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April Jazz 2015

Ian Patterson By

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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.

On several tracks the quartet was joined by Silver Kites, an experimental Dublin vocal group that has worked on projects as diverse as dance, multi-media exhibitions and Samuel Becket prose. The four members—Lenka Pinterova, Fionnuala Conway, Sharon Phelan and Niall Smith—brought contrastingly smooth textures to Hütte's raucous, hill-billy stomp "Country Girl," rising-falling waves and staccato sequences to the wild, strikingly original "On the Platform" and harmonic buoyancy to the mid-tempo burner "Gospel."

With the collaborative material exhausted, the encore fell to Max Andrzejewski's Hütte -a lyrical ambient piece of minimal gestures. The final bows, however, were rightly enough by all eight musicians, who received sustained applause for a vibrant, soulful and adventurous collaboration.

OKO

As demonstrated on its excellent debut I Love You Computer Mountain (Diatribe Recordings, 2014) Dublin four-piece OKO's hybrid electro- acoustic jazz is very much of the twenty first century. This is a band, however, best appreciated in the live arena.

In a short but powerful set, keyboardist Darragh O'Kelly, guitarist/electronics musician Shane Latimer, drummer Shane O'Donovan and turntable DJ/sampler DJaculate wove a darkly brooding narrative that engaged on multiple levels.

Like any good storyteller, OKO's undulating rhythms and edgy experimentalism hooked from the opening notes. Eschewing the individual excesses of jazz-fusion, an ever-present sense of collective adventure nevertheless underpinned melodic and rhythmic currents that touched on jazz, electronica, dub and ambient sound waves.

A slurred recorded voice provided the intro to the final number, a journey through dreamy psychedelia and minimalism towards denser, more urgent terrain. It was an impressive show and one that underlined OKO's credentials as a boldly experimental group forging a unique identity.

The Bad Plus

The Bad Plus's homage to Ornette Coleman, or more specifically his album Science Fiction (Columbia, 1972) closed April Jazz on a triumphant, celebratory note.

Guest musicans Tim Berne, Ron Miles and Sam Newsome formed a formidable front-line whose arresting harmonics, dissonances, and blistering unison lines, set the bar high from the opening "Civilization Day." There was plenty of individual brilliance in a seventy-minute set (twice as long as the Coleman recording) but it was the collective brio that won the day.

Reid Anderson, David King and Ethan Iverson provided furious rhythmic impulse during the wilder horn passages but what emerged over the course of the performance was a reminder of the rich diversity of Coleman's first recording for Columbia. Gospel tenderness was juxtaposed against tempestuous free improvisation; abstract, Sun Ra-esque meditations were countered by tender and searing blues; straight ahead/bop grooves rubbed shoulders with electronic-rock grooves. It was a gloriously meaty stew, with Anderson even taking Asha Puthli's vocal role on a heartfelt rendition of the epic ballad "All My Life."

At the end, an instantaneous standing ovation greeted the musicians, who encored with a blistering version of "The Jungle is a Skyscraper."

The Bad Plus' homage to Coleman's Science Fiction was faithful to the spirit of the recording without being overly reverential. But in embracing the wild inventiveness and in celebrating the beauty of Coleman's opus The Bad Plus has put a welcome spotlight on one of the landmark early 1970s jazz recordings.

Wrap-up

April Jazz was a resounding musical success. The main hall of the National Concert Hall, however, was less than full for the showpiece concerts, which suggests either that this sort of music remains a hard sell or that a revised marketing campaign may be necessary for future editions. That said, the National Concert Hall and Note Productions deserve plaudits for their initiative and, it is to be hoped, more of a leg-up from local and national press to promote such world class programming.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Geert Vandepoele

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