Lillinger . Kühn, the elder brother of pianist Joachim Kuhn, is a compeer of Hipp, also grew up in Leipzig and was tutored by her immediately after the end of the war. In 1956, Kühn moved to New York, working there for a couple of years in clarinetist Benny Goodman's groups with trombonist Urbie Green and bassist Oscar Pettiford. Ranking highly in a Down Beat Magazine poll, in 1961 he returned to Europe, where jazz musicians started to figure out their own way of playing.
Later, in 1967, he played at Newport and recorded an album for the Impulse! label with brother Joachim, bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Aldo Romano. In the 1990s he recorded with saxophonists Ornette Coleman, Dave Liebman, Lee Konitz and Michael Brecker. Greg Cohena participant in various Masada projects by saxophonist John Zorn as well as other Zorn-led ensembles, as well as playing with singer/songwriter Tom Waitsis currently the director of of Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler's Jazz Department in Berlin. Christian Lillinger is part of the free improvising scene and a real audience-attracting star who is beginning to break through internationally as well.
Hülsmann is a master of a significant brevity which feed strongly into the imagination, leaving enigmatic traces. She has worked a lot with vocalists, including Rebekka Bakken and Roger Cicero, and has recorded two albums with her trio for ECM, Imprint (2011) and The End Of A Summer (2008).
With Kühn and Hülsmann responsible for the arrangements, the ensemble played pieces by Hipp, including "Horatio" (dedicated to pianist Horace Silver, Hipp's main inspiration after she arrived at New York), and others based on or inspired by Hipp, such as Hülsmann's "Ballad," which consisted of reworked elements from Hipp compositions.
Kühn and Lovano started brilliantly and with verve, in full synch and, at times, colorful unison. Wonderful soloing and Hülsmann's lead resulted in a no-nonsense manner that kept the music balanced throughout. No simple fifties remake, no strained update, but to the point renditions; music with which to sojourn, but a bit perfunctory. Did it mirror the tragic reluctance of Hipp's real persona?
There were also some thrilling moments in the interaction between Cohen and Lillinger. Lillinger was the only player who set himself free in the long run, going through various stages of intensity, opening up space and expanding. Kühn's personal anecdotes about Jutta and her impressive red hair were the set's only dramaturgical elements. Lots of space and open questions, it seemed that it will still still take some time to reveal this lonely soul.
November 1: Geri Allen & Timeline
The twist of Allen's performance, according to the program, was tap dancer Maurice Chestnut, but unfortunately he did not appear. It was, then, a piano trio with the wonderful Kenny Davis on bass (a buddy from the old M-Base days) and promising young drummer Kassa Overall. Allen's playing was very rich and full of rhythmic power but it did not catch fire. She seemed to act from within an armor, while Overall appeared to play a role as bop-drummerone of the many facets of this versatile young musician. Alllen tried to push it with Charlie Parker's "Ah-Leu-Cha," but it was when she intonated Thelonious Monk's "Rhythm-A-Ning" that things changed and opened up.
When a few moments later, Lovano appeared on stage to join the trio, it became luscious, including his beautiful shuffle. When they got into the deep blues of "Parker's Mood," the gates opened widely, magnificently resounding into the night
November 2: Drummers' Works
The second night at the Festspielhaus was an evening of drummers in different guises: Swiss veteran Pierre Favre, founder of Singing Drums, performed with a six-horn brass section augmented by a guitarist and two bassists; Günther Baby Sommer performed with his Greek ensemble; and last, but not least, master drummer Manu Katche, with a new lineup of Norwegian saxophonist Tore Brunborg, an Italian trumpeter with Norwegian and Macedonian connections, Luca Aquino, and young English keyboardist Jimmy Watson.
It was great to have a tentet like that from Favre. The group, however, played a solid but too uniform set. Sommer had to confine himself to his commemorative context, where a sonic interpretation of cruel actions and war crimes committed by humans against humans was molded. He did the by dramatic percussive accents on gongs and bells amidst the touching miroloi laments of his fellow Greek musicians. To have Manu Katché perform afterwards made good sense. It seems that Katché has gained a wonderful new balance with two brilliantly shining horns; from deeper light and bouncing flow emerged bright mannerisms.
Drummer's Work also took place at Akademie der Künste, with a number of duo performances. The previous night it was Pierre Favre with pianist Irene Schweizer; this night it was English drummer Paul Lytton and American pianist Marilyn Crispell, a duo that has collaborated for quite a while. However, neither of these two duos was burdened by a fixed image. It was sound in all its arousing qualities, shaped into stimulating manifestations, each focused in his/her very own way.
Crispell's playing was full of transitions, and contrasts of bursts and lyrical stillness. Lytton used very simple tools; in his very own consequential way he created moving sounds of magic. One of these was the toys moving across the drum skin, generating soft vibrations. This duo's music had its very own process and logic, as real Echtzeitmusik. The impulse, the approach and the results highly coincided, as they delivered wonderful night music.