Switching to banjo and attaching little pegs to the strings, Carstensen paid brief homage to John Cage's "Music for Prepared Piano," and as the pegs were removed one by one, the music gradually morphed into bluegrass stomp. A melancholy traditional Norwegian tune on accordion, a foot-stomping Bulgarian sheppard's tune played on kaval with the breathy virtuosity of Roland Kirk
, a racy Transylvanian fiddle tune transported to accordion and a sung version of Fred Tillman's "I Love You So Much It Hurts Me" revealed the breadth of Carstensen's folkloric and popular roots.
Yet all the joking and vaudeville entertainment that were a part of Carstensen's stagecraft couldn't detract from a technique as rich in harmonic sophistication, rhythmic panache and contrapuntal dexterity as the very finest concert pianist, and an improvisatory flare to rival any jazz musician.
The final piece saw Carstensen entwine beauty and gravitas in a Bach-esque, church organ-inspired recital that was hypnotic and uplifting, much like the concert as a whole. Lionel Loueke
A trio of equals, Lionel Loueke
, bassist Massimo Biolcati
and drummer Ferenc Nemeth
have been playing together for eighteen years, since studying together at Berklee College of Music and although they had plenty of material to draw from the set was largely taken from Gaïa
(Blue Note Records, 2015).
The trio's intuitive interplay was in evidence from the first notes of the melodically and rhythmically African-colored "Dream." Loueke's embrace of jazz has gradually opened over the years to allow more space for his Benin roots to shine but this was a performance of even more expansive ambition.
Loueke's pedals-driven guitar improvisation on the spirited "Broken" conjured jazz-fusion evocative of Herbie Hancock
an early mentor for the guitarist. Homage to Carlos Santana
came with a slow-burning take on (Peter Green
's) "Black Magic Woman" and the (Babatunde Olatunji
's) drum feature "Jingo." Loueke's measured blues-funk and the spacious groove on the former was more James Blood Ulmer
, however, than Santana.
On the elegant "Aziza Dance" African melodicism and rhythmic compass, funk and blues-tinged jazz merged seamlessly. Loueke, like Bill Frisell
, has a little of the musical alchemist about him in the way he blends colors and textures to create something new yet familiar. The up-tempo version of the Bee Gee's "How Deep is Your Love" that closed the set saw Louke at his most fluid and George Benson
-esque. Without pausing for breath, the trio launched a danceable African groove, closing the concert on a feel-good note. The Firebirds
Danish trio The Firebirds returned to The Well following their afternoon workshop to deliver a powerful set of classically-inspired compositions, compromised somewhat by the problems keyboardist Anders Filipsen experienced with the bass function on his keys.
By happy coincidence, the trio's new CD inspired by the music of Danish composer Carl Nielsen, Aladdin's Dream
(ILK, 2017),was released that same day and it was with the progressive tonalities of Nielsen's "Little Suite For Strings" (1886) that the trio's adventure embarked. From a grooving chamber jazz opening evocative of The Doors, Stefan Pasborg's polyrhythmic bustle gradually steered the music into headier terrain, with Anders Banke's tenor saxophone soaring over Filipsen's reggae-tinged chords.
Bake switched between clarinet and saxophone during Pasborg's arrangement of three segments of Igor Stravinsky's Firebird Suite
. The dreamy minimalism of "Introduction"all washing cymbals and organ dronegave way to the rhythmically complex, melodically striking "The Princesses' Game with the Golden Apples," which was followed by "Infernal Dance of All Kashchei's Subjects," a stonking passage characterized by expansive improvisatory excursions.
The centre-piece, excerpts from Stravinsky's iconic Rite of Spring
, contained all the violence, beauty and gravitas of the original, with the trio's orchestral ambition matched by the originality of its execution. Three movements from Nielsen's Aladdin Suite
passed from exotic Arabic sonoritiesfired by Banke's tenorthrough sombre, church-service reverie to fiery free-jazz. The encore, Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian's "Saber Dance," fused R&B bounce and Ellingtonian swing in irresistible fashion, with an exhilarating solo from Pasborg putting a personal seal on this most original and compelling of projects. Day Two Julian Colarossi Organ Trio