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Enjoy Jazz 2012, Days 1-14, October 2-15, 2012

Enjoy Jazz 2012, Days 1-14, October 2-15, 2012
Adriana Carcu By

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Enjoy Jazz 2012
Heidelberg / Mannheim / Ludwigshafen, Germany
October 2-November 10, 2012
Expressed in numbers, the 14th edition of Enjoy Jazz, advertized as a "Festival for Jazz and Other Things," brings up an impressive count: 59 concerts performed in 32 locations, with 265 musicians from 24 countries. Put into words the numbers reveal a most festive setup and a wide diversity of choice. These are the true brands of a major European jazz event happening at the crossroad of three German counties. That alone may stand symbolically for the illustrious lineup featured in this edition. Jazz legends like drummer Jack DeJohnette, pianist Herbie Hancock, drummer Billy Hart, guitarist Elliot Sharp, saxophonist Archie Shepp and reed/woodwind multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef are performing in three galas.

The North is present by performances from pianist Bugge Wesseltoft and biolinist Henning Kraggerud, live sampler Jan Bang, trumpeter Arve Henriksen, and saxophonists Tore Brunborg and Jan Garbarek, with Garbarek and percussionist Trilok Gurtu collaborateing. Pianist Nik Bärtsch's Ronin, Britain's Portico Quartet, drummer Manu Katche, saxophonist Joshua Redman, and guitarist Bill Frisell are names which-together with a fair selection of young artists, like pianist Tigran Hamasyan, DJ Taylor McFerrin, Benedikt Jahnel and songer/songwriter Mari Kvien Brunvoll-stand for the notion that renders, in the most spectacular way, the main characteristic of contemporary jazz. And that notion is openness.

Jack DeJohnette Group

Jack DeJohnette's, sovereign drum performance-skillfully complemented by Rudresh Mahanthappa's arid saxophone tones, joined by guitarist David Fiuczynski, keyboardist/trumpeter George Colligan and bassist Jerome Harris-opened the festival with a showcase of superlatives. "Tango African" started with an ancient drum call anticipating the theme, which unfolded in an ascending drum/sax dialogue, pointed by piercing free accents and seconded by minimalistic keyboard pulses, which lent the performance an atonal spatiality. In "Blue," as if illustrating John Keats' incentive-"Load every rift with ore"-the melody played on drums enveloped the controlled austerity of the soundscape like a velvet curtain. "Ahmad, the Terrible" started with a homogenous sound carried by the guitar's smooth sequential touches. The melodiousness of the bass, paired by the knotty harmonies of the sax, was enhanced rhythmically by the DeJohnette's elegant versatility in dominating from the background. In "One for Eric," as if exchanging traditional roles, the rhythm section provided the melody while Mahanthappa's masculine attacks combined with Colligan's firm presence on piano, tore at the sound curtain. The group's compact yet airy performance provided a complex musical experience that stood firm for the meaning of contemporary jazz.

Bugge Wesseltoft and Henning Kraggerud

As if to reinforce the festival's credo of openness, pianist Bugge Wesseltoft joined with classical violinist {Henning Kraggerud for an acoustic duo project that provided new insights into the musicians' multifaceted creativity. Last Spring (ACT, 2012) is the name of the duo's debut recording and the autumn concert performed in Heidelbeg's Church of the Holy Spirit-a concert that had the diaphanous quality of a winter minuet. Based mainly on original Norwegian folksongs and on the music of classical composer Edvard Grieg, the performance was defined by a quiet lyricism, expressed in natural harmonies with elaborate melodic sequences climaxing in pathetic adagios. Kraggerud's suave sound soared like a solitary bird above Wesseltoft's serene explorations, fluctuating in and out of the classical soundscape in full command of the emotional timing. Wesseltoft's performance unfolded in a well-tempered succession of moods, moving from reflexive contemplation to well-sustained narrative progression. The isolated drops of sound that heightened the lightness of the performance acquired hymnal crescendos, at times reaching tourbillon-like intensity, ultimately abating into calm remises that died away like the remote whispers of a dark Norwegian forest.

Jan Bang and Tigran Hamasyan

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