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Enjoy Jazz Festival 2014

Adriana Carcu By

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Enjoy Jazz Festival
Heidelberg, Mannheim, Ludwigshafen, Germany
October 2 -November 15, 2014

Here are the festival numbers: 80 shows in almost seven weeks on 25 stages, performed by 250 musicians from 35 countries. Beyond the numbers there are many names: quite a few well known, a fair amount of established artists and—in a refreshing proportion-newcomers. True to its motto "festival for jazz and other such things," Enjoy Jazz carried out a gender cross section featuring musicians of the most diverse origins and orientations in a true musical celebration. Jazz was pigmented by ethno, electronics were joined by classic instruments, hip-hop was played along with acid folk, and dark jazz in wide array of instrumental combinations. This year's edition main focus was—no longer a secret—the trio. And, just to add another number, 15 powerful shows have been performed by trios in a generous profusion of convivial musicality and inventiveness. The notes below are not the highlights bearing the reputed names of Jan Garbarek, Gregory Porter, Manu Katche, Tord Gustavsen, and Youn Sun Nah but a more down to earth approach to performances, which today define to large extent the concept of New Music.

Lisa Simone and her trio—Herve Samb, guitar, Reggie Washington, bass, Sonny Troupe, drums -opened the first night of the festival with a sparkling show, combining in fair measures entertainment with dramatism, dance with acting, and song with recitative. The vocalist, who years ago had served on the Rhein Main Air Base, returned for the first time to Germany to perform a single concert in the opulent Convention Center of Heidelberg with pieces from the album All Is Well (Laborie Jazz, 2014). The beautiful orchestration carrying a tradition leading back to gospel, soul, R&B, and Broadway magnified the supple voice dynamics, opening up in the high notes while preserving the full impact of attack and acuity of the low registers.

Simone's charming stage presence was enhanced by the vibrant coloring of her voice, the richness of register, and the accurate emotional fine-tuning. The piece "The Child in Me," a ballad or the missing mother dedicated to Nina Simone, opened with a sensuous rhythmicity on lingering chord glides marked by soft accents, to carry on as a whispered reversed lullaby. The voice moved from the throat to head position to emerge warmer and more powerful like the stony peak of a mountain covered in silky moss. "Autumn Leaves" developed into a voice-guitar dialogue with the clear climbing riffs descending in full resplendent chords.

In "Don't Want You to Go," a song dedicated to Simone's daughter, the smooth phrasing of the voice was joined by the instruments emerging into a finely dosed fusion of mixed metrics and skilfully-timed breaks. The show closed with Leonard Cohen's piece "Susanne" in a funk arrangement with a Caribbean touch, which was easing the melancholy without altering the dramatic impact of the theme.

Sebastian Gramss' project "Thinking of ..." conceived as a tribute to bassist Stefano Scodanibbio, was following a documentary about Charlie Haden, closing thus a day dedicated in its entirety to departed bass players. Sebastian Gramss brought on the stage 12 fellow musicians who performed a vibrant double bass show with the themes emerging out of the dense fabric of rhythmical interaction.

A quartet started the evening performing along the lines of a classical chords-quartet, developing gradually into an abstract improvisation along the lines of the aleatory music tradition. Later on a resonant legato crystalized into a single sonic flux, a unison in high chords, moving into the jazz register and becoming a wistful theme of remembrance.

The band in full count started with a deep vibrato reaching overtone intensity. Gramss' singular instrumental voice rose in zesty interaction with the background, as the harmonic core traveled from right to left, traversing the scene as in a regular Dolby effect.

Later on the 12 instruments conducted by Gramss forged together an intense sound conglomerate with isolated peaks, which were carrying forth the dynamics, covering the rhythmical section with hand percussion on the wood carcass or bow beats on the chords. Melodic nuclei, opening like large white flowers, were attacked by energetic pizzicatos, which disintegrating the sheer sonic fabric into flakes of sound that were sliding back into the basic harmony. The wind through the trees became a bee swarm growing menacingly, reaching a high glissando and ebbing out into a long resonant silence.

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