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.

The Scandinavian avant-jazz group Atomic -Fredrik Ljungkvist, sax, clarinet; Magnus Broo, trumpet; Håvard Wiik, piano; Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, bass; Hans Hulbækmo, drums—couldn't have come up with a better band name. "Atomic" is the most appropriate description for the explosive show the musicians brought to the Karlstorbahnhof (Carol's Gate Station) club in Heidelberg. With a strong free jazz predisposition based on a solid Afro-American background, the five distinct musical entities created a many-layered sound fabric fuelled by an implosive groove with symphonic quality.

From the start, the band launched a furious intro ramifying right away into compact harmonic structures set free by the rhythmical energy generated by breaks and free accents, and escalated by the unexpected changes of mood. The well-integrated melodic inserts resulting from the brisk interaction of the brass section were graciously framed by the enveloping bass presence.

True architects of musical tension, the musicians combined intuitive synergy with in a highly intelligent playing into a performance of transporting intensity. The trumpet in conjunction with the sax or the clarinet moved in fluid abstractness, the solos becoming most of the time perfectly fused duos. The piano classical touches with abstract excurses into free jazz were aptly complemented by the drum work merging together in a complex rhythmical entity.

The Swedish Christmas carol transformed by Fredrik Ljungkvist into blues rendered a comfortable feeling of being inside the music, a cerebral approach with the emotions held on the backburner, a suspended meditations transferred to the present by an abrupt stop, through the apt insertion of a break -the rhythmical brand of the crew.

With their recently released album Inner Earth (Hubro, 2014), the Nordic band Møster brought to the Alte Feuerwache (Old Firehouse) in Mannheim a grave post-rock show with dark tones ebbing into brief intervals of solemn lyricism. With Kjetil Moester}} on sax amplified through a bass PA, Hans Magnus Ryan on guitar, Nikolai Eilertsen on bass and Kenneth Kapstad on drums, the evening started with "Descending Into the Crater" in dark sax breaths sliding expectantly through the minor registers.

The long narrative intro was joined by the guitar in heavy rock tones with vague touches of blues. The muddy, aeruginous texture of the sax sounds rose like a warning siren to rejoin the ascendant guitar slides in apocalyptical gravity. The downfalls then mounted again into a menacing agglomeration, reaching a tensional apex upon which the theme was picked up as a liberating passage to jazz modes. "A giant descending towards the center of the world with tears in his eyes" was the way Kjetil Moster described the next piece. In it a droning sound mass was tamed by serial oscillatory glides backed by the intricate drum rolling -rhythmical backdrop made of minute elaborate constructions.

The duo Lucian Ban, piano and Mat Maneri, viola, playing pieces from Transylvanian Concert (ECM, 2013) and Elevation (Sunnyside, 2013) made the proof of a successful "reversed osmosis" in which the Transylvania born Ban adopted a stylized manner of interpretation with excurses into blues and gospel, while Maneri switched to Romanian modes, which he played with remarkable sensitiveness.

The piano assumed the rhythmical part, in sober dry resonance with a minimalistic economy on the keys. A straightforward, cerebral approach, in confluence with the sweeping viola chords. The inner tonal dynamics moved toward free astringent tones and raw harmonies that render the silence at the end melodious. The lyrical pieces, reminded of Chopin studies, alternated the introspective theme with intervals of expectation opening the soundscape to smooth scalar wanderings.

In the essentialized interpretation of "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen," the stylized theme on isolate viola chords was reduced to its harmonic core, while the piano was decomposing of the chords on fluent legatos, navigating around the theme in sober gyrations.

Pianist Nikolas Anadolis' trio, with Simon Tailleu on bass and Jonas Burgwinkel on drums, brought to Heidelberg that warm, unsophisticated congruity of sound and rhythm characteristic to well played jazz.

Anadolos multi-facetious melodiousness generated a musical scheme that combined mozartesque substructures with the entertaining sonority of stylized standards and the floating dreaminess of dissipated sounds. The clear and well-aired intervals grew into volatile waltzes, heightening the pace into well-tempered grooves or frantic improvisations.

Enveloped in the fluid smoothness of the bass, the drums developed a parallel well-integrated dimension. In right adjustment of mood the distinct instrumental voices, moved along in the right gradation of timing and melodiousness creating a persistent musical halo.

The Australian trio The Necks with Chris Abrahams on piano, Lloyd Swanton on bass and Tony Buck on drums perform for 25 years a music that reminds one of the spatial sound effect obtained by sliding a finger on the rim of a glass, with the difference that here the spatiality unfolds unexpected dimensions. There is no telling what territory of consciousness these three musicians will touch and expand each time they are playing live.

As soon as the piano opened the landscape with wide tides of sound loaded with submerse sensitiveness, the musicians and the audience alike closed their eyes to embark on a hypnotic journey. The bass took the lead on a golden road out in the open, while the high touches of cymbals tempered the dream with a lassitude that doesn't fear silence. The bow crescent vibratos unified the drums stride with the increasing melodiousness of the piano part resulting in a finely tensioned continuum. An ebb and tide with orange scintillation of the high noon, that lets you see fata morganas and hear distant voices. The growing tension was powered by deep resonating bass chords in conjunction with the solid bass drum beat in a vibrant, dark augmentation opening up like a blue crack in a tight cloudy mass.

The minimalist insistence of the piano became the inner pulse of a living organism, diminishing like the purple sun setting as the sea breeze starts fondling the foliage. The bass tide took the land away carrying with it translucent heights of blue and green, crests of foamy white and wide breaths that make time lose its dimension. The full triangular melodiousness of the drum announced in rising tones the birth of a new day.

The British band Polar BearSebastian Rochford, drums; Mark Lockheart, sax; Pete Wareham, tenor sax; Tom Herbert, bass; Leafcutter John , laptop & controllers, -playing mainly pieces from the recent album suggestively named In Each and Everyone lent to the evening the rhythm of the heart in a continuous pulse of alternating rhythmical modules developed in concentric outrushes by the porous sax tones and the deep bass reverberations.

The themes -all composed by drummer Seb Rochford -moved on nervously, but not lacking a tinge of humor, into more abstract tonalities with the sturdy sax lines ebbing in an alerting poly-rhythmical cadence, backed by sampled harmonies and the hip-hop bass/drum groove patterns.


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