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Palm Jazz 2021: Nils Petter Molvær & Wacław Zimpel

Palm Jazz 2021: Nils Petter Molvær & Wacław Zimpel

Courtesy Michal Buksa


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The Nils Petter Molvær Quartet
Jazovia Cultural Centre
Gliwice, Poland
October 10, 2021

Gliwice is in the south of Poland, not far from Katowice, or even Kraków. It has its own jazz festival, which usually spreads over several weeks, featuring two concerts each evening, in the dedicated Rynek market square venue Jazovia. This upstairs theatre has a capacity of 200, so intimate conditions prevail. Palm Jazz was founded by the pianist and entrepreneur Krzysztof Kobylinski, and its 12th edition featured Marcin Wasilewski, Dave Douglas and Trygve Seim, amongst many more artists.

Your scribe hit Palm straight after the Jazz Juniors festival in Kraków, catching two excellent sets in a single evening. The Nils Petter Molvaer Quartet had the Norwegian trumpeter leading Geir Sundstol (guitar), Jo Berger Myhre (bass) and Erland Dahlen (drums), the latter displaying his customised kit of conical cowbells, big bells, tiny gongs and shakers. Molvær used his laptop to sculpt outwards from his horn root, while the stringsmen also employed an array of pedals in this electroacoustic panorama. They opened sensitively, with Dahlen chiming soft bell-tones, Myhre bowing his electric bass, as the leader's frosted trumpet notes splintered into delicate needles. Ribbons of sonic thought fluttered outwards, with Sundstøl adding gentle slide guitar, magical forces congealing. Dahlen flicked brushes, but he soon graduated to a heavy tread, as the darkening textures ink-pooled inwards. Swirling landscapes were evoked in this steamcloud march, then Sundstøl set off a guitar eruption, and Molvær spurted his own molten froth, as the guitars churned powerfully. Sometimes, Myhre switched from bass to guitar, increasing the texturing layers.

The second number began with a sense of slumber, heading up to an eventual crescendo, and the third followed a similar strategy, building then exploding, making a heavy grind that was veined with tiny details. Unusually, an Ennio Morricone character emerged. The quartet utilises a great sonic diversity, as well as traversing zones that begin with hushed minimalism and end with an almost headbanging intensity. There were also streaks of Jon Hassell and Nana Vasconcelos during the quieter stretches. When the rock encroached, Sundstøl could navigate from high volume blues bottleneck towards an Indian classical fluidity. A marriage of electro-beats and Dahlen's slap-rock lightness of touch typified this blend of toughness and sensitivity, before another speeding autobahn chase emerged.

Wacław Zimpel
Jazovia Cultural Centre
Gliwice, Poland
October 10, 2021

Waclaw Zimpel has become one of Poland's most internationally-known players, on the jazz, improvisation and electronica scenes. His solo performance operates on a maximal level, sprouting from a clarinet of normal size, but with a curved bell. He fed his output into a laptop-sieving spread of electronic effects, making use of a layering repetition, although not really sounding too close to the classic minimalist template. Whorls sent out curving drones, in a spreading infestation of the space. Zimpel's bass cascades increased, becoming almost chaotic, sculpted on the run. Reed resonances were magnified, but there was a stretch where he laid his horn down, concentrating on the manipulation of its spiralling matter, given life after breath. Tones swooped, pulses operated on altered levels, then an aggressive oscillation signalled the return of Zimpel's clarinet. Solo yowls faded and he turned his attention to a small lap-guitar, to the side of his computer, playing faintly with a glass, suggesting a mood of Terry Riley cord-squiggling.

In their differing ways, both of these Sunday sets explored the intersection between acoustic sources and electronic transformations, with mediation manifested either as tranquillity or storminess. Surface texture was always paramount, as calmness bloomed into a focused criss-crossing of intensifications.

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