The White Night International Festival
July 3-4, 2008
This year the White Night Festival, 4th edition, will be remembered because of two playful and inspired performances by two master European musicians: German drummer Gunter "Baby" Sommer and Danish composer and keyboard player Christer Irgens-Moller. Both of them were scheduled well deep into the night, as if implying that all other performances were only appetizers for leading the devoted audience up to these cathartic musical peaks.
The festival began with Breaths Dvir Katz on flute, Yoram Lachish on oboe and Anat Cochavi on soprano sax and bass clarinet a well-balanced trio and a first-time collaboration among these gifted musicians. Cochavi is the more adventurous and uncompromising one, who pushed the timbral envelope of her instruments, flirting with Eastern-tinged drones and percussive sounds, while Katz and Lachish balanced her sonic forays with more structured improvisations and well-needed doses of humor.
There was no shortage of humor in the following performances by British performer, guitarist, vocalist and occasional dancer Daniel Weaver and the Israeli dance troupe, Octet. Weaver used his guitar, body and vocals in an associative and intuitive manner, quoting pop songs, including a dramatic version of Tom Jones' "Delilah," adding his flowing thoughts while manipulating skeletal and strange sounds from the guitar with a set of pedals and effects, but always communicating and commenting on the dancers' moves with his own spastic ones. This kind of kinetic collective improvisation was quite remarkable in its natural flow and continuing series of surprising interactions between Weaver and the dancers, until he decided to join the dancers.
Israeli composer and reed player Steve Horenstein debuted his new composition "Night Train," written for his students at the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem. As the title suggested, this composition offers different views, colors and tonalities from an imaginary journey, and clearly demonstrated the hard work of all the participants. But none of Horenstein's students has as yet found his individual voice, so Horenstein was left as the only impressive soloist. And he is indeed a incredible soloist, but alone Horenstein could not have transformed this interesting composition into much more than a compositional practice piece.
Next was a short set by the SternSchuss Trio Cochavi, who now resides in Berlin, and two like-minded Berliners, Sebastian Hilken on cello and Klaus Janek on vertical upright bass. This trio had released a self- produced debut recording No. 1, and toured Israel before landing in the White Night Festival. Their set exemplified their form of determined and inquisitive free-improvisation using timbres and colors, where all three developed intuitive and nuanced ideas through immediate, spontaneous communication. The Sphere Duo--- Zvi Joffe on vibes and Arnon Zimrah on piano followed them with a beautiful and gentle composition that offered a glimpse into the rich vocabulary of this duo, which has been working steadily since 1994. Unfortunately, these two fine sets were too short.
The Polish quartet Robotobibok and German sound artist Erwin Stache were the most disappointing performances in this festival. Robotibibok Arthur Majewski on trumpet, Marcin Ciupidro on vibes, Michal Karlowski on electric bass guitar and Jakub Suchar on drumsdid not manage to add electronics and analog synthesizers to their set, but did offer an outdated version of muscular fusion, with no sense of irony or brilliance, and even worse, with a too obvious set of musical references. Stache brought with him a giant set of his invented instruments as if to prove that he could produce sounds from any domestic utensil, processing tones through electronic gizmos accompanied by humorous gestures. But the effect of such a audio-visual act vaporized quickly without leaving a memorable musical statements, as Stache chose to focus on extracting sounds and not on articulating them into a meaningful and coherent composition.
Gunter "Baby" Sommerwho has performed with top European improvisers such as Peter Kowald, Peter Brotzmann, Alexander von Schlippenbach and Evan Parker as well as American innovators such as Cecil Taylor and Wadada Leo Smith, and managed to perform and record in his short stay in Israel with Israeli musicians such as the Chameleon Trio, Jean Claude Jones, Assif Tsahar, and the Sphere Ensemblewas next in line. Sommer began his remarkable set with a heartfelt tribute to the late "Dean of Modern Drummers" Max Roach.