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Jazzkaar 2019

Martin Longley By

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On the bigger stage, the Hungarian fiddler Félix Lajkó led his trio (guitar and upright bass), playing impressively on a technical level, but delivering each tune with a speeding, overblown bombast that turned him into a folk-pomp troubadour. There wasn't much pausing for thought, but a dense gush of clever contortions, with many, many notes, and not much sensitive feel, or dynamic contrast.

Drummer Mark Guiliana played to a standing crowd, but this might have been a tad ambitious, given that his Beat Music bunch didn't quite prompt the expected dancing reaction from the gathering. This new-ish band reeks of 'concept,' with all members garbed in orange boiler suits, making them appear a touch more accidentally ridiculous than Devo. When compared to Guiliana's work in Mehliana and High Risk, the beats here had a too-robotic feel, taking the plastic- funk template too far. Any way, it's always worthwhile to catch Guiliana in any shape, and perhaps Beat Music will evolve and strengthen their vision (and danceability).

This year's Jazzkaar presented fewer startling Estonian acts, at least during the six days that your scribe was in town, and there were no Afro-Arabic-Latin artists on show, which is usually the case at most festival editions. It was left to pianist Kirke Karja to deliver the most exciting Tallinn-o-centric performance, and Estonian Voices to hit it off with Bobby McFerrin during a set that mostly revolved around inspired improvisation. This was the year of the Stateside leaders, with McFerrin, Redman and Scofield all on masterful form.

Photographs: Raul Ollo & Sven Tupits

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