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ENJOY JAZZ International Festival for Jazz and More 2017

Henning Bolte By

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Muthspiel appeared with a different (first class) line-up at the splendid rococo theater of Schwetzingen as part of the largest rococo garden in Europe. It comprised trumpeter Ralph Alessi, pianist Jon Cowherd, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Eric Harland. The music had a vibe and flow different from the recording, the unit was less close with each other and relying more on the interaction of group work and outstanding stepping out solo work. It was different but adequate and satisfying for the pleasurable context.

Mind-expanding earthy lightness

The second performance of the night, a collaboration of Amsterdam based Japanese pianist Keiko Shichijo and La_Trottier Dance Collective led by Canadian choreographer Eric Trottier, brought the visitor to another extraordinary place, EinTanzHaus, a just opened dance venue in the Trinitatis church in the inner city of Mannheim. The church, significantly situated in the Alphornstrasse 28, is a post war (1959) modern church building (protected) perfectly suitable for dance events and concerts.

The central piece of the music and dance performance—the roles were switched since the dancers 'accompanied' the music—was the "Six Dances" cycle composed in 1906 in Paris by Soghomon Soghomonian aka Komitas Vardapet (1869- 1935), the most important Armenian composer. This program was a continuation of a longer Komitas-line in the program of Enjoy Jazz Festival. Earlier editions presented music of Komitas in concerts of Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensembe, of cellist Anja Lechner and pianist Francois Couturier, as well as guitarist Marc Sinan. Such a further reaching line in the programming can be considered remarkable, especially in the case of Komitas. Komitas is still too often put (away) in the folk or world music corner, whereas he should be considered an important composer and ethnomusicologist anticipating the work of Bartók and Kodály.

Keiko Shichijo, a specialist of fortepiano repertoire as well as avant-garde music, discovered Komitas when she was involved in a project with the music of Paul Motian, the legendary American-Armenian jazz drummer (connected a.o. to Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Bill Frisell, Joe Lovano) initiated by the author as part of Amsterdam.Pianolab. In the wake of the Paul Motian project she connected to Levon Eskenian, the director of the Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble (several albums on ECM) and dived deeper into Komitas' music as well as the music of Tigran Mansurian and Alan Hovhaness that strongly resonated and spoke to her. The triggering key for this program was her recent recording of the "Six Dances" (astonishingly released on the label of the vocalist of Dutch punk-group The Ex).

Shichijo started her performance by introducing attuning steps conjuring up an atmosphere to carry and project the sound of the music and the movements of the dancers. She improvised with piano preparations, played shorter pieces by contemporary Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian and a piece of American-Armenian composer Alan Hovhaness (born Alan Vaness Chakmakjian, also with Japanese ties) and gave some short explanations about Komitas. Shichijo's alternation of seriousness and charming spontaneity had infectious effects. Mischievously she announced a 30 seconds etude, "Toghik" by Komitas as upbeat to the performance of the dances.

Her approach and interpretation were remarkable: the well-grounded, forceful rendering of the rhythmical side of the music, as well as the thrilling dynamics with retarding and release, contrasts, tensions and voicing of lower and higher components. All these elements strongly fostered the movements of the highly engaged six (!) dancers Michelle Cheung, Julie Pécard, Jonas Frey, Evandro Pedroni, Joseph Simon and Nora Vladiguerov, their curving, turning, struggling, surrender and acceptance in permanent spontaneous reconfiguring. The tension interplay of earthiness and celestial ether run through both, musical sounds and spontaneously emerging and orchestrated movements. It was a remarkable, enthralling and mind- expanding experience, a meaningful multidisciplinary enterprise, a fruitful meeting at crossroads. It could raise awareness for cultural traits and variants of minimal music, for the power and shaping of what we call 'repetition.'

Quality and challenge sell

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