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Tampere Jazz Happening 2013

John Ephland By

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At times melodic, groove-based, different parts of the band huddled together as duos, trios, solo even before rejoining as a quartet all playing together, with eddies everywhere. The interplay was the thing, crazy, intricate interplay. Yet they approached it all like scientists, the music studied yet somehow raucous, Mitchell's confounding "genius" including elements of stride, boogie-woogie, new classical, laced with atonality on top of chords! With an amazing left hand, his wizardry would alternate between floating lines one moment, a wiggley yet precise move to the center the next. Noreiga's deft clarinet playing was the perfect sonic and color complement and contrast to Berne, his floating lines and sharp attacks punctuating, always telling a story.

Snakeoil's casual dress and formal, almost classical demeanor combined to give the picture of a group dedicated to painting outside the lines, with an insistent threat to blow the roof off only to return to something altogether predictably unpredictable, all of it something you were suddenly reminded of that that's what they were doing all along. Counterpoint, polyphony, multi-textured pulses in a four-way dialog: this was the music of a band whose calling card continued to include light, sure and fleet-footed alto playing with the constant undertow of a mirror on the world. Or was it a lens?

The drummer Manu Katche's 4tet (with five members?), featuring Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer, was a mixed bag and an odd counterpoint to close out a stunning series of shows programmed by artistic director Kauppinen. Featuring no bassist (apart from lines provided by keyboardist Alfio Origlio when he was on his Hammond B3), Katche's extended drum arsenal was a counterweight to the horn line that rested on the other side of the stage and to Origlios' immediate left. Perhaps this show was designed as a kind of balancing act, one filled with lush, romantic leanings in sharp contrast to what, in retrospect, was a wild and crazy afternoon and evening. Still in the Old Customs House Hall, Katche's playing offered too much bottom-end booming, his style clunky when it wasn't being supportive. It was eloquent, almost florid music, full of appeal in a danceable way.

Things were better when they floated, with less of a sense of going anywhere in particular, the light touch bordering on sappy but never quite going there. You got the sense, too, that the horn section was on a leash, periodically turned loose, Molvaer's inimitable trumpet music a vital and necessary voice to material that could be bland when it wasn't catchy. It could be heartfelt, soulful stuff, Origlio's organ occasionally adding the necessary grease to what otherwise might come across as mood pieces. Katche and company obviously did more than a few things right (including having the leader's sincere messages delivered from behind the mic at one point toward the end of their set) as they returned for an encore and left, ultimately, to a standing ovation. Clearly, there was audience appeal. And while Katche was playing it sweet and lovely, across the way at Telakka the countering voices heard were those of two Finnish bands, one right after the other, first with the Tenors of Kalima, followed by the Verneri Pohjola. In each case, the music seemed a kind of mirror to what Katche's band was offering up, only this time it was with elements of free jazz, via guitarist Kalle Kalima's brood, or even more atmospheric mood music from trumpeter Pohjola's band.

TJH's final day once again began at the Old Customs House Hall. The trio of Joelle Leandre on bass, saxophonist Lotte Anker and drummer Raymond Strid (from France, Denmark and Sweden, respectively) provided the festival with some of the most exquisite, delicate sounds. Indeed, they were three complementary sound providers, free in the sense proffered by the Anemone Quintet but totally and altogether different in every other respect. Beginning on soprano, Lotte set the stage with her tender, non- melodic musings. And, again, like the Anemone Quintet, there was no "leader," but rather the emphasis was on group empathy and sharing, Leandre at times providing some vocal support to the proceedings.

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