Review: Like A Jazz Machine

Francesco Tristano of Aufgang

Like A Jazz Machine Festival,
Festival in Opderschmelz, Dudelange, Luxembourg 17 – 20 May. Review by Fran Hardcastle)

They really know how to put on a show across the channel. The opening night of Like A Jazz Machine, set the tone for an adventurous weekend of jazz in all its forms, in the wonderful auditorium of the Opderschmelz.

The festival showcased artists from Luxembourg alongside international names. I arrived just in time to catch probably one of Luxembourg’s most successful sons of jazz, vibraphonist Pascal Schumacher. Schumacher is a magnetic front man with a range that pulls the audience between tender intimacy and high drama. Strong individual voices from pianist Franz von Chossy, bassist Christophe Devisscher and Jens Düppe on drums were interwoven with Schumacher to form a perfectly balanced whole.

Nils Petter Molvaer

Headliner Nils Petter Molvaer revelled in contrast, taking us from the mosh pit to moments of clarity verging on the divine. Molvaer fuses rock, electronics, metal and a hot pot of other forms. The often dark material of his soundscapes is augmented by powerful guitarist Stian Westerhus & alt-rock drummer Erland Dahlen with a touch of distorted tribal vocals adding potency. Just as fascinating are the moments of ambient calm that allow the mastery of Molvaer’s instrument to shine through.

The absolute highlight of the festival came with Friday night headliners Aufgang, led by experimental classical pianist Francesco Tristano (he plays BachCage 2.0 at Kings Place on Monday). This was house music with jazz structures and many surprises along the way, produced by two grand pianos and a drummer. Drummer Ymeric Westrich was a powerhouse driving the trio, which also includes pianist Rami Khalifé. Together they created a fiery energy ball of jazz dance that knows no limitations. Aufgang’s success lies in a new music that can be appreciated at all levels, from club culture to jazz house.

Kyle Eastwood

Other bands on Friday included the always wonderful Kyle Eastwood Band, who consistently exceed expectations, of whom I am a huge fan. They were a roaring success with an audience insistent on encores. The earlier Luxembourg showcase featured saxophonist Maxime Bender and his quartet. Pianist Sebastian Sternal’sStockhausen tinged, minimalist solos rather stole the show in this set.

Maxime Bender Quartet

Lyrical RDW Trio were an enjoyable opener to Saturday night’s festival. Providing a stark contrast was trombonist Samuel Blaser, who connected the space between free jazz and hard bop with some innovative improvisation and intuitive team work from his quartet. I caught a moment of Roby Glod Trio to hear a saxophonist using his exquisite tone to explore the open spaces of free jazz with a touching sensitivity.

A world class trio that can truly swing followed from celebrated Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi. The joie de vivre of bassist Luca Bulgarelli brought standards such as Cole Porter’s Everything I Love to life. Pieranunzi is transcendent, consistently bringing out the narrative in the music. I was utterly romanced by his original waltz, Blue Walls.

Sunday morning’s Jazz a l’Apero summed up the concept of this Luxembourg showcase, with free concerts from the young circuit of Luxembourg’s jazzers. 4S were the pick of this crop with a relaxed groove based offering from a talented bass led quartet.

A brief mention of Luxembourg itself. Luxembourg City is well worth a trip for the architecture and geology alone, even apart from the delicious Cremant de Luxembourg (the all too drinkable local fizz). I booked a bike tour whilst there and was fortunate to get a fantastic tour guide in Simone of Feel Bike Tours, whom I can highly recommend. 

Categories: miscellaneous

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