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Manfred Eicher: ECM 50 at Centre Culturel Flagey, Brussels

Mario Calvitti By

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A move to the large room for another Avishai Cohen concert, this time in duo with the pianist Yonathan Avishai to present their CD Playing the Room. The two have played together for 20 years, but their recent work is the first made in a duo setting, with a repertoire that includes some original compositions and some standards, from John Coltrane to Stevie Wonder, presented in a fairly classic, elegant and refined reinterpretation, embellished by the strong interplay between the two musicians. After the adventurous Cohen of the previous evening, we discovered his more traditional side, but always characterized by a great musicality and a warm instrumental timbre. Then it was the turn of the German pianist Julia Hulsmann with her quartet (that has expanded from her trio with the addition of saxophonist Uli Kempendorff), who presented the new CD Not Far From Here. The music included original compositions that each member contributed, with the exception of a cover of "This Is Not America," composed by David Bowie and Pat Metheny (with Lyle Mays). A good concert, though the saxophonist gave the impression of not being fully engaged in the music of the trio, having changed its balance.

Another change of room saw the all-Polish trio of Marcin Wasilewski, which formed 25 years ago. Their latest album, released in 2018, is a live album recorded in Belgium, from which some of the songs were taken, including one written by Herbie Hancock, "Actual Proof." The trio is probably one of the best currently in activity; theirs is a modern, solid and brilliant music, performed with an enviable compactness resulting from the many years spent playing together that allowed the development of a solid interplay. We then return to the small room for the concert of the duo of pianist François Couturier with cellist Anja Lechner, who played some pieces from their new work, Lontano. The performances of a composition by the pianist and one by Anouar Brahem were particularly touching, but it was above all the voice of Lechner's cello that left the audience bewitched by its beauty and expressiveness.

The concert marathon of the day ended with Swiss pianist Nik Bärtsch's group Ronin. The quartet performed its characteristic modular music consisting of a mix of minimalism, repetition, funk and modern jazz, defined by the pianist as "ritual groove music," which is also the title of his first album released in 2004, but recorded in 2000. Although many years have passed, his music continues to have a strong hold on the audience with its rhythmic hypnotic proceeding. The latest album, Awase, was released last year, and maintains the impact of his early works.

Day 4

The fourth and final day opened in the late morning with the meeting with Eicher, of which we have reported, followed by the closing concert by the Louis Sclavis quartet. The French clarinetist presented led a group with a more traditional instrumentation than he had presented in the past, accompanied for the first time (in the ECM context) by a classic rhythm section of piano/double bass/drums, but his music wasn't traditional in form and substance. The pieces performed were part of his recent album Characters on a Wall, which represents one of his most mature and significant works. The standout in the all-French quartet was double bassist Sarah Murcia, who provided a solid and secure support for the clarinetist's music, while also taking some remarkable solos. An excellent ending, in essence, for a festival that has always maintained a level of absolute excellence. A note of merit goes to the impeccable organization by the Flagey theater, and to the attentive and receptive public, made up largely of young people, contrarily to what usually happens for this type of event.

Photo credit: Olivier Lestoquoit

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