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Live Reviews

Punkt Festival 2013

By Published: September 19, 2013
It was a remix where, for the first time, it became something other than a laboratory experience; instead, it was a mood-generating experience where Knudsen's in-the- moment lighting and real-time camera work became integral to the experience, even as Grydeland stretched the boundaries of his instrument's capacity for texture and timbre, and Honoré submerged samples from Bang and Hamasyan's performance well underwater, with rapid piano trills emerging briefly, only to sink back again, beneath the surface.

For the final show of Punkt 2013's first evening, the world premiere of two recordings from two of Punkt's most important people: Jan Bang and Arve Henriksen, though many of the other members of the Punkt family were involved, ranging from singer Sidsel Endresen to Nils Petter Molvær, and from Eivind Aarset to Stian Westerhus. The idea of performing together, making it a double-album release made perfect sense, since Bang's Narrative from the Subtropics and Henriksen's Places of Worship are truly halves of a larger whole, and recordings that could not have developed as they did, were it not for Punkt. Punkt is, after nearly ten years, becoming more than a festival, and even more than a live remix philosophy; it's becoming a way of making music, and a way of collaborating with open minds and hearts, as a press conference on the festival's final day clarified. Artists ask others to play on their recordings, and money rarely, if ever, changes hands; there are no label battles or hinderances, as proven by these two recordings being released by two different labels, with plenty of personnel crossing over between them.

For this performance, Bang and Henriksen brought Honoré (significant, given he and Bang co-produced Henriksen's record), Aarset and Ingar Zach—a percussionist who, with Ivar Grydeland, runs the SOFA record label and has built a reputation as a textural percussionist capable of bringing everything from brooding pulses to furious thunder to a set.

While pieces from both albums were performed, not unlike the touring that Bang and Henriksen did for the trumpeter's Cartography (ECM, 2008)—the stylistic predecessor to Places of Worship, where Henriksen, Bang and Honoré began to develop their reverse- engineering approach to composition—how they moved from one piece to another, and how these compositions were reshaped in real time into something else entirely made this more than just a simple reiteration of music both beautiful and, at times, extreme.

Arve went to low registers not normally played and upper ranges rarely heard, with absolute purity, He played lines that Bang would sample and send back to him, but this time two octaves higher. Zach, less about pulse and more about color, primarily employed a large gong and a massive concert drum that must have easily been three feet across, and placed on a stand so that the playing surface was presented flat to him, like a massive snare or a tom tom.

Henriksen's album is more intrinsically lyrical, so when it was time to turn to Bang's recording, it represented some of the set's most extreme moments—a different kind of approach to free improv that seems to have little to do with either American or European free improv approaches and is, instead, simply describable as: Punkt.

Henriksen changed horns often, and changed mouthpieces, too, putting a saxophone mouthpiece on his pocket trumpet. Using a mute to achieve a brassier tone on his trumpet, his playing was particularly memorable when Bang turned to the bass-heavy, sensual groove of "Funeral Voyage," which was, alas, all too brief, before morphing into something else and then back again. A brief encore was even more outré, with Henriksen's throat singing and Aarset's distorted swells of white noise fading to the sound of a dictaphone recording of an old singer, over which Henriksen began to to layer long lines redolent of, perhaps, Brazil—and, most assuredly, the subtropics.

Clearly Henriksen and Bang used their respective recordings as starting points rather than ultimate destinations, but if they took the music to places even those few already familiar with the music could not have envisaged, then Vladislav Delay's remix took things even further.

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