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Jazz Jantar 2017

Martin Longley By

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Get The Blessing, from Bristol, England, normally sound abnormal, crashing noir jazz into noir rock, at a complicated clip, but now, coming on after Chryste Panie, they sounded positively cheerful. We could actually see what they were up to, bathed in throbbing stage lights, and moving around, cutting shapes for drama, nodding their heads, and tapping their boots. Sheer extroversion of elaborate riffs, speeding solos and jacknifeing beats. This quartet have been refining their sound for 17 years now, driven up the hill of their bassman Jim Barr's exceedingly dry wit (which might be difficult for even fluent Polish English-speakers to follow, crammed as it is with obscure regional and historical references), hopping and twitching to the scatter-beats of drummer Clive Deamer, and fronted by the veritable crossed swords of Pete Judge (trumpet) and Jake McMurchie (saxophones). Both of these last two were regularly tweaking their output via a spray of floor effects units. At strategic excitement points, they rushed towards each other, literally locking horns, as if they're members of AC/DC or ZZ Top. Clarion Mexican trumpet plunged into slurry bass, dislocation drums sliced sideways, down dangerous neon-fogged streets, bearing teasers (imaginary?) of forerunner tunes such as "Miss You" (The Rolling Stones) and "Master Builder" (Gong).

As the curve bent back into shape from Polish drone sparseness, through English post-Ornette, post-Lounge Lizards pulp jazz, and finally into the soothing sounds of Joe Lovano's Classic Quartet, the latter suffered heavily in the excitement stakes, even though the Stateside saxophonist was in fine, stretching-out form. Nevertheless, it was time to slide into the ease of familiarity and slickness, which may or may not have been a disadvantage, caused by such broadly spanning programming decisions.

Curiously, there was a strong feeling that the Jantar audience is mostly receptive towards such strong contrasts, and was instructive to follow the sometimes lop-sided route of an evening's collective narrative. Clearly, this is an individualist advantage held by Jazz Jantar. The festival featured several thematic threads throughout its unwinding, and one of 2017´s was a focus on the jazz of Portugal. On the penultimate night, the Red Trio were augmented by German trumpeter Axel Dorner and Swedish vibraphonist Mattias Ståhl, their core membership being Rodrigo Pinheiro (piano), Hernani Faustino (bass) and Gabriel Ferrandini (drums).

This expansion understandably took the trio on a much-expanded ride, making their sound even harder, faster, more intense and extroverted. Dörner's modified horn allowed him to sculpt electronic effects and interior amplification, producing a landscaping quality, but then he could swivel inside the next phrase with an untreated bebop crackle, chattering with a sharpened edge. Ferrandini also had a striking input, surely one of the most articulate, resourceful and sonically varied sticksmen on the scene.

For the final night, the Portuguese trumpeter Susana Santos Silva helped climax the festival, following the extreme tenor saxophone quartet Battle Trance, from Brooklyn. Impressive on a nightly basis, Jantar still held this double bill up as a shining example of complementary contrast, even though both outfits emerged from the jazz perimeter. Travis Laplante dreamt of four tenor saxophones negotiating steely spirals of semi-composed, chops-testing intricacy, and so it was: the foursome came together in the real realm. There is still a large amount of improvisation allowed, but the signals for transitions had to be obeyed, keeping "Blade Of Love" whetted. During the extended piece, a remarkable flow of qualities paraded past, some displaying a grouped tonal hovering, others ramming into hard-blowing riff-cascades, with multiple instances of cue-ed chaos or stamina-loaded rigidity.

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