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12 Points 2014, Umea

Henning Bolte By

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The LAB trio—which is drummer Lander Gyselinck , bassist Anneleen Boehme and pianist Bram de Looze, then took off to a new shore of trioism, inducing a jaw-dropping, high level of musical experience through their miraculous interplay of characteristics including an amazing, mutual musical sensibility and agility, deep in-the-moment playing and delicate as well as thrilling timing, effortless execution and the sheer joy of performing. It all led to a great sound and gripping, infectious dynamics that rose, unfettered, to the apogee of the night. The trio started wonderfully in a mode like The Necks to get into and build up its sound. From there the music turned into a daring delivery of the Twin Peaks theme, which bore out pure magic. In its playing independence and interdependence, the trio handled itself in a musically impressive way. Full of thrilling suspense it managed to play subdued music with lots of hypodermic tingling and swirling. With great patience and care LAB went—tongue in cheek— through a magnificent blues shuffle and ended up with an equally airy as salty hip hop beat.

Last Day

Day three, the last day, had the busiest concert schedule with six performances in two rounds. In the first round a piano solo, a trio and a quartet; the second featuring a piano solo, too, along with a quartet and a quintet. There was a full string quartet from Vienna (Violet Spin), a rhythm trio (Herd) from Finland, a strongly rock-inflected multi- instrumentalist group (Alarmist) from Dublin, and a return of horns in the Dutch group MSR-JME, from Amsterdam. Concerning solo piano manifestations 12 points could rely upon and fall back upon a carefully built tradition from over the years: Dimitar Bodurov (2004), Aki Rissanen (2009), Livio Minafra (2012) and Nikolas Anadolis (2013).

Pianist Alexander Hawkins opened the last day. He is one of the fastest-rising stars of the UK jazz scene, integrating different realms and traits of jazz history and classical heritage on a new, creative scale. He has developed his very own, highly sophisticated and heterogeneous ways of abstracting from, morphing into and projecting onto historical styles and key works of predecessors, while spontaneously creating his own coherent lines. The resulting music resembled the faintly legible older inscriptions shining through in a palimpsest, or hinted, in a wondrous way, at some strong characteristics of certain predecessors. Hawkins delivered a wonderfully crafted set of great clarity, cohesiveness and rich dynamics, permeated by mainly wonderful Ellingtonia. It was intriguing how, via which routes and passages these connections surfaced, shone through or reverberated as a shadow structure. Hawkins' performance was distinguished by the coexistence of the tension of instant creation and clear shape.

It was quite a transition to the lighter mode of the Finish rhythm trio Herd, featuring vibraphonist Panu Savolainen, bassist Miko Pellinen and drummer Tuomas Timonen. Herd's music was an expression of credible and solid craftsmanship, with catchy melodies, subtle gradations and shadings along heaving lines including a touching rendition of a classical "Nordic Hymn" from its home country. Airy music in a good sense, at its best.

String quartets are not new for 12 Points. Vienna's Violet Spin, concluding the first round on Saturday, had two forerunners in the history of the festival: Austria's Radio.String.Quartet.Vienna (2008) and the Netherlands' Zapp String Quartet (2009).

The four string players of Violet Spin—Irene Kepl and Paul Dangl (violin), Magdalena Zenz (viola) and Fabian Jäger (violoncello)—have been engaged in the field of classical composition, free improvisation, cabaret songs, hot club manouche, film music, jazz, world music and pop. In accordance with that the quartet presented a richly varied and still coherent program comprising gypsy- derived and hot club-based pieces; a suite on Krtek, the mole (after Zdenêk Miller's Czech cartoons); "Grey," a wonderfully imaginative tone poem on urban industrial smog emulating arduous breathing; in other words, something for everyone. The members used their singing voices without fuss and evidently vividness, spontaneity and agility apparently was more important for this quartet than a polished sound.

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