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ENJOY JAZZ International Festival for Jazz and More 2017

Henning Bolte By

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Legendary vocalist Maria João still sings the softest and most joyous high notes (I know of) and guitarist/pianist Egberto Gismonti still has this nurturing and cherishing treatment of every tone he releases. For João every fiber is voice and joy, voyce or joice, her performance is curving movements and bright eyes' shine, it's dancing like a graceful puppet on a vocal string. Gismonti has a more inwards directed and concentrated temper. He uses different antennae in the interplay between interior and exterior -witness also his rich work of the past with amongst others the late Naná Vasconcelos, work that returned reshaped in the duo with João. Just the light tension of difference in temperament gave the concert an extra thrill and special quality. The way rhythm lead into melody (Gismonti), mood into temperature (João), breathing into inner fire and color, was breathtaking, highly captivating, deeply affecting body and soul of listeners.

Absent for a while from festivals and bigger stages in Europe, it is a huge pleasure to have both back in this promising new combination. In fact they split the sold-out concert up into several parts starting with a short solo-recital by Gismonti on 12-string guitar, then a duo part, a piano-solo part, and finally a conclusion in duo. They created space for each other together—a wonderful re-entry!


Bugge Wesseltoft is a highly stimulating musician usually ready for unusual things. Being a regular at Enjoy Jazz this year's edition brought him to a truly extraordinary place to play piano. In Norway jazz musicians do lunch concerts at various company's offices but Enjoy Jazz even carried it further by collaborating with Mannheim's inner city grand department store Engelhorn. It seemed a match made in heaven: Bugge bringing his new Angel program to Angel's horn (Engelhorn)! Wesseltoft just released his newest solo-album entitled Everybody Loves Angels. More about this work you can find in my review at All About Jazz.

A lot of people will know Bugge Wesseltoft from his album It's Snowing On My Piano (1997), the best-selling record of the German ACT label. Enough people are familiar also with his New Conception of Jazz. It came with a new, all female version last year. Nonetheless, nobody could really know or predict what would touch the ears this night at the (sold-out) fashion department of the store with its glass-dominated architecture. Wesseltoft grabbed the concentrated attention and focus of the audience from the very first moment, and maintained the same high level right up to the end. The audience's concentration was as striking as the music happening. It became a fascinating quiet passage along a wonderful dispersion of the known and unknown. In this modus operandi it above all became an enchanting, memorable deep experience of beguiling lightness.

During the revealing and platitude-free public talk after the concert with Rainer Kern, the artistic director of the festival, Wesseltoft offered a surprising explanation for the long-standing popularity of Norwegian music in Germany worth considering. He not only emphasized the creative recourse to personal roots, but also pointed out that Norwegian music was strongly influenced by music from Germany in the past. So, Norwegian musicians/music give(s) something back, perhaps filling a gap created by the unhappy course of German history. German listeners might feel unencumbered identifying with and enjoying Norwegian rootsyness. The main point here, however, is that there exists a lot of -overt and hidden—interrelatedness and constant reshaping, especially in the fluid art of music. This also threw an interesting light on his re-creation of 'known' songs. According to Wesseltoft, there is no division of good and bad music. There are only good and less good interpretations/re-creations. The key is the way of listening and its implementation when playing music.


"Rising Grace," the title piece of Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel's latest album with trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Brian Blade, is an ear worm tune shining on the horizon -a piece of music that can be spun endlessly. Muthspiel was the festival's choice for another special place, the famous rococo castle of the small town of Schwetzingen near the Mannheim-Ludwigshafen-Heidelberg urbanity. Schwetzingen has a name through its renowned classical festival, the Schwetzinger Festspiele connected also to SWR radio residing in Baden-Baden. The Muthspiel appearance marked the start of a new, closer collaboration of the local Schwetzingen jazz organization with its big brother Enjoy Jazz. Considering the number of visitors from outside, it definitely put weight in the balance in relation to the classical festival.


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