Jazzdor Berlin 2019

Henning Bolte By

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Bubbling, burning diversity in between

The duo of vocalist Claudia Solal and pianist Benoit Delbecq and the quartet of (bass) clarinetist Jean- Marc Foltz were the tried and true configurations in the ring.

Foltz, together with Philippe Mouratoglou on acoustic guitar and French famous rock solid rhythm tandem of bassist Sebastien Boisseau - Matthieu Donarier and drummer Christophe Marguet, went 'to catch' a couple of the wildest of wild beasts -bête féroce—in musical bêtage—a highly enjoyable and entertaining affair with tribal tones and trancing trends, music truly needed in these wild times. The new compositions of the ebony blower, rooted in a collection of African photos of Nicolas Bruant, were premiered at the Strasbourg festival last November.

From a different angle, the duo Solal/Delbecq came into the listening space: intimately with highly delicate vocal markings —concise, airy, squirrelly—and goose footprints dancing around. It rendered a first class performance -a new kind of Pierrot-Lunaire-phrasing—of unique flair and a fascinating expressiveness beyond the beaten track.

"The artistic collaboration between Claudia Solal and Benoît Delbecq has dawned in the fall of 2013 : it was totally evident. Their first concerts take place in November 2015, during a tour in Chicago organized by the French association The Bridge, with Antichamber Music quartet, around poems by James Joyce (with bassoonist Katie Young and cellist Tomeka Reid). Back in France, they decided to continue as a duet, and soon record imaginary and improvised songs with suggestive titles, from texts by Claudia : No sake tonight, Inner otherness, Burning green, Ultimate embrace ... From this singular alchemy, arises a cosmic and timeless chant, playing with all transparencies : an impetuous and powerful music, deeply intuitive,— shifting and moving music." (taken from Claudia Solal's website)

The quartet House of Echo, another band of this year's Jazz Migration selection, Comprised Enzo Carniel, (prepared) piano, Marc Antoine, el. guitar, Simon Tailleu, double bass, Ariel Tessier, drums. The group merged quiet flow and eruptive swirls based on "a profound depth in sound and gradually emerging climax yielded by condensation, increasing pace and rhythmic complexity" (my review at All About Jazz).

Extradiversion (détournement supplémentaire, Extraabwechselung) was another inaugural French-German coalition: together with bassist Joachim Florent, pivot of French Coax collective, drummer Edward Perraud this time joint forces with acclaimed German pianist Florian Weber and young and shy German alto talent Anna-Lena Schnabel, newly appointed member of French Orchestre National de Jazz. The group created an engaged as well as light-hearted diversity that ranged from wonderful balladeering moods, lead by Schnabels full flowing alto, to unfaltering woodpecker mode.

French pianist Eve Risser, Berlin musicians Philipp Gropper (saxophone) and Moritz Baumgärtner (drums) and Norwegian vocalist Natalie Sandtorv, know each other from earlier Echtzeitmusik meetings in Berlin and Oslo. Philipp Gropper (1978) is one of the main figures of the Berlin scene (Hyperactive Kid, Philm etc.). Moritz Baumgärtner (1985) is a versatile musician operating in jazz (Lisbeth Quartet, Melt Trio) and rock bands. Natalie Sandtorv is a vocal force from Norway, who worked in the Bergen, Oslo, Copenhagen and Berlin free jazz scene and is a rising star in Norwegian experimental pop music (see my review at here).

For the Jazzdor appearance, the feverish creative spirits of these vanguard musicians had the opportunity to work together more thoroughly for a few days to co-develop their pieces. In the performance they took a slow pace to gradually condense, unfold gestalt and unleash higher energy levels. For me it felt like weird sounds hauling through the inner of the whale. Would they hold on in slow pace together and stay patient or would all burst in thousands of snippets, flow away or collapse? It became quite tense and energetic simultaneously. The group came quite close to the point where the music can fill itself in. The knot was still waiting to be untangled. Personally I liked the mixture of weird sounds, clear presence, pulsing persistence and transitional imperfection. This configuration has great potential—not at least due to its different temperaments, cultural backgrounds and approaches. I am looking forward to see them going with the escalator over the hill.

In the Miles Perkin Quartet, Canadian, French, English and US-American origins with strong Berlin connections melt into stomping, rhythmically intertwining, far reaching and long resounding chants. Its music is an extraordinary 'Ameropean' amalgam of four amazingly open, flexible, and imaginative musicians. Earthy and elegant the masterful unit of bassist Miles Perkin, pianist Benoit Delbecq, drummer Jim Black and trumpeter Tom Arthurs conjured up rising sun rays and deep cave shimmering. It's not only a gathering of first class musicians but also first class band making first class music speaking to a broad audience.

Roundtable discussion: Réalités et perspectives d'un espace artistique commun en Europe

On Thursday, 6 June, the third festival day, a round table discussion, with about 30 professionals, took place. It was organized by the region Grand-Est/Greater East. Grand-Est is the European region at the upper Rhine river where 3 countries, France, Germany and Switzerland share common borders and where the Germanic and Romance language areas touch each other. Accordingly, the organizers supplied an excellent simultaneous translation of the discussion! The discussion dealt with involvements with, experiences in, and perspectives of cross-border artistic collaborations, collaborations with a European perspective. Three hours were spent on an inventory to carve out some realistic perspectives and realizable proposals.

The discussion contained exchange about practices of interregional collaborations, about workable formats and intercultural bureaucratic obstacles, about audience partnerships/'complicité' etc., which offered a lot of inspiring information about feasible, 'machbare' realities (the "yes, we can" credo). In addition to that, the survival question for clubs required attention in a down to earth way.


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