12 Points Festival 2017

Henning Bolte By

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12 Points Festival
Aarhus, Denmark
July 16-18, 2017

The program selection of 12 Points Festival organized by Irish Improvised Music Company gives an indication what's next, what might be strong groups in the near future based on a clear concept of artistic identity/ development, an intense and neat observation of young musicians/groups all over Europe, a vast network of informants and an application process. It is quite astonishing how this is managed, organized and produced by just three professionals from the organization's headquarters in Dublin. 12 Points, which is a residential festival for musicians/groups from 12 European countries, is one of the most important junctions on the way to enter relevant European festivals and clubs.


Jazz as a divers and heterogeneous field by nature is represented at each 12 Points edition by young musicians and groups (age 35) with a strong artistic profile and solid and attractive performance capabilities. The festival represents in a nutshell what the next generation is willing and able to contribute. The emphasis is not so much on assumed audience compatibility/acceptability but rather on originality, artistic challenge, strong identity and quality of audience connectivity. This year's 12 participants came from Denmark, Norway, Estonia, Lithuania, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, The Netherlands, France, Ireland, Belgium and the United Kingdom.

This year almost half of the groups were bass-less, only two groups did not use keyboards and all groups were making use of drums. Contrary to other editions there were no solo-artists and there was only one duo-constellation, SCHNTZL from Belgium. Two groups were female led, (only) three of the 11 horn-players were female and one group, chuffDRONE from Austria, was clearly female dominated (4:1). There was no (fully) real time creation/free-improvising configuration represented. The main mode was improvised variation of pre-structured pieces (mostly own compositions).

The works' body/body of works

This year's palette of diversity can be captured in bodily terms of head, legs, arms and hands. The body image suggests that all variants are part of a whole and interconnected more or less strong. On the right leg there are future extensions of the classic (piano) driven configurations. On the left leg are much louder variants with heavy electric guitar, drums, sax, noise elements and above all electronic megafication. In the place of head (memory) and neck there are two groups digging deep(er) into historic styles interweaving those with contemporary approaches. As arms you have variants reaching out further in different ways. On the right arm is the spacious approach of Danish trio Frit Fald (Free Fall) of pianist Lars Fiil. The trio created significant yet enigmatic configurations of playful particles. The left arm is the place of more orchestral dynamism, crisscrossing and challenging transitions. Here you find the highly dynamic and colorful quintet of chuffDRONE. Belgian duo SCHNITZL with its beautiful stories is situated in between all in the place of the sternum. Dutch quartet Tommy Moustache is in between too and has its place at the oesophagus/gullet. The group uses parody of media and sales talk to loosen up its musical performance—a bit Frank Zappa like -to stay in simpatico connection with the audience. It functions as a smoothening liquid for its music to be swallowed.

A closer look at the diversity

Here's a closer look at the groups of the different parts of the imaginary body of work.

Legs—piano side

The dynamics of pianist Marie Kruttli's trio from Lausanne arose amongst others from a special combination of sophisticated construction and cumulative spinning movements in a diversity of pieces with titles as "Istanbul dorme," "Running After The Sun" or the lingering elegiac "Sad Song." With bassist Lukas Traxel and drummer Martin Perret the trio induced a Phronesis kind of density and urgency.

Francesco Orio's trio with electric bass guitarist Fabio Crespiatico and drummer Davide Bussoleni showcased virtuosic, high speed and throughout climaxing pianism in tricky pieces. Its music ranged from whisking playful particles to airy heights and lullaby modes as well as Cecil Taylor like attacks. It was an impressive collection that still is on the way to its deeper song and narrative.

The Kirke Karja Quartet from Tallin is a strong versatile piano plus electric guitar configuration that can reach out forcefully. It's led by agile female pianist Kirke Karja. At the core of the group's music and its dynamics were slow-rising walls of sound emerging from overlapping repetitive patterns and at times a strong rock undertow. It is an approach that the group—not accidentally -applies to its interpretation of "Waage"/"Libra" too, one of the pieces of Stockhausen's Tierkreis/Zodiac opus (1974-75), originally composed for music boxes. Constructed out of serial elements and combinations of interrelated tempos it is Stockhausen's most popular opus (since 2009 the pieces are played on the bell tower of the Cologne Town Hall). At certain moments the ever-rising sound waves might also lie down and give leeway to moments of contemplation. The quartet is a strong promising unit that tends into the direction of music of the left leg.

Legs -heavy side

The music of Sheep Got Waxed was one of a kind. When the group started playing the music came across as loud, noisy, dark, garish/shrill -over the top. But the music had its visceral urgency and inescapable sounds to the bone. The group also gave it exhilarating turns again and again, connected to the audience by joking with it in striking ways. As a surprise the music appeared to be full of light color underneath. It is an excellent example how by going over the top a moving poetical essence can emerge. The image of a sheep getting waxed appeared to function as a strong and flexible vehicle from inside and outside the music and is as memorable as the group name Sheriffs Of Nothingness.

Big Spoon's music was a far-reaching and digging deep "electro fanfare" in a bedding of strong percussion and haunting keyboards. It takes Garbarek's piercing insistence to the loud turbulent present world. Adopted Irishmen Christopher Engel from South Africa went for it full scale without halt and drives it through all doors in company of eager and muscular fellow musicians. There is something in the music reminding of Jon Hassell but also Wadada Leo Smith. Engel will find his definite gorge of sound.

Taupe from Newcastle is alto saxophonist Jamie Stockbridge, electric guitarist Mke Parr-Burman and drummer Adam Stapleford. Taupe's loud electric music is much massive, stinging, cl/rashing, shrieking. By its incisive rhythm attack and wavy forward movement it generates deeper colors and strong textures. It sounds as a heavily disrupted and recondensed version of the Delta blues classic "Rollin' and Tumblin,'" razor-sharp and ultimately pogo (and not too math). It is a force like earlier heavy bands on 12 Points like Swiss Schnellertollermeier and provided a thunderous finale of this year's 12 Points.

Being also part of the loud electric variant the Rotterdam foursome Tommy Moustache of saxophonist Jasper van Damme, electric guitarist Jorn ten Hoopen, electric bass guitarist Bas Kloosterman and drummer Mark van Kersbergen adopted the well-known tight funk (at)tack. As already mentioned the group used parody of media and sales talk. It is built around an unknown great world savior and benefactor. It loosened up the performance smilingly —a useful device and intervention. Unfortunately it did not emerge from the colors and modes of the music itself but remained purely external.


The all-acoustic chuffDrone operated in a broader perspective of an ever-changing fan of colors, tempo, tinges and intra-group interactions, part of it also curving vocal lines (a la Pedro Aznar). Its music opened a passage with constantly surprising turns and new horizons.

Lars Fiil's Free Fall was quite enigmatic due to the unpredictable, odd and mysterious way they gave shape to playful particles. They did it in a slowed down tempo with irregular steps and accents in wide spaces alternating elusive and deep sonorities. A specialty was the unorthodox use of the nay by Lis Raabjerg Kruse creating fascinating rich sounds. The overall effect was enchanting. The group's name "Free Fall" matches the music quite well.

Both, chuffDrone and Free Fall, have names speaking to the imagination on the side of expectation as well as during experiencing the music. Four groups were using proper names only, one the name of a fictitious character (Tommy Moustache). One group used a proper name in connection with an image (Lars Fiil Frit Fald), another group used it in a playful way (Significant Time, name of the group of singer Signe Irene Time). Group names as Big Spoon, SCHNTZL or Sheep Got Waxed have some advantages in terms of imagery and retention. However as a starting group you have to MAKE your name first through the musical performance as a whole.


Belgian duo SCHNTZL is in the center. The duo taps amongst others from American minimal music. In contrast to many other young groups in that vein the duo uses it to make up stories speaking to the imagination, their very own Tintin like stories. They dare to create their very own world, a world that elevates the imagination of the audience. It is impressive whereas the two musicians do not try to impress. The duo's name is quite original: some onomatopoetic is in it and it is recognizable and memorable.


Significant Time is the quartet of vocalist Signe Irene Stangborli Time from Stavanger augmented by the horns of well-known saxophonist Andre Roligheten and trumpeter Hayden Powell. In Aarhus equally skilled trumpeter Simen Kiil Halvorsen subbed for Hayden Powell. The group's music is a good example of what is 'at hand' for this young generation to use, to collage, interweave and transform. Time is an extraordinarily versatile musician. Harmolodics, Hollywood, Berberian heights and Norwegian Heimatsound are effortlessly alternating in the music with bold jumps and Interwoven in sophisticated ways. From Free Jazz clangor to the fully steaming swing of "Ravel Blues" almost "everything" came by -well dosed as well as excellently arranged and orchestrated. Time were mostly singing wordless instrumental lines in interaction with the other instrumentalist but if functional or necessary she could switch to brilliantly singing lyrics as in the full swing of "Nickels&Dimes." Her vocal range, capabilities and versatility are just amazing. Seemingly however she still felt a bit uneasy. Apparently she still has to grow into her role as front woman in attendance of non-Norwegian audiences to give the excellent music the right overall impact.

The French foursome of Post K (post Katrina) went furthest back to the origins of jazz from 100 years ago. This is quite remarkable and the way they do it is even more remarkable. They keep quite close to the original way of playing (especially the drums) and intermittently weave contemporary extension/transformations in the original material in their very own, challenging way. As a specialty Benjamin Dousteyssier makes use of the bass saxophone too. The music is less dense, more direct than most present versions of jazz. It's raw and loose 'jumpy' music and played in a way that it is reaching into contemporary forms and ears. The group opened with "Tiger Rag," first released on record in 1917 in the version of the Original Dixieland Jass Band but known and played before this date. It seems that the piece has been derived from a French quadrille, a square dance popular in the late nineteenth-century.

The dance form became accelerated, syncopated and provided by sliding tones and "light' percussion. The dance form became accelerated, syncopated and provided by sliding tones and "light' percussion. Here's a "Tiger Rag" version of Louis Armstrong from 1932.


Post K's music indicates the eclectic and syncretic nature of jazz as well as the (re)constructive recollection of older states of the art (until 100 years ago) from a present view.

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