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Jazz in Church 2014, Bucharest, Romania

Jazz in Church 2014, Bucharest, Romania
Adriana Carcu By

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Jazz in Church
Lutheran Church Bucharest
April 3-6, 2014

The second edition of the Bucharest Jazz in Church Festival found the best way to establish a valuable musical tradition, not only in Romania, but also the wider, European jazz arena.

Featuring musicians from France, Italy, UK, Switzerland, Poland and Hungary as well as Romanian artists, the organizers provided four days of solid musical substance and enticing creative diversity. By aptly balancing the toned down character of the performances and lending each evening a specific, unmistakable sonority, the festival marked further highlights in Romania's remarkably vivid jazz landscape.

Zsofia Boros

Hungarian guitarist Zsofia Boros opened the festival with a succession of titles from her recent ECM album En Otra Parte. Reflexive and vibrant, soft yet powerful, the sounds emerged in a fluctuating exchange of moods, creating an atmosphere of cool gentleness that called forth Chaucer's "sweet showers of April."

Unraveled from the guitar, which was held in gracious balance like a lute, the hushed vibration of chords arose like the memory of a fading dream, streaming upwards to return to the dominant in airy descent.

The pieces ""Se Ella Preguntar"" and "Milonga te Vas" mingled intricate rhythmical sequences marked by crisp touches of chords, firm accents and rigorous plucks. The Latin ardor subsided to a soothing wave of nostalgia, carried along by the imploding energy of a dormant volcano. In Vicente Amigo's "Callejón de la Luna" a corrida became a serenade. A dance became a hymn, then a wail, culminating in a pause full of music, as a sonic mirroring of the verse "The silence that lingers between two words" belonging to Argentinian poet Roberto Juarroz, who inspired this album.

Ralph Towner's "Green and Golden" had the clarity and the roundness of perfect rain drops, scintillating in the sunset emerging behind the clouds. In "Nocturna" and "Cavalcade," liquid tones modulated into a receding romance, in fading hues of dream and longing. The concert closed with a gentle whirl that held within the renewed promise of the breaking buds.

Michel Portal & Vincent Peirani

The show featuring Michel Portal on clarinets and sax, and Vincent Peirani on accordion emanated inner lightness and conviviality that united color and texture in a rarefied sonic tissue of sheer finesse. The accordian's pneumatic tones were reminiscent of harmonium's crescent breath and met the bass clarinet's dark resonance in a felicitous gemination of accent and pause.

Swells of sound,emerging and receding from the accordion like the fulgurations of an ascending petal storm, created delicate convergences in which the grave tones of bass clarinet mingled long coils of sound, unleashing the harmonies.

"Bojan and Henry" written by Vincent Periani, started with a winding theme of modal fluctuations that became a pearly succession of accordion sounds sustained rhythmically by the incisive sax accents. The piece "Cuba," signed by Michel Portal, paired the suspended sighs and harmonic breaths of the accordion with gentle crescendos and quiet changes of register on the clarinet, which perfectly integrated the 9 o'clock bell tolls descending from the church tower, and falling back on the theme of a velvety sound canopy.

"Three Beats for Michel," dedicated by Periani to Portal, opened with large turns of tempo that reminded of a summer cherméze in the French countryside. Gradually, circular movements turned into merry whirls and the accordion line, doubled by Periani's voice, ended the piece on a humorous note.

The show ended in jovial balance and orchestral roundness with a Duke Ellington tune where keen clarinet accents in ascending spirals alternated with pauses in which the music continued to play itself and resonate, long after the instruments were silent.

Marcin Masecki & Pawel Szamburski

Marcin Masecki on piano, and Pawel Szamburski on clarinet met only once before, and on that occasion played Arvo Part's "Mirror in Mirror" together. The YouTube recording drew the festival director's attention and he invited them to Bucharest. Masecki, comes from a classical background (he has developed a project called "The Art of the Fugue" on harpsichord). Szamburski is from the electronic and DJ scene, also performing Jewish and folk music. They declared that they "had to behave" on this adventurous project.

Except for "Mirror in Mirror," in which the ethereal theme took a more telluric vibration through a minute shift of perspective, and Angelo Badalamenti 's lyrical "Twin Peaks" theme, the two talented musicians performed with aplomb in a solely improvisational show.

The set started with diaphanous melodic attempts prefigured in themes and motives set out by the piano then developed by the clarinet's firmer stance. Minimalistic piano progressions were transposed lyrically by the clarinet and developed into a ballad, with slight pastoral undulations. Later, the legato shifted into the classic register, leading back to the initial cadence.

The piano's atonal intros coagulated into harmonic clusters, anticipating the clarinet's melody, which ebbed off an abstract open scale. The show ended in a compact humming, pitching out and coming together in pertinent harmonic conjunctions alternated with enticing dissonances.

Ambrose Field and John Potter with Romanian Quartet

A commissioned piece of classical lineation, titled Transmission Cycle for Amplified Strings and Solo Tenor, was composed and conducted by Ambrose Field, sung by John Potter and performed by a quartet of young Romanian musicians—Mihai Balabas, first violin; Marina Pingulescu, violin; Maria Coltatu, viola; Corina Ciuplea, cello.

The 40-minute piece was described by the author as an "epic journey, with a slowly evolving tenor line, which floats above a shimmering harmonic haze where delicate details fade in and out of focus." Along the subtle sequencing of harmonies, the reflecting sound surfaces brought ebbing melodicism out in the generous space created by the recitative tenor line in Latin, adding to the sacral solemnity.

The quartet's pensive legatos, alternating with energetic shifts of tone, created a solid sound platform that complemented the voice enhancing its lyrical dimension. The recurring first violin intercessions reached out with poignant firmness, and a well- tempered pitch generated the sonic environment for either a prayer or the onset of an invocation, raised for the first time in front of an altar in Bucharest.

Markus Stockhausen & Tara Bouman

The nave of the church was afloat with the sounds of trumpet and bass clarinet in large intervals of silence approaching the altar from the aisles. The omnipresence of sounds, due to perfect acoustics in the church, circumfused the audience with the sanctity of a suspended moment, of music in its purest form.

Markus Stockhausen on trumpet and flughorn, with Tara Bouman playing bass clarinet, played "compositions and intuitive music that comes with the moment," in a performance that almost made visible the transposition of feeling into sound.

In "Belfort" Stockhausen initiated a poetic pathway that was followed up in "Serenade," a piece starting solely from the title's suggestive power and a single tonality where a melody emerged, accessing perception by means of illuminated transmission. The trumpet resonated and was echoed by the open piano, followed by more grounded tones of the bass clarinet, which was delineating intervals in sober accents, as if circumscribing a space for the soaring trumpet.

Later on, a cymbal piece performed by Stockhausen, with receding resonances and overtones, induced a meditative disposition and projected musical perception into a state of pure 'presence.' The amplifying waves of sound intensified in white rotating movements while the sound gained a multi-layered texture and quiet intensity that reached into the depth of consciousness. As it became richer, the sound faded away while the caption of low frequencies was carried on by the bass clarinet in departing wavers, returning it to the source. The show ended in a perfect sonic communion that lingered in the inner ear rendering the world in calmer colors and the words, for a while, superfluous.

Irène Schweizer & Pierre Favre

An old couple is getting ready to spend a quiet evening in front of the TV. The lights are low; a cup of hot tea is steaming on the side table. They sit down comfortably, slowly raise their hands and then, in that instant, a completely new dimension opens up: the room becomes the stage on which two of the most consummate European jazz musicians bring a stunning performance of musical synergy in action. Out of their hands the harmonic chemistry explodes with their undiminished joy of playing. This is the way in which one needs to imagine the beginning of the show Irene Schweizer on piano and Pierre Favre on drums are performing together for good 50 years.

The harmonization of the drums inner musicality with the rhythmical impact of the piano keys created a layer of abstract interaction that acted like a river rolling stormily into a sonic precipice, gathering its waters and taking its steady course in a steady passage leading into open sequences.

The masterful alternations of jazz formulas were deconstructed into powerful sound modules, the percussion, with dry African bean pods among other things, gave the beat an increased natural sonority that resembled a departing flutter of wings. The drum beat was taken over by the left hand on the piano, developed into a growing inner melodiousness and sustained by the work on the open chords, which were bringing out harpsichord, harp and organ tonalities.

The firm touch, cerebral vigor and sobriety, backed by the pianist's deep-rooted musicality and sustained by a subtle sense of structure, rendered symphonic richness to the performance culminating with a complex florilegium of sound on the drums, which reminded of Pierre Favre's words: "Playing drums is like dancing."

Mihai Balabas & Calin Torsan

Two Romanian musicians—Mihai Balabas, e- guitar, violin, samplers; Calin Torsan, clarinets, flutes, percussion—started with clicking and clacking produced by aleatory impact of musical objects, diminishing in gradual acoustic transition from everyday life into the realm of music.

The violin and the clarinet launched in dreamy reflections that gradually covered the open sonic space with growing intensity that was taken over by the e-guitar and the flutes. Streaming from reminiscent echoes of the chords, sampled segments started gliding upwards in opening intervals of translucent blue hues.

A compact sonic field receding gradually to the flute's fricative whistles was taken over by the clarinet with inserts of Romanian motives. As the tone moved in ethereal spheres of hiss, hum and whisper, solitary crests of sound on the guitar arose, polarizing and heightening the clarinet modulations.

A Romanian theme on flute, dissipated in rarefied arpeggios, was doubled on the guitar then rendered back in echoing reverbs and loose loops. A stance of respite and aerial transpositions ended a graceful celebration of sound in making.

Stefano Battaglia & Michele Rabbia

Stefano Battaglia on piano and Michele Rabbia on drums and percussion started with a keyboard intro and a hiss on snare and cymbals. The theme was amplified in developing folds, engulfing large sound areas while percussion grew in complexity and gained acme.

A delicate theme in tones that recall nostalgic flair was enveloped in a gossamer tissue of percussion effects which gradually grew in dramatic crescendos. The piano circumvented the theme suffused by the almost material flow of the percussion, that underlined by the bass drum acquired adagio intensity, fading then out like the departing whirls of dry leaves.

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