3

Berlin Jazzfest 2017

Henning Bolte By

Sign in to view read count
Haus der Berliner Festspiele
Jazzfest Berlin
Berlin
November 4-5, 2017

This year it was the last edition of Berlin Jazzfest under the aegis of British artistic director Richard Williams. With its "In All Languages" adage running through the six-day program as red thread, the festival still had promising stuff in store for the last two days, like the appearance of North-American trumpeter Amir ElSaffar with the Berlin Zinc & Copper Ensemble, Wilco guitarist Nels Cline's Lovers venture, artist-in-residence Tyshawn Sorey's conduction with Berlin musicians, the third part of the London-Berlin-Converstions (saxophonist Silke Eberhard, pianist Sarah Tandy, bassist Daniel Casimir and drummer Kay Lübke) at the A-Trane club, as well as this year's (Kaiser-Wilhelm-)Memorial Church concert with the Trondheim Voices and Kit Downes on the church's organ. Concerts that tended to operate in more familiar territory and concerts that went beyond were quite evenly distributed during these last two days.

Saturday commemorated the legendary Afro-American-French encounter around Louis Malle's historical movie Ascenseur pour l'échafaud from six decades ago. Saturday night's main program with UK quartet Empirical, Nels Cline Lovers and Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio was of the familiar type while the small stage, the club-program and the concert at the 'outside' location of the church at Hohenzollernplatz, fell into the beyond category.

Sunday started with two strong leaps into the unknown and unpredictable territory, counterbalanced by the two concluding concerts (the Canadian sisters, Ingrid Jensen, trumpet, and Christine Jensen, saxophone, with guitarist Ben Monder and John Beasley's MONK'estra) passing through fairly known, familiar territories.

Modes and moods

The East-West encounter, constantly sparked and nourished, runs through all phases of jazz history. North-American trumpeter Amir ElSaffar is a recent voice contributing to this line from his exceptional American-Iraqi background. ElSaffar teamed up with an extended version of Berlin wind ensemble Zinc&Copper to perform his commissioned work, a blend of Oriental modal music (maqam) and traces of Western harmony using the remarkably rich acoustic possibilities of the church building at Hohenzollernplatz. It was the third time both parties collaborated. In 2015 and 2016 ElSaffar played as a guest of the ensemble and in this case an extended version of Zinc&Copper were collaborators of ElSaffar in the performance of his commission work.

While the performance led to some remarkable effects due to the deep reverb of the church, the performance fell short in its dynamics, the intricate mesh of micro tonality and rhythmical flow. Trombonist Hilary Jeffery in particular sparked the flame but those kindling moments were rare.

Something similar applied to the performance of Nels Cline's Lovers, the music of the guitarist's last year's Blue Note debut with nostalgic mood music associated with the miracles of love, sex, romance, loneliness, and passion. Recorded with a stellar line-up (a.o. Erik Friedlander, Steven Bernstein, Zeena Parkins, Kenny Wollesen, Yuka Honda) it is instrumental music "all meant to be as easy to ignore as it is to listen to it carefully," according to Cline.

Cline played with an ensemble of musicians from Germany, recruited among excellent young classical schooled, cross-genre operating musicians conducted by Michael Leonhart (as in the original recording). It surely had the potential to unfold, but the revelry did not blossom. With the great songs and the sophisticated arrangements it made an extra strained impression. Were the musicians less deeply rooted in this kind of music, less connate to gain the necessary level of smoothness and moodiness in a short rehearsal period?

Two trio opposites

Good old Lonnie Smith's organ trio comprising guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg and percussionist Jonathan Blake entered the stage next and was just what it is in full strength. Presenting a brew stirring all senses, the irresistible forceful threesome drew the audience in. Finally, however, lingering a bit too long in encore loops, they caused an over-long transition to a quite different trio affair.

With hurrying, crisscrossing, splintering sonorities a Swedish bassist, a Slovenian pianist and a German drummer furnished each other fitting occasions (Steilvorlagen) to head in. The band name refers to making a point (Punkt), gardening (Vrt), shaping and reshaping (Plastik). The threesome Punkt.Vrt.Plastik of Petter Eldh, Kaja Draksler and Christian Lillinger stirred up dust to the midnight hour sky, in highly appealing ways.

Last day: where to from where

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and you'll support us in the process. Learn how.

Album Reviews
Year in Review
Album Reviews
Live Reviews
Album Reviews
Extended Analysis
Album Reviews
Interviews
Album Reviews
  • Koan by AAJ Italy Staff
Multiple Reviews
Album Reviews
  • Koan by Mark Corroto
Profiles
Album Reviews
Read more articles
Pillars

Pillars

Firehouse 12 Records
2018

buy
Verisimilitude

Verisimilitude

Pi Recordings
2017

buy
Alloy

Alloy

Pi Recordings
2015

buy
Alloy

Alloy

Pi Recordings
2014

buy
 

Oblique-I

Firehouse 12 Records
2011

buy

Related Articles

Read Steve Wilson at the Jazz Room Live Reviews
Steve Wilson at the Jazz Room
By Mark Sullivan
June 25, 2019
Read Marcin Wasilewski Trio at Triskel Christchurch Live Reviews
Marcin Wasilewski Trio at Triskel Christchurch
By Ian Patterson
June 24, 2019
Read The Nice Jazz Orchestra At The Opera House Live Reviews
The Nice Jazz Orchestra At The Opera House
By Martin McFie
June 23, 2019
Read Jochen Rückert Quartet at Hong Kong Arts Centre Live Reviews
Jochen Rückert Quartet at Hong Kong Arts Centre
By Rob Garratt
June 21, 2019
Read John Richmond at The Turning Point Cafe Live Reviews
John Richmond at The Turning Point Cafe
By David A. Orthmann
June 19, 2019
Read Ojai Music Festival 2019 Live Reviews
Ojai Music Festival 2019
By Josef Woodard
June 19, 2019
Read Frédéric Gomes at les Deux Moulins Live Reviews
Frédéric Gomes at les Deux Moulins
By Martin McFie
June 17, 2019