Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

10

Barry Guy Blue Shroud Band in Krakow, Poland

John Sharpe By

Sign in to view read count
Krakow Jazz Autumn

The premier of The Blue Shroud represented the culmination of the annual autumn jazz extravaganza—Krakow Jazz Autumn—in the imposing Polish city. Now in its ninth year, the festival has become an established attraction in the jazz calendar. It's impossible to see all the acts on the bill without spending several months in residence as they come in clusters from late September through to late November. Famed for its vibrant avant jazz scene, the city attracts top notch draws from across the globe.

On the bill earlier in 2014 were reed titan Peter Brötzmann and Scandinavian supergroup The Thing in consort with the DKV Trio featuring saxophonist Ken Vandermark and drummer Hamid Drake. Other enticing outfits included a group including saxophonists Ingrid Laubrock and Ab Baars, a solo concert from bassist Joelle Leandre, Japanese/French quartet Kaze, containing Satoko Fujii and husband Natsuki Tamura, as well as a range of Polish ensembles.

Alchemia, where most of the action took place, nestles in the heart of Kazimierz, the hip former Jewish quarter of Krakow. Although unprepossessing from the outside, once through the double doors a welcoming vibe awaited. The dim lights of the bar masked the way to an intimate performance space in the cellar. Any number of famous sessions have been waxed here, most notably the Vandermark 5's 12 CD marathon of the same name (Not Two, 2005), but also Mats Gustafsson's Hidros 6 (Not Two, 2014) box set, and indeed two residencies by Guy's New Orchestra in 2010 (which resulted in the splendid Mad Dogs (Not Two, 2013)) and 2012 (begetting Mad Dogs On The Loose (Not Two, 2014)).

Small Group Formations

During the days leading up to the final concert, Guy rehearsed the band through his score, while in the evening they broke into smaller subdivisions to improvise freely. That plan not only provided a way to promote familiarity and let off steam after a long day's intense rehearsal, but also sowed the seed for some of the improvisatory passages in the longer work. That was the case particularly with the nightly solo spots for Dwyer's guitar, the saxophone quartet on the second evening, Niesemann's highly charged alto excursions, and the skirmish between piano and trumpet.

Each night there were three sets, each comprising up to three separate groupings. While everyone had links to the bassist, many of the participants had not worked together. So it was inevitable that there would be some first meetings among the small formations. Often these were some of the most potent of the short engagements. Guy's presence was also a surefire indicator of quality.

Individually, he stands as one of the world's preeminent improvisers on bass, having developed the quicksilver aesthetic first posited by Scott LaFaro to its logical extreme. In performance Guy simply has to be seen to be believed. His spurts of hyperactivity combined precise articulation, a plethora of extended approaches and seemingly inexhaustible stamina. He thrived on opposites and tension: between pizzicato and arco; between deep resonance and a nimble upper register; and between straight and idiosyncratic techniques.

While with one hand he might brandish a mallet to mine overtones from the strings both above and below the bridge, with the other he would simultaneously finger rapidly evolving pitches and chords. Then afterwards he might insert knitting needles between the strings to act as temporary bridges which modified the tuning and at the same time add a random metallic shimmer. His use of a volume pedal meant that even the most subtle effects, such as his ringing harmonics, could hold their own in dialogue. But whatever he did was informed by an acute musical sensibility. It was never just technique for its own sake.

Day One

While the overall standard of the sessions was astoundingly high, there were some sets that stood out even more than others. Unsurprisingly the most seasoned improvisers proved the most accomplished, but even the chamber specialists gave a strong account of themselves on less conventional turf. On the first night highlights included the opening solo set from Spanish pianist Agusti Fernandez, and his subsequent duet with trumpeter Evans, and the duos of Evans and Norwegian reedman Snekkestad, and Guy and Greek vocalist Yannatou.

Fernandez' first gesture was electrifying: swiping a wood block across the strings inside the piano to magic a wild gust of sound. It announced a panoply of percussiveness from which occasional plucked notes materialized as if by accident. Few other pianists can equal the Catalan's dexterity and resourcefulness in extracting maximum potential from his instrument. Amid the multiplying overtones, Fernandez drew out an almost vocal quality from the piano interior. As a very hushed groaning passage subsided, Evans joined the pianist.

With the bell of his trumpet over the mic, he created a resounding bass drone, which the pianist punctuated with shrill plucks from the piano interior. Purposeful interplay ensued, testament to prior collaboration, not only on disc with Mats Gustafsson, but also as a duo on tour. Fernandez paralleled the American's rapid fire exhortations with dense muscular runs. One wonderful moment of synchronicity saw both seemingly independently settle on a trilled phrase. Evans' speed of thought and reaction provides a severe test for anyone he shares the stage with, but Fernandez was equal to the task.

Likely the duo of Evans and Norwegian reedman Snekkestad will also surface on disc at some point, such was the success of their inaugural meeting. After exchanging growls and quiet susurrations, Snekkestad using a trumpet with a reed mouthpiece, the pair exuberantly braided squalling tones. Snekkestad sneaked his soprano into his mouth next to the reed trumpet to conjure lacerating exclamations, before focusing wholly on the straight horn. Seated next to each other, circular breathing through a brass lexicon, the twosome appeared every inch terrible twins.

Yannatou has featured in previous Guy projects, including "Time Passing" at the 2013 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, as well as in a pairing captured live on Attikos (Maya, 2010). On this occasion Yannatou constrained her wordless ululations, muffled stutters and introspective screams within a low level passion, which allowed full rein to Guy's exquisite filigree runs. Arco swoops interrupted flurries of pizzicato notes and slurs akin to Yannatou's vocal sighs. It was as if they conversed in an intimate discourse in an alien language complete with its own syntax, which was at times stirring, mournful and ethereal.

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read We Jazz: Moveable Feast Fest Theory Live Reviews We Jazz: Moveable Feast Fest Theory
by Josef Woodard
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Anat Cohen Tentet at SFJAZZ Live Reviews Anat Cohen Tentet at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: December 16, 2017
Read We Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews We Jazz Festival 2017
by Anthony Shaw
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Mary Ellen Desmond: Comfort and Joy 2017 Live Reviews Mary Ellen Desmond: Comfort and Joy 2017
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: December 15, 2017
Read Jazztopad Festival 2017 Live Reviews Jazztopad Festival 2017
by Henning Bolte
Published: December 13, 2017
Read Vivian Reed at Feinstein's/54 Below Live Reviews Vivian Reed at Feinstein's/54 Below
by Tyran Grillo
Published: December 12, 2017
Read "Rene Marie at Dazzle" Live Reviews Rene Marie at Dazzle
by Geoff Anderson
Published: August 24, 2017
Read "Wadada Leo Smith At Firehouse 12" Live Reviews Wadada Leo Smith At Firehouse 12
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: May 11, 2017
Read "Gary Peacock Trio at Jazz Standard" Live Reviews Gary Peacock Trio at Jazz Standard
by Tyran Grillo
Published: November 9, 2017
Read "Wayne Shorter Quartet at SFJAZZ" Live Reviews Wayne Shorter Quartet at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: May 2, 2017
Read "Lance Canales & The Flood At Biscuits & Blues" Live Reviews Lance Canales & The Flood At Biscuits & Blues
by Walter Atkins
Published: June 27, 2017
Read "John Handy Tribute At SFJAZZ" Live Reviews John Handy Tribute At SFJAZZ
by Walter Atkins
Published: January 30, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!