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Tampere Jazz Happening 2013

John Ephland By

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When Lotte turned to her alto, more of the music centered around her horn, one of the pieces beginning with a kind of call-and- response, between short notes and longer lines, bird calls followed by gentle honks and squeals, Lotte finding the musical in the sounds she was creating. Leandre would enter with a bow in slow, creeping movements, Strid's drumming lightening quick, his deft stickwork furious yet amazingly tempered. Then there would be a walking bass pattern, a pulse, swing even! This, in turn, led to another swirl into a mild scurrying, Leandre cradling her bass, creating a melody of sorts, bowing ever more so slowly, everyone barely playing ... until the music stopped, inevitably, almost imperceptively.

The trio's combined light touch was mesmerizing throughout, like the music one hears just upon waking, perhaps before even, Lotte's sax creating ethereal songlines while Leandres's bowing remained gentle yet insistent, even sawing at points. If one wasn't careful, you could drift off to the sound of Strid's "bells and whistles" playing, his blue bag of tricks suddenly, gently an instrument of loose pieces being dragged across the drumheads, a bow of his own caressing the ride cymbal's edges. In what was only their third time playing together thus far, this was music about turning improvisation on its collective head, the sound of these beautiful instruments and the people who play them a curious, satisfying blend. Incidentally, it was a welcomed sight to see more women than men gracing the stage, if only by one.

In similar fashion, the peaceful almost childlike sounds of the Trio Reijseger Fraanje Sylla group was like a gentle reminder that this Sunday at TJH was also about including young people in the audience. It was not hard to find children playing, dancing about. And so it was with cellist Ernst Reijseger, pianist Harmen Fraanje and especially singer/m'bira/xalam/kongoma player Mola Sylla, the trio's folk-like musings spanning the worlds of classical, African and jazz improvisation with ease, their playfulness both calming and musically affecting. Here was yet another example of jazz's global reach, this time where the sounds of Senegal met those of the Netherlands and found a resting place in a land of make-believe called Tampere.

Closing out the performances in the Old Customs House Hall (there were no shows in Telakka the final day) was Jack DeJohnette's group featuring Don Byron. The American band, with drummer Jack and reedist Byron joined by electric bassist Jerome Harris and George Colligan on keyboards and trumpet, played a variety of songs that mixed bebop-ish flair with some world-music touches and elements of funk, everyone given ample room to stretch, the four distinct voices a kind of classic combo of jazz instrumentation.

Unfortunately, this late-afternoon set was underwhelming, and, apart some spirited soloing up front, a let-down from all the music that had preceded it. In fact, DeJohnette himself sounded tired, sluggish even. DeJohnette's band played top- notch material, original music when they weren't playing covers like their encore performance of Ornette Coleman's "Ramblin.'" That said, the band's version of this song, for example, sounded perfunctory, perhaps just a copy of what they'd played a few nights previous. After being refreshed by so much else here at TJH, DeJohnette's "sound" somehow sounded dated, less relevant, lacking in anything approaching even a simple surprise. As I looked around at the level of enthusiasm in the hall's crowd, the sight of a child asleep on her mother's shoulder toward concert's end seemed an apt metaphor. If you know Jack, you know that isn't his way.

A fitting end to this year's edition of Tampere Jazz Happening was turned in with a midnight show by the Finnish band Jarmo Saari Republic. It was a tantalizing mix of rock with hip hop, world music, samples, funk, not to mention social commentary (e.g., a slice from Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech). Indeed, it was a fun, genuine cocktail of improvisation and the arranged, nothing terribly deep, but immediate nonetheless, well-played and interesting— just the mix you want when reaching others but still being yourself, whether you were dancing on Klubi's well-worn wood floors or leaning against that great L-shaped bar, soaking it all in. The band's double- drumming, courtesy of Sami Kuoppamaki and Olavi Louhivuori, didn't sound like two drummers but one super drum (and not redundant at that) with eight arms and legs. The emphasis was on the beats, syncopation, rhythm, the groove.


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