Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!


Reykjavik Jazz Festival 2004

Mark Sabbatini By

Sign in to view read count
OK, hosing a big name who could care less what the press says about him isn't a terribly gutsy thing to do - sort of like a hometown newspaper opposing the war in the Congo rather than showing balls on local issues by, for instance, endorsing prostitution to offset the mayor's latest tax cut. But big names who act big generally don't impress me - I'm a huge Metheny fan, for instance, but he mailed it in the last time I paid $50 to see him (and I mean those final few words in more ways than one).

For what it's worth, I'm not even close to the first person out of the arena and I'm pretty sure all those folks weren't squeezed into the Hotel Borg 15 minutes later for the evening's "other" main event, featuring saxophonist Seamus Blake and the B3 Trio. I considered blowing off the performance since I'm tired, have covered the main event, am looking at four more concerts Sunday - and I'm not getting paid to do any of this. In the end duty - and, more important curiosity - wins out.

Good call.

The group doesn't necessary turn in the best performance of the festival, but it ends up being a personal favorite because they crank out a high-energy high-intelligence brand of fusion that I devoted my life to hunting down during college years ago. It sort of felt like the underrepresented portion of the festival, now I'll go home feeling considerably more complete.

Blake is one of those players with an impeccable diamond-hard Brecker-type tone who's able to work everything since Coltrane into a funk-filled canvas. B3 is an organ/guitar/drum trio, a nice departure in tonal color from the norm in this setting and all part of what makes a great "find."

Need these guys are here to have a good time? Consider their opening song is the Blake composition "Fear Of Roaming"

"It's dedicated to my cell phone bill," he tells the audience. "My cell phone works here, but I'm so afraid to make a call because I know it would be s-o-o-o-o expensive."

The composition is your basic up-tempo fusion with a bit of a syncopated beat, but true jazz fans know that's hardly where players harvest their grades. Blake builds early solo tension doing the repetitive phrase thing, lets it out with a few long phrases and then earns his "Get Out Of Radio Jazz Jail Free" card with an extended thesis in rapid phraseology from the bop-to-fusion era.

The B3 players aren't quite on the same plateau. Agnar Már Magnússon turns in the best work, essentially giving the Hammond tone to an straightforward electronic keys solo on "Fear Of Roaming" before doing a more thorough Jimmy Smith-like twisting of sound on subsequent pieces. Guitarist Ásgeir J. Ásgeirsson holds up his end competently and has a nice tone with shades of Metheny/ Scofield/Montgomery to it, but there's a sense he's doing version 1.0 of a Blake performance that's already gone through a few upgrades. Drummer Eric Qvick is the prototypical working man - he's backing numerous bands at this festival - but during this set he's not getting sufficient air time to strut his stuff.

The only letdown of the opening set - all I can stay awake for - is the closing "The Badlands," only because Blake builds it up as a "really ugly" tribute to the seamy side of New York City that visitors never see. I'm not sure what I was expecting - maybe another "Tutu," but it doesn't really do more than offer a slightly dark twist on fairly conventional playing. Without the build-up it'd be a great closer.

So with one day to go I realize I need to start assessing the state of Icelandic jazz, which a handful of people openly mocked when they heard I was coming out here solely for that reason. For the full verdict you'll need to read the final rant to the bitter end, but I offer the following build-your-own-preview kit with the following phrases: "exceeds," "anticipated," "quality," "diversity," "reasonable" and "cost."

Return to top

Day 6: The grand finale

I was not grievously wounded, but bruised all over in the most remarkable manner."
- Harry Hardwigg, from Jules Verne's "Journey To The Center Of The Earth," upon conclusion of a journey that begin with a descent into an Icelandic volcano.

The challenges of journalism never cease. In this case a hangover is necessary and I don't drink alcohol.

I figure there's no way to cover the properly cover the final day of the 2004 Reykjavik Jazz Festival sober, since Saturday is a huge party night and anyone going through a series of concerts during a nearly 12-hour stretch Sunday will likely be suffering. Luckily the task proves easier than expected, as a second straight night with almost no sleep due to late-night concerts and pain from an injury to the ribs leave me in a suitably disoriented state.



comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Refugees find harmony on Norway's northern edge at Varangerfestivalen 2007 Back Roads Beat Refugees find harmony on Norway's northern edge at...
by Mark Sabbatini
Published: February 5, 2008
Read Tragicomic Tones in Turkmenistan Back Roads Beat Tragicomic Tones in Turkmenistan
by Mark Sabbatini
Published: August 13, 2007
Read "Something Else! Festival Hamilton 2017" In Pictures Something Else! Festival Hamilton 2017
by Frank Rubolino
Published: July 10, 2017
Read "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe  Edition" Extended Analysis Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th...
by Doug Collette
Published: May 27, 2017
Read "Mavis Staples At Stern Grove" In Pictures Mavis Staples At Stern Grove
by Walter Atkins
Published: September 11, 2017
Read "Queen Esther: Sings Jazz & Black Americana" Multiple Reviews Queen Esther: Sings Jazz & Black Americana
by James Nadal
Published: July 12, 2017
Read "Courtney Pine: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants" Profiles Courtney Pine: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
by David Burke
Published: October 16, 2017
Read "Take Five with Debora Galan" Take Five With... Take Five with Debora Galan
by Debora Galan
Published: September 17, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!