Tampere Jazz Happening 2013

John Ephland By

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The freneticism continued with yet another multi-national band (Great Britain, Austria, USA, France, Germany), this time courtesy of the Anemone Quintet. Still playing in the Old Customs House Hall, the afternoon remained wild, unpredictable, unconventional, if consistent with so-called free-jazz imperatives. Indeterminancy ruled in this group gaggle of one long piece (how do you provide an encore to this kind of stuff?). It was outer space, with no sense of up or down, no beginning, middle or end (except when the sounds stopped altogether), no pulse to speak of (perhaps decipherable at times, but then gone once again; think a meteor shower replaced by nothing). Five players, five countries, three continents and four generations, the Anemone Quintet was spurred on by everyone and no one, pianist Frederic Blondy managing chords when he wasn't splaying notes alongside saxophonist John Butcher, pocket trumpeter Peter Evans, bassist Clayton Thomas and drummer Paul Lovens all providing clear, distinct voices amidst the periodic clamor. These five were about sound, musical and otherwise, in different tantalizing combinations that most often was as much about searching as it was about arriving (probably moreso). Then again, maybe that wasn't the point to this adventurous series of sojourns impossible to repeat and clearly to the left of anything else offered at this year's TJH. Not for the squeamish.

Another return performance (and on the same afternoon bill!) was turned in by the pugnacious Mr. Gustafsson, this time with the power trio of guitarist Raoul Bjorkenheim, Morgan Agren on drums and Mats back on baritone. The Finn Bjorkenheim along with his Swedish cohorts followed the Anemone Quintet's brainy abstraction with something closer to the gut, the guitarist filling the 550-seat Customs Hall with searing, resounding lines that, combined with the other sounds, could've given you a haircut. Agren's double-bass drum attack was thunderous, his stickwork coated with stretch marks of eigth- and 16th-note lines, only to be followed by silence ... and then crashes! It was robo-drumming with implied beats, an explicit beat, another nod to Ginger Baker (or John Bonham), the trio jamming on, Raoul's power chords and strummed lines both rough as well as ready to pounce, virtuosity submerged by obvious emotional displays and seemingly endless body movements. Those body movements were somewhat tempered, however, by Gustafsson's energizer-bunny antics, the ever-present sweat on his brow (and through yet another t-shirt wardrobe change), the veins bulging from his temples—not to mention sporty moves up and down with his horn genuflects—all serving as the perfect complements to his razor-sharp horn lines, atonal and insistent, full of altogether musical staccato blasts and sustained lines. This was abstraction not for the sake of being abstract but because of an implied musical imperative to kick out the jams, motherfucker. Needless to say, there were moments of sustained feedback, a fair amount of ebb and flow, nuanced playing (a baritone that bore through holes but could float as well), guitar playing with bow when Raoul wasn't almost drowning out Mats' horn, the steady stream supported by what was now a serious light-and-effects show, complete with varying colors, smoke and changing backdrops (not unique to this trio's show, incidentally). All in all, one might get away with calling what was heard a kind of Blow Torch Jazz, lots of potent zest and a huge cachet of chops, not to mention appeal, this group's calling card.

The onslaught continued in the Old Customs House Hall when Tim Berne's all-American Snakeoil band hit the stage. The altoist was joined by Oscar Noreiga on reeds (principally clarinet but also bass clarinet), keyboardist Matt Mitchell and drummer Ches Smith. The all-American Snakeoil's incendiary brand of jazz, both free and fully formed, was a kind of respite from everything else heard in the hall this fall afternoon, the music stands and studied manner of out-playing heard approaching the outer realms of chamber music by comparison. Asked later about the presence of sheet music by everyone but Mitchell in this obviously rigorous display of controlled yet loose-limbed virtuosity, Berne let slip the "genius" word, Mitchell's spot-on playing filled with flourishes, smart comping and unsuspecting but totally apt single lines in what was a program that paradoxically implied melody but steadfastly remained unhinged to any apparent so-called musical logic. It was ordered disorder, the "tunes" clearly heading toward predetermined ends, Berne and company's musical syntax a step or two or three removed from everything and everyone else. E


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