Jazzdor Berlin

Henning Bolte By

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Pianist Roberto Negro's DaDaDa unit with the unbeatable Émile Parisien and the forcefully beating, as well as subtly rustling and soughing, Michele Rabbia opened, set the standard, fired things up and triggered the next group, The Michel Portal Quintet. Bass clarinetist Michel Portal (1935) is (still) a driving force in the French jazz/music scene and the most prominent one on his instrument together with Louis Sclavis. He cannot be pinned down to a definite direction, style or whatever and thus has never become father figure for any specific kind of music. From hard core classic to deep funk, blues and Latin, he played and plays everything. He constantly seeks for fresh blood in his group(s) and collaborates with musicians from all generations, French or otherwise that have something to say and to contribute, like new French accordion wizard Vincent Peirani, French saxophone canon Emile Parisien or amazing Belgian drummer Lander Gyselinck . The most longstanding musicians in his quintet (and other units) are pianist Bojan Z and bassist BrunoChevillon, both heavyweights of the French scene. The new colors he recently started to inject come from German trombonist Nils Wogram (1972), long time duo partner of Bojan Z, and new European revelation, thirty-year-old drummer Lander Gyselinck from Belgium. The quintet played a colorful and greatly flowing set with lots of Cuban and other Latin tinges too.

Next night was opened by renowned trio of pianist Pablo Held (1986) bassist Robert Landfermann and drummer Jonas Burgwinkel from Cologne. Underway now for more than ten years, with ten albums on its sleeve, it is one of the most solid younger piano trios in Europe (see my review here). With its last album Investigations they made their debut for UK-based label Edition Records. The trio that regularly joins forces with electric guitarist John Scofield or acoustic guitarist Ralph Towner should have performed with Brazilian-French guitarist Nelson Veras but Veras could not make it due to an accident and a finger injury. With Veras' fate in mind, these three close musical friends entered another of their highly sophisticated conversations, freely switching between topics and thereby fine-tuning, shifting and twisting their expressions in a way that rendered new, uncommon aspects and insights. They are so close and familiar with each other that nothing seems impossible in terms of twisting and turning around. It happens to a degree that they become almost TOO good!

What If, the quartet of French up-and-coming saxophonist Hugues Mayot, comprising unmistakable keyboard wizard Jozef Dumoulin, bassist Joachim Florent and drummer Franck Vaillant concluded the night with a strangely disconnected set. The music was both right and not right in a way that was hard to pinpoint. It turned out that the musicians had a lot of heavily exhausting bad luck during their travel to Berlin. Next day when Mayot was performing as part of Ikui Doki he clearly had recovered and played a strong and subtle set with that unit.

The performance of drummer Yorgos Dimitriadis, saxophonist Philippe Lemoine and accordionist Andrea Parkins in between the trio Ikui Doki and the large ensemble of Hans Lüdemann was a quite different affair. The three musicians worked entirely in real time creation mode (zero fixed things in advance) generating, electronically processing/manipulating and shifting dense inscrutable textures such that listeners' usual apprehension ceased to work. They were compelled instead to take (in) the 'massive' sound and follow the unfolding process and the hidden inner life of the thicket in a different way. The trio's music making although seeming a bit lost in between the other groups' activities nonetheless had strong repercussions on the audience, but it is hard to describe the impingement (for my personal impression see the slide show on top of the article).

Who are these musicians and what brought these three musicians together to play at Jazzdor Berlin? Greek drummer Yorgos Dimitriadis and French saxophonist Philippe Lemoine are both active members of the Berlin impro-scene. Lemoine also works in Marseille and Dimitriadis worked for more than a decade in Paris. Lemoine has been a member of Orchestre National du Jazz under the direction of Claude Barthelemy from 2002-2005 and he has a quite intensive collaboration with drummer Yorgos Dimitriadis in Berlin. Andrea Parkins is a multidisciplinary artist from New York who, by various means, wields a sonic language that is both fractured and fluid. Her visual materials include objects, video, drawings and photographs. In this case Jazzdor zoomed in on older and longer existing Paris-Berlin traces.

Jazzdor's last night in Berlin started with Novembre, a new young French quartet consisting of saxophonist Antonin-Tri Hoang, saxophone, pianist Romain Clerc-Renaud, bassist Thibault Cellier and drummer Elie Duris. The group was selected for this year's Jazz Migration program already mentioned above. Antonin Tri Hoang is a key musician of the younger French generation and already a familiar face for Jazzdor. He previously performed with Eve Risser's White Desert Orchestra and as part of German alto player Charlotte Greve's Liesbeth Quartet. Novembre had the same kind of free discursiveness as the Pablo Held trio and some of the polyvalent side of the music of Lüdemann's TEE ensemble, but the quartet gave it shape with higher pressure and sharp turns in a much more grinding manner. The group has developed its very own approach and voice of dynamic transitional diversity, of scraping and reformulation, which holds promising potential.

The Bedmakers played in a line-up of French-English saxophonist Robin Fincker, French violinist Mathieu Werchowski, Irish bassist Dave Kane (taking the place of Pascal Niggenkemper for that occasion) and French drummer Paul Rogers/Robin Fincker/Fabien Duscombs. It is a remarkable group in two respects. First, the group has a multinational line-up and consists of musicians that are at home in two scenes, like French saxophonist Robin Fincker who is member of the London loop collective, or German-French bassist Pascal Niggenkemper who works in the New York scene as well as in the French scene. Apparently, a lot of musicians of this kind appear at Jazzdor. Second, the group has applied and dedicated itself explicitly to Anglo-American folk music (US-American guitarist John Fahey, Irish flutist Matt Molloy, English guitarist Bert Jansch etc.). The influence of folk music is often implicit but in the case of the Bedmaker's "Tribute To An Imaginary Folk Band" it is programmatic and explicit witness the group's recent album, a co-production of French label Freddy Morezon and English Babel label of Oliver Weindling. It is a truly refreshing vital note these days. The title alludes to the French movement Folklore Imaginaire from more than 30 years ago but the Bedmakers add something that is in a way long overdue, the improvisational elaboration of well-known strong melodic material. It goes much further than, for example, the (one-time) pairings of Robin Williamson with improvisers such as violinist Mat Maneri, bassist Barre Phillips or saxophonist Paul Dunmall. Bedmakers' inspired and inspiring turn resulted in a forceful Jazzdor performance.

The final concert was renowned French baritone saxophonist François Corneloupe with his all French quintet comprising trombonist Simon Girard, pianist Sophia Domancich, bass-guitarist Joachim Florent and drummer Vincent Tortiller, two musicians from the younger and two musicians from the older generation. Corneloupe is one of these few dedicated and passionate, fluid and raucous baritone players. In this quality he has intensely collaborated with likes of bassists Claude Tchamitchian , Henri Texier, pianist Francois Raulin and reedist Sylvain Kassap . As expected, the appearance of this line-up became a full blast and a splendid conclusion of the festival with a remarkable contribution of young trombonist Simon Girard (1985).


Jazzdor Berlin again provided valuable insights in artistic development of young-and-upcoming musicians/groups, in new concepts/approaches and new perspectival collaborations. However, to maintain Jazzdor's attraction, relevance and impact it will be necessary and important in the near future to present it in a sharper and more appealing manner in the Berlin context with its plenitude of musical events in the same vein.


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