Moers Festival: Moers, Germany, May 17-20, 2013
Saxophonist/composer Katrin Scherer, from Cologne, started the day with a special regional ensemble. She put together a sextet of high-profiled musicians, The Bliss, from the area east and south of Moers, the urban Ruhr-conglomeration and Cologne with its surroundings: saxophonist/flautist/composer Katrin Scherer, trumpeter John-Dennis Renken, saxophonist/ clarinetist/bass clarinetist Sven Decker, guitarist Andreas Wahl, bassist Sebastian Räther and drummer Christian Thomè. With these musicians, she "set out to explore that intractable terrain between composition and improvisation, new music and jazz," according to the program notes. This was a highly ambitious undertaking and maybe not the most ideal starter for the day. The ensemble executed Scherer's interesting compositions with skilled, high commitment and was enjoyable, but could not really shine under these circumstances.
Next was Michael Schiefel's Platypus Trio, a local/global affair. The Berlin-based singer was this year's Improviser in Residence in Moers. Like his predecessors, his job was to enrich the musical life of the town for a year. His festival "wildcard" consisted of an unusual trio put together for this occasion: Schiefel, combining voice and electronics, played with cellist Paolo Damiani and cimbalom player Miklos Lukacsa big challenge for the threesome on the huge stage with classical acoustic instruments, vocals and a minimum of electronics operated by Schiefel. It took some time for the trio to find some balance in the distribution of foreground and background. Schiefel acted deferent in the beginning, in order to leave space for his fellow musicians, relying on their development of pre-structured lines, only scatting later on. Lukacs took the space and let his instrument sparkle. It was less groping and more gradually filling up that defined the trio. It was legitimate, but had, perhaps, less impact on the audience. Schiefel was quite keen to find his moments, but did less with the stage time, also playing with the duration itself, which could have increased tension and suspense.
Caravaggio was a new electric powerhouse constellation in the category of Moonchild, Blixt and Nohome. With a lineup of some of the most well-known, high profile French musicians and a programmatic name like this, expectation were raised; expectations that bassist Bruno Chevillon, drummer Eric Echampard, violinist Benjamin de la Fuente and keyboardist Samuel Sighicelli had to meet by means of attitude, sound and impact. Or, put differently: what grew out of the relationship of construction, density, energy, dynamics, variation and unexpected moves? Surprise?
The group produced some moments of aural and visual sensation which contrasted its deliberate experimental attitude and the group's way of progressing, most of the time. This was even further reinforced by its way of operating numerous pedals and control buttons. The group's elaboration of good germ cells fell short, which made it a bit aimless and less appealing than expected or possible.
24 years after his first appearance in Moers, guitarist Caspar Brötzmann returned as part of Nohome, a new trio with the Swiss rhythm tandem of bassist Marino Pliakas and drummer Michael Wertmueller, known from Full Blast and from Steamboat Switzerland. The threesome first appeared at Berlin's A L'Arme Festival 2012, which turned out so powerful that they went on as Nohome and were invited to this year's edition of Moers. The uncompromising sound-storm Nohome inflames was, indeed, as impressive as it was horrifying. The band's noise, first of all, evoked images of classic war scenes with the bombing of cities, and lessor not at all scenes of volcanic outbursts in nature. It was hard not to associate, not to go into semantics and just take the noisy sound-storm as what it was in the moment that it was played and heard. As impressive as this may have been, it was clearly limited in musical scope. It may be possible to reach out to more extreme extremes, with one's own physical and mental tolerance as counterparts, but that may also reveal a dead-end street.
Next was a new encounter between Fred Frith and the great percussionist Evelyn Glennie, first of all known in the classical world. It was a highly anticipated encounter between two mature, permanently border-crossing artists. Glennie, who is known for her big assortment of percussion instruments, appeared with a quite modest instrumental battery on the Moers stage. She restricted herself to mallets, big drums, piano and assorted small (toy) instruments. Her collaboration with Frith actually started more than 10 years ago.
One of their first appearances was in Moers, in 2004. In 2005 the documentary Touch the Sound, by Thomas Riedelsheimer, was released, which strikingly documented the sensory experience and praxis of Glennie as a seriously hearing-impaired person and brilliant musician. In 2007, the duo released its first album, The Sugar Factory, on John Zorn's Tzadik label, recorded at a defunct sugar factory in Dormagen, a city about 40 kilometers south of Moers. First observing Glennie ten years ago rehearsing at the classical festival of Verbier, Switzerland, it was just stunning and unbelievable to watch her communicating verbally and musically over larger distances. Here, Glennie and Frith did what they always dowork from moment to moment, independently as well as reacting and anticipating with the other in a highly complex game field. They both have a calmness in combination, with eagerness, economy and willpower in their way to find a suitable expression of the moment, which worked out still more brilliantly in their Moers- performance this year. It conjured a lot of smiling faces; many small magics cumulated to big magic.
Mark de Clive-Lowe steered his band from behind his keyboards. MdCL, one of the masterminds behind broken beat club sound, produced a loose, jam-like and dance-inflected music which cruised through old and new territories of soul music including drum 'n' bass, techno and jam band grooves. It was loose, repetitive, driving and propelling, but also a quite sophisticated connection/amalgamation of various styles. Not perfection at the center, but stirring up the groove and the hectic move(ment). To achieve this he uses musicians including killer bassists Tim Levebvre or Jose James, Clive-drummer Nate Smith (who has also worked with bassist Dave Holland and Jason Moran). MdCL successfully took festivals and clubs. And Clive-Lowe also took Moers. With the perfect marquee music, he delivered a cooking farewell.
The real finishing act, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington's MOSAICwith a renewed lineup including trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, saxophonist Tia Fuller, pianist Geri Allen, bassist Tamir Schmerling and guitarist Matt Stevensstill had to happen, then. And then there was singer Lizz Wright, who lifted the band up enjoyably as front-woman as well as in the back line, together with Jensen and Fuller. Together, with elder Allen, she dug deep into bluesy moods. Carrington held it together and propelled it with her strong rhythm section and Stevens' shining guitar lines in a classic jazz way.
Moers Festival 2014 will take place June 6-9, next year (Whitsun 2014), in the new Moers Festival Hall near the open air swimming pool Solimare, which is located 500 m south of the current site.