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Jazzdor Berlin 2013: Berlin, Germany, June 5-8, 2013

Jazzdor Berlin 2013: Berlin, Germany, June 5-8, 2013

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Jazzdor Berlin 2013
Kesselhaus in der Kulturbrauerei
Berlin, Germany
June 5-8, 2013

The Jazzdor festival is part of Berlin's still highly attractive cultural and artistic climate of the post- wall era. The seventh edition of this four-day festival took place during the first week of June, 2013 at the Kesselhaus of a former brewery in the well known eastside Prenzlauer Berg district. The festival is an offshoot of Jazzdor Strasbourg, situated in the north-eastern Alsace region of France, the French-Swiss-German triangle.

A French festival in Berlin? Berlin has always possessed a strong French presence. Nowadays, two French institutions in Berlin—Institut Français and Bureau Export de la Musique Française—are strongly connected to jazz activities in Berlin, but the main factor without a doubt is Philippe Ochem, the artistic director of Jazzdor, with his longtime experience in cross-border and intercultural activities. He has shaped the open-minded cooperative signature of the festival with a multinational team and multinational partners. Next year, even more cities will become involved in the summer edition of Jazzdor.

Contrary to strong belief, Jazzdor Berlin is not and has never been a solely French affair. This year's edition e.g. presented a new promising This year's edition, for example, presented a new promising heavy-weight Swiss-French-Danish trio, as well as a German/French two- tenor quartet and an American-Swiss-French quartet. Musicians from different origins (German, Danish, British, American and more) who are also often living in Berlin are now teaming up to play the festival, either as longstanding groups, brand new combinations or occasional meetings—all resulting from keeping close contact with the musicians and goings on within the city's music scene. The festival, therefore, not only presents new trends but also intervenes to establish new things.

Jazzdor Berlin presents three concerts every night, all broadcast live by Deutschlandradio Kultur. This year's edition started with the duo of veteran bass clarinetist Michel Portal and rising young accordion star Vincent Peirani, and closed, on the last evening, with trumpeter Antoine Berjeaut's Wasteland, featuring Mike Ladd.

Wednesday, June 5

Berlin Jazzdor 2013 started with a happy Portal/Peirani duo, a cutting edge Samuel Blaser/Marc Ducret/Peter Bruun trio (Switzerland, France, Denmark), and a delightful, funny quartet of French pianist Dennis Badault, with young British trumpeter Tom Arthurs, from Berlin, and the two Frenchmen—violinist Régis Huby and double bassist Sébastian Boisneau. A wonderful start from three different angles.

Vincent Peirani ,who has just released the album Thrillbox (2013), on the German ACT (with Michael Wollny, Michel Benita, Michel Portal and Emile Parisien), is a rising star on Accordion— and, without a doubt, the tallest accordionist ever on a stage. His duo with Michel Portal was the French counterpart to the Italian Gianluigi Trovesi/Gianni Coscia duo, which has operated successfully on European stages for many years. Portal and Peirani played European- -especially French—standards in a sophisticated and lighthanded way, allowing for lots of a l'improviste musical joking. Portal apparently enjoyed his role when playing this evergreen repertoire. The effect on the audience was correspondent, joining the joyous mood and calling for encore.

Trombonist Samuel Blaser, guitarist Marc Ducret and drummer Peter Bruun provided a clear contrast. Their first public performance showed three amazing musicians in a cutting-edge appearance with every moment full of dense and colorful sound, seizing music and relentless surprise. Blaser and Ducret have been playing in the trombonist's quartet with Swiss bassist Banz Oester and American drummer Gerald Cleaver for awhile, with two albums on the Hat Hut label—2012's As The Sea and 2011's Boundless. Through the quartet, Blaser and Ducret found their way into more intimate blendings of their respective instruments and have also been performing together in a duo context. Blaser, a very guitar-minded musician, also worked with guitarists Scott DuBois and Todd Neufeld earlier in his career. For this next step, playing as trio, Ducret suggested Danish drummer Peter Bruun, with whom he had worked regularly.

The blending of Ducret's guitar and Blaser's 'bone worked out brilliantly. Together with Bruun's extraordinary drumming it yielded ever emerging contours of fascinating form and color shifts with unusual contrast of sharply cut transitions, as well as gleaming sounds of sliding glides. Bruun—a unique drummer who came up with new ways of weaving percussion into and through shape-shifting forms—possessed amazing time, his bass drum combining with the intensity of his needlelike stick work. With this performance, Jazzdor saw the manifestation of a groundbreaking trio with big musical potential.

H3B brought together Régis Huby—one of France's most appreciated jazz violinists (he is one of only a few who regularly play the tenor violin), Sébastien Boisseau, an exceptional rhythmical bassist, and trumpeter Tom Arthurs (originally from Scotland, now living in Berlin), who replaced the group's third B two years ago. The current leader, pianist Denis Badault , is a musician who has yet to get more attention and recognition internationally.

H3B provided sensations of delightful dizziness. The group's music rose up with strong and clear groove-driven motifs, melodies projected deep into space, and a special inherent tension. Its dialectics let the music shift into more reflective moods—dreamy, even—or let it drift into revealing unexpected inner qualities. The musicians of H3B played the music's own shadows in a way that eventually made it accessible, sophisticated, thrilling and joyful. Without doubt a good joker for that night.

Thursday, June 6

The second day again offered an evening full of contrasts: bebop-shredder Actuum, with its improbable variations on "Salt Peanuts," drummer Denis Charolles and guitarist David Chevallier liaising with chanteuse dangereuses, Scottish vocalist Maggie Nichols, and, at last, tenor grandeur with eminent German veteran, Heinz Sauer.

Actuum (pronounced: ahktoum) is a new French band of four highly motivated and disciplined young musicians: saxophonist Benjamin Dousteyssier, trumpeter Louis Lorrain, bassist Ronan Courty and drummer Julien Loutelier.

With quick leaps, halts and accelerations these four musician rushed along virtual lines, alertly tying together their odd, fragmented instrumental lines to create something somewhere in between Mostly Other People Do the Killing and Der Rote Bereich. Actuum's music clearly demanded a high degree of coordination and the exchange of energy. At certain moments the group temporarily got into big flow—from which an energy burst and great cadence resulted—indicating what would be possible to achieve in terms of energy. Actuum's energy levels decreased when it refocused on its next bumpy stretch, but the group adhered to its line monolithically, ready to soon achieve that higher level of energy. Everyone drank from the same bottle of beer during their performance—which was almost empty by the show's conclusion.

David Chevallier, Denis Charolles, Maggie Nicols: old things with new young players and some new things with a well known veteran free singer. Chevallier played a great banjo intro on "The Times They Are A-Changin' , " Bob Dylan's famous fifty year-old song. More of the greats from that time included music from Otis Redding, which received that typical Nicolsonian treatment of devotion, exaltation and agitation. Nicols mimicked the song's original voice, alternating with her very own cooing, gurgling and groaning—and also some pseudo tap-dancing—which exhilarated and underscored the memories of the original songs and singers. Lots of shoo-bees without the doo! Wonderful oddities, with lots of musical elements and approaches, with John Fahey, Eugene Chadbourne and Robert Crumb never that far away. The threesome overstretched its bounds, however, when rendering Georges Brassens. Nicols turned out to be strongest when she returned to her Anglian roots at the end.

After a drink at neighboring Maschinenhaus and a talk with the barmaid about a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, about Finisterre and Delphi, it was back to the Kesselhaus hall where the last concert of the night, by the two-tenor band was already underway: a quartet, Special Relativity, with two of Germany's most prominent tenorists—veteran Heinz Sauer and, half Sauer's age, Daniel Erdmann—accompanied by Berlin bassist Johannes Fink and the eminent French drummer Christophe Marguet. Entering the hall the group was already into a soaring Ornette Coleman-like rendering of Eisler and Brecht's "Kinderhymne." It was pure magic. With Fink and Marguet's ingenious elaborations, music of rare beauty, depth and power was created, generating a strong feeling of homecoming. After "Kinderhymne," the four musicians went on circling in high orbits. It all started with/from Überfigur trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff, but, by joining forces, Sauer and Erdmann were freed to open up a new chapter in their respective careers, strongly manifested at this year's Jazzdor Berlin.

Friday, June 7

Accordionist Pascal Contet is no jazz musician, but a musical magician. Nor is Berlin's Wu Wei —playing the ancient Chinese mouth-organ Sheng and horse fiddle, as well as throat- singing—a jazz musician; instead, a multi-stylistic player and a creative improviser. Both musicians mainly work in the field of contemporary (composed) music. Here they enchanted the air with their delicate improvisations. They completely merged into each other's worlds, evoking an amazingly deep musical flow. It goes without saying that Contet made use of the full long stretches of the accordion in its low as well as upper registers. A great opening with a great duo leading to an encore.

Next, another trombone-guitar combination: Bulgarian-born/Paris-resident Gueorgui Kornazov and Manu Codja united with soprano saxophonist Emile Parisien, bassist Marc Buronfosse, and drummer Karl Jannuska, in the trombonist's Horizon 5tet. Five bold souls and a fiery groove, with deep songs, rocking qualities, rich colors and hot solos the quintet caught the audience's ears and eyes.

The final show lined up more than twelve saxophones—from sopranino to bass—played by young musicians from more than ten European countries: Sam Comerford, Andy Lévêque, Sylvain Debaisieux, Dovydas Stalmokas, Miriam Dirr, Karen van Schaik, Mateja Dolsdak, Viola Falb, Sampo Kasurinen, Gergö Kovats, Fredrico Pascucci, Miguel Sucasas Bujones. These musicians, augmented by a few guests from Jazz Institut Berlin, played in unison, multisono, cross-sono and hyper- sono. All compositions performed were commissioned for the ensemble from various composers. A nice and tight spectacle with plenty of highlights.

The fourth edition of this pan-European ensemble, produced by Belgian MET-X (Luc Mishalle), was led by French saxophonist Guillaume Orti . Orti, whose inspiration lies in the universe of Steve Coleman and Karnatic music, is a member of several French and Belgian groups like Kartet, Mâäk, Octurn, The Progressive Patriots and Andy Emler MegaOctet. The ensemble is supported by the culture program of the European Union as one of its few jazz projects.

Saturday, June 8

The final night at Kesselhaus opened with the duo cellist Vincent Courtois and double bassist Joëlle Léandre, which brought earthy strings burning into the night sky. The quartet J.A.S.S. set off with music tight, driven, full of oscillating colors. Antoine Berjeaut's Wasteland with vocalist/narrator Mike Ladd rendered sharp and heartfelt music floating through the memory.

Léandre and Courtois are from different generations but both are genre-defying musicians at home in various fields. Léandre worked with composers as John Cage, Giacinto Scelsi and Pierre Boulez, and is familiar with all the greats in free improvised music, from Derek Bailey to John Zorn. She is, first of all, a bassist, as she puts it herself, in an All About Jazz portrait, using the rich possibilities and restrictions of this big string-instrument in her own way. The same applies to Courtois and his instrument, the violoncello, whose instrument, too, has strong affinities to non-western music. Courtois started, at an early age, playing Turkish, Arabian and African music; he is at home in jazz-influenced ensembles of all sizes, as well as in the free improvisation and composed contemporary music fields. In these diverse areas he has been a regular Jazzdor participant.

Léandre and Courtois had just started their first tour as a duo a few days ago in the south of Germany, where they not only had a great concert at Unterfahrt in Munich, but also suffered from long train delays due to the massive, catastrophic floodings in the country's southeast. Through that experience, traces of it also reached Berlin Kesselhaus. What makes this duo so special is the difference in the two musicians' timbre and tone color, their alertness and quick reactions, their musical creativity and, above all, their drive and power of execution. When Léandre's deep and dark vibrant rumblings merged with Courtois' razor- sharp translucent sounds it was only the beginning of amazingly crossed bows to come. It was further elongated and projected into space when Léandre uses her vocal chords as an oscillating and chanting fifth string. Hopefully, presenters will be alert to this grand duo and take their responsibility for including it in future programming.

After the Courtois/Léandre encore it was the turn of a new ensemble called J.A.S.S.: the "J" of drummer John Hollenbeck, the "A" of saxophonist Alban Darche, the "S" of trombonist Samuel Blaser and the "S" of bassist Sébastian Boisseau. The group's music was full of references to musical mastermind Steve Coleman, rich of color and grounded inner grooves. Boisseau often played his bass like a guimbri in Gnawa music, while Hollenbeck used the space to intermingle airy Brazilian percussion. The two horns were powerful and sophisticated, but also funny, and never overstated. It was the intelligent tripping of a group with its very own signature, which still has more of it in the can.

As the final chapter of this year's Jazzdor edition, an appearance by a young Parisian group, trumpeter Antoine Berjeaut's Wasteland, was programmed. Trumpeter/flugelhornist Berjeaut, who also included live electronics, gathered a first-class lineup around him, with the multifunctional keyboardist Jozef Dumoulin on Fender Rhodes, bassist Stéphane Kerecki and drummer Fabrice Moreau for their collaboration with American vocalist/poet Mike Ladd, now residing in Paris For sure, it was a non-opportunistic choice to extend and challenge the realms of "jazz." Ladd, a lively and cliché-free performer with sharp timing and forceful phrasing, created an imaginary space with telescoping personal and collective memories. It was quite intriguing how Ladd's moving vocal discourse was carried and intensified by a sound tapestry very much originating from the musical concept of trumpeter Jon Hassell, which was executed here with grandeur. A great closing from a fresh young peripheral perspective.

Photo Credit

All Photos: Henning Bolte

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