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Molde International Jazz Festival 2013

John Kelman By

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What was most impressive about the performance was just how much these eight musicians now sound like a group, rather than a collection of musicians selected to participate in Take Five Europe as players with careers established, but looking for ways to get to the next level. With the impressive and powerful Damasiewicz absent, it may have also worked to Besson's advantage, giving her greater opportunity to shine on her own; and while Kweksilber didn't need the absence of Perret to stand out, he did nevertheless, especially in the set's closing tune where he played with more fire than in Kent back in January, letting loose a series of John Zorn-like squeals in the upper register while Ghosh, the most visually animated and consequently charismatic performer, swooped and swirled in, out and around him. Masecki was hard to see, with his piano facing towards the rear of the stage as this was a group too large for the venue's small stage (another of the many experiences Take Five Europe helps its participants learn how to overcome), but his contributions were not, as he led the group, early on, through his own composition—standing and playing two pieces of tuned percussion rather than piano.



In his second performance of the week, Herskedal, too, impressed, in particular during his own composition, where an a cappella intro combined electronics and extended techniques to create something distinctly un-tuba-like, while Sharkey's southpaw creation of shimmering arpeggios and harder-edged lines early in the set were still a surprise to those familiar with his work in trioVD and, more recently, The Geordie Approach. Zanussi and Baggiani kept the engine stoked while, at the same time, responding to their musical partners and, as was most clearly seen in the after-show, friends as well. It was clear that the group had applied many of the lessons learned at Take Five Europe, most notably in its maintaining of the pace of the set and delivering introductions (because it was in Norway, from Zanussi and Herskedal) that were concise and to the point.

July 19: Jason Moran & Jan Bang / Obara International

With the majority of Molde Jazz Expo delegates gone, if the weather didn't exactly improve significantly, there was at least some improvement—brief periods of sun, even, that allowed the natural beauty of the surrounding area to emerge more clearly, though wind and rain were rarely far behind.

This was all the more reason to stay indoors and catch one of the most anticipated of Jason Moran's residency performances, and a new group teaming two Poles with two Norwegians for a group already generating considerable buzz.

First, in the Teatret Vårt Konsert, Moran's duo show with Jan Bang was everything fans of the Norwegian live sampler had hoped it would be—and more. A pairing that literally happened over a beer when the two met at a European festival some time ago, it took this residency to create a context where the two could come together and, with little preparation, see just what might happen. If any show was to illustrate the absurdity—and lack of necessity—of drawing boundary lines based around country, culture and genre, it was this one. Through Bang's Punkt festival, he has experienced increasing opportunities to collaborate with musicians from other countries and, if there's any single thing that defines Bang and has garnered his reputation, it's that his eyes, ears and mind are never anything less than completely open to the possibilities around him. Combine that with a similar quality in Moran and it was the recipe for a performance that spent time exploring both sides of the Atlantic, but more often than not, found a happy nexus point smack dab in-between.



With Moran playing Fender Rhodes in addition to grand piano, it gave the pianist an opportunity to expand his textural contributions; still, during the opening piece he focused on grand piano and, when Bang began to sample and process his music, it took on some of the complexion of Harold Budd's '80s collaborations with Brian Eno, except that Moran and Bang were creating this music in real time, and without the benefit that time (and the opportunity to correct) provides in the more controlled environment of the recording studio; this was musical risk-taking made all the more impressive by the clear fun being had by both players. Moran did move over to Rhodes at one point, but as Bang and Moran periodically smiled at each other (as if something had passed between the two of them), he returned, once again, to acoustic piano to finish a hypnotic piece that ultimately lasted nearly 35 minutes.

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