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2013 Jazztopad Festival

John Kelman By

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Unfortunately, Chiri's third member—Australian trumpeter Scott Tinkler—was waylaid with a serious health matter (thankfully he is now on the mend), leaving Barker and Il Dong to perform as a duo. While there's no doubt they'd have been well augmented by Tinkler, the relationship that has evolved between the drummer and singer since their first meeting in Korea was clearly so deep that they managed to pull the set off without any difficulties—or, at least, if there were challenges, the audience would never have known.

Barker's experience and education in Korea has clearly changed the way he approaches the conventional drum kit. Most drummers (Steve Gadd being one notable exception) are very still in their body, with movement only taking place in the forearms and wrists; Barker, in contrast, put his entire body into his playing, and the result was a breadth of textures that were simply not possible with the more conventional approach. His solos were a combination of power and precision, delicacy and dynamics, and true melodism, which became especially apparent in his call-and-response segments with Il Dong in this slimmed-down Chiri duo.

Il Dong's source material largely comes from traditional stories. The set opened with two of them: one, a funeral song from a very long story (as Korean traditionalism seems prone to be); the other a love song. Dressed in a white robe and with nothing but a small fan in his hand that he occasionally opened, Il Dong's delivery was beyond impressive; few in the audience may have known Korean but, with Barker's few words of introduction, it was still possible to feel what the songs were about, even the long story that closed the set.

The duo closed with an epic tale about a blind man's whose wife has passed away and, alone with a daughter who, seeing how sad her father is, believes that if she sacrifices herself by drowning in the ocean, her father will be able to see again. Going on a boat into the ocean and throwing herself into the water, she drowns, but a dragon beneath the ocean sees her, rescues her and takes her back to land, where she is found by some men who take her to a palace where the prince falls in love with her. Marrying the prince, their first event is big party, where all the blind men from the area are invited in order to see if her father might come. After a very long time, a man appears and she says to him, "Do you have a wife and daughter?" She cries when she hears they are both dead, but then he hears her voice and, realizing that this is her daughter, his sight is restored. What was most impressive, beyond each musician's talent, was their clear connection; eye contact was persistent throughout the set, and it was clear just how much each player respected and enjoyed working with the other—a feeling clearly experienced by the audience as well, based on its enthusiastic response, demanding a well-deserved encore.

Saturday, November 23: Living Room Concerts / Quasimode / Michiyo Yagi Trio Deluxe

Beginning on Saturday, there were two afternoons of living room concerts, another of Jazztopad's unique offerings. Looking for ways to bring artists and fans together in more intimate surroundings, the living room concert series is announced prior to the festival, and home owners that would like to host the concerts apply. Once the locations are chosen—ranging from, in this year's case, a student apartment to a moored houseboat that was used twice—people can apply to attend the individual concerts; in each case, the sponsoring family is able to invite a certain number of people, the festival is also able to invite its guests, and whatever space is left is open for application, people only finding out if they've been accepted by text or email the evening before.

Each living room concert was divided into two halves, each one a duo performance of approximately 20 minutes, with a 15-minute break in-between for refreshments and socializing. Over the two days—Saturday and Sunday—the mini-concerts ranged from a saxophone/koto duo from Michiyo Yagi and Jakub Skowroński (who also guested with Quasimode at the Wrocĺaw Philharmonic Hall), two duos with bassist Maciej Garbowski (one with drummer Wojtek Romanowski, the other with saxophonist Piotr Łyszkiewicz) and first encounters between percussionist Kan Hayashi and clarinetist Mateusz Rybicki, and Łyszkiewicz and drummer Michal Bryndal. First meetings with singer Bae Il Dong and pianist Nikola Kołodziejczyk, and Simon Barker and clarinetist Mateusz Rybicki took place, as did Quasimode mates stripped down to just percussionist Takahiro 'Matzz' Matsuoka and bassist Shigeki Umezawa, another featuring trumpeter Maurycy Wójciński (the other Pole guesting with Quasimode) and drummer Jan Słowiński, and, finally, Rybicki paired with guitarist Tsuneo Imahori.

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