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Slovenian Showcase Festival 2017

Ian Patterson By

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This curiously titled trio, better known perhaps as saxophonist Igor Lumpert, pianist Eve Risser and drummer Dre Hocevar kicked off day two of the Slovenian Showcase Festival with music that was of all the showcase bands, perhaps closest to the jazz tradition on one level—instrumentation, improvisation— and yet leaning heavily towards contemporary avant-garde.

Restlessness characterized the first exchanges, with fluttering brushes, slightly dissonant piano comping and gently explorative tenor saxophone—curiously edgy yet lyrical—combining to atmospheric effect. A drum solo, early in proceedings, was in tune with the brooding atmosphere. Risser placed a succession of found objects on the piano strings, damping her deftly placed notes, while Lumpert's improvisation flirted with more abstract notions, braying and whinnying, though with a sense of measure that invited close listening.

Gradually emboldened, the trio raised the stakes, with more expansive collective expression. Risser and Hočevar switched back and forth between rhythmic and percussive roles as Lumpert stretched out, though the tempo, in a piece of little pronounced rhythm, stayed constant for long periods. When the tempo did shift, it went up a gear, with the trio unleashing a free-jazz tempest of sufficient energy to have powered a small town, before slowly winding down. A stirring thirty-minute piece, with a definite emotional arc.

The second piece, much shorter at around ten minutes, followed a similar blueprint in moving from quiet beginnings through a more animated free passage before returning to its starting point. Tension was ever present, raised by a spurt of burrowing tenor saxophone, sustained washing cymbals and jagged pianism, lowered in stages and only fully resolved when silence claimed the stage once more.

Complex and somehow beautifully simple at the same time, free-spirited yet finely attuned, corrosive in its intensity at one extreme, tender and susurrus at the other. Feminized.Science.Deniers wasn't easy to pin down, but that was half the fun.

Kristijan Krajnčan

One musicians, one cello, one drum kit. Kristijan Krajncan's original set-up had a visual impact before a note was played and aroused a sense of expectation. It's rare indeed, for a room full of festival directors, promoters and agents to be faced with a novel proposition, but Krajnčan, drummer cellist and composer was just that.

It was clear from the opening number that the cello operated as much as a percussive instrument as the drum kit, Krajnčan knocking and slapping beats from the cello's body with one hand while working drum skin with the other. Inevitably both hands had to go to one or the other instrument, at which point pedals initiated layered rhythms as Krajnčan worked the cello guitar-styles, evoking Middle Eastern sonorities. A bowed legato melody wound down this impressive introduction.

A couple of pegs on strings altered the dynamics on the following number, Krajnčan lightly stirring gongs in an abstract opening before lifting his bow. A serene excerpt from a Bach cello suite ensued, bleeding into a vaguely Celtic- flavored air complete with chanter drone. As the music swelled, aided by layered cello rhythms, a fairly orthodox drum/percussive improvisation followed, and for the finale, and with the theatricality of an illusionist, Krajnčan threw and caught invisible notes with one hand.

The most beguiling aspect of Krajnčan's artistry was arguably his melodic sense on cello, where classical, European folk, jazz and African folk influences rubbed shoulders. A little of all these influences found their way into the tune "Snow of Ashes"—part of the score to a film soundtrack composed by Krajnčan. For the final number, Krajncan turned to Estonian composer Arvo Pärt's "Fratres." Pre-recorded cello ensemble freed-up Krajnčan to play, with mallets, the variations. The serenity of Pärt's choral-like meditation contrasted with a rumbling drum improvisation—now on sticks—like storm clouds above a church.

For Krajnčan, musical genres hold no boundaries. The equal weight given to composition and improvisation made for music that was rooted and free-spirited.

Teo Collori and Momento Cigano

The final act of the Slovenia Music Showcase saw the quintet Momento Cigano led by guitarist Teo Collori breeze through a swinging set of gypsy-jazz. It was the only overtly retro act of the seven showcase bands but Collori's refusal to trawl the Django Reinhardt songbook meant that his originals felt freshly minted.

With three soloists in the shape of Collori, violinist Matija Krečič and clarinetist Matej Kužel there were plenty of individual fireworks, but it was the irresistible swing engineered by double bassist Jan Gregorka and rhythm guitarist Metod Banko that worked its way under the skin.

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