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April Jazz 2015

Ian Patterson By

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The vices that Chemiakin based his thirteen figures on include alcoholism, prostitution, theft, ignorance, war propaganda, child labour, irresponsible science, indifference and poverty. Irvine and Walshe—though touching on some of Chemiakin's themes— were more concerned with vice in general. As intense as the seventy- five-minute performance was, there was plenty of hilarious satire and dark comedy from the hugely impressive Walshe, who barely drew breath during an exhilarating performance.

With Irvine energetically conducting the Red Note String Ensemble of cellist Robert Irvine, violinist Jackie Shave and violaist Max Baillie, Walshe alternated between improvised vocals—a stream of non-syllabic noises, German song etc—and reading selected texts. It was a full twenty minutes before saxophonist Paul Dunmall, bassist Paul Rogers—both frequent collaborators with Irvine—and percussionist Mark Saunders entered the fray, ratcheting up the intensity to a cacophonous level.

Visceral and abstract, ear-splitting, serene and melodic in turn, Walshe was at the epicentre of the sonic storm as it swelled and diminished. Her tireless improvised meditations on indifference and ignorance, jealousy, beauty/vanity, the manipulation of information/propaganda, fidelity, and sexual abuse/harassment were darkly humorous; the Virgin Mary, Norwegian pop group A-ha, Molly Malone and a brilliant caricature of a drunk on a bus were all press- ganged into the act. "The Fields of Athenry," the classic Irish song of love, oppression and rebellion—and the Irish rugby terrace anthem—will never sound the same again.

Artists like Irvine and Walshe almost never get invited to perform the national anthem before big sports events but life would be far more entertaining if they were allowed a little carte blanche. Energetic and energizing, the musically adventurous, tempestuous fiesta that was 13 Vices proved that entertainment and intellectual stimulation are not incompatible. Sometimes they go hand in hand in wholly unexpected guises.

Sean Mac Erlaine

It's not every day that someone pulls a chalumeau—the baroque precursor of the clarinet—out of their pocket, but Sean Mac Erlaine is no run-of-the-mill musician. The multi- woodwind instrumentalist straddles jazz, folk and free improvisation and is a member of This is How We Fly, which fuses Irish, Swedish and American folk traditions.

His own recordings as leader, Long after the Music is Gone (Ergodos Records, 2012)—haunting meditations inspired by the Irish landscape—and A Slender Song (Ergodos Records, 2014)—a collection of live reed/electronic improvisations—provided the rough blueprint for his quietly captivating thirty-minute set.

On chalumeau and then clarinet Mac Erlaine improvised spare narratives that were ethereal, ghostly and essentially lyrical. Electronic processing created depth of sound and dreamy echo effects. Mac Erlaine drew faintly from Irish traditional language on the original numbers "Kilkenny Dig Out" and "A Curl in The Bonnet," and switching to bass clarinet for the final exploration, used short vocalisations as sounding boards for subtle harmonic improvisations.

The real trick would have been to conjure the bass clarinet from his pocket, but there was still a little magic in Mac Erlaine's unique sound world.

Anouar Brahem

With Ireland gearing up for the centenary celebrations commemorating the 1916 Rising, the Anouar Brahem Quartet's performance marked a rising of more recent vintage. Souvenance (ECM, 2015), the Tunisian oudist's first recording since The Astounding Eyes of Rita (ECM, 2009) was inspired by the so- called Jasmine Revolution of 2010, and his quartet's recital was largely faithful to the soft contours of the recording.

The absence of the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana—the 18-piece string ensemble that graces the CD—may have stripped the music of its gentle orchestral ambiance, but instead put in relief the intimacy of the quartet dialog. Pianist Francois Couturier's repetitive piano motifs and bassist Bjorn Meyer's occasionally striking ostinatos created rhythmic ripples in an otherwise serene suite.

Brahem and Couturier were often closely intertwined, like the billowing smoke and dust of the striking—and atypical—cover of the ECM CD. Klaus Gesing on bass clarinet was, for the most part a subtle presence, whose deft interventions were more felt than heard. Improvised and composed lines in this extended tone poem were hazy and it wasn't until the seventy five-minute mark that Couturier unleashed the first unequivocal solo that followed no obvious script.

There was no doubting the poetry of Brahem's music or the hushed intensity of the quartet's delivery but with Souvenance's unfolding dramaturgy built on very subtle shifts in dynamics the emotional impact was equally subtle, and in short, the ninety minutes seemed long. Perhaps in fairness, the narcotic effect of the music was down to the jarring contrast of the highly visceral, adrenaline-fuelled performance of Thirteen Vices that had preceded it. The instant, enthusiastic standing ovation that greeted the musicians was undoubtedly the most fitting comment on Brahem's music.

Day Three

Max Andrzejewski's Hütte with Silver Kites

Since releasing it debut album Max Andrzejewski's Hütte (C-Avi, 2012), the German four-piece has gone from strength to strength. The band won the Neuer Deutscher Jazzpreis 2013, with drummer Andrzejewski wining best soloist.

There have been invites to Havana Jazz in Cuba, tours throughout Germany and Europe and a second album, Hütte und Chor (Traumton Records, 2014). This second album mixed contemporary choral arrangements with Hütte's high energy, electro- acoustic jazz and provided the blueprint for this gig.

Andreas Lang's pronounced bass lines and Andrzejewski's crisp, inventive rhythms underpinned the dual front-line of guitarist Tobias Hoffman and tenor saxophonist Johannes Schleiermacher. "First of May" announced the quartet's credentials, the music moving between walking bass tradition, blustery saxophone and biting, angular guitar solos. "Austria Nervous" shifted tempos between a sultry blues shuffle bordering on the abstract and loose-limbed free-jazz with the impressive Hoffman to the fore. At times the music evoked a gritty cross between Ornette Coleman and Bill Frisell's sound worlds.
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