Review: Cigalini plus Hülsmann /Arthurs plus Castañeda . Münster Festival Opening Night

Mattia Cigalini plus Julia Hülsmann Quartet plus Edmar Castañeda Trio
(Münster Festival Opening Night, January 4th 2013. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

The two-yearly Münster Jazz Festival sells out completely in advance. Not just the known names but the whole thing, all eighteen concerts over three days. Festival director Fritz Schmücker said at the opening press conference : ” the trust we have from the public is what gives us the motivation to try out new challenges”. Challenges and variety were certainly there tonight, and the audience gave Schmücker and his team the thumbs-up three times . The municipal authority is the main sponsor, and WDR3 broadcasts extensively from the festival.

Mattia Cigalini‘s quartet was the festival opener. The 23 year old soprano/alto saxophonist’s Bad Romance project is already his fifth album as leader. It proved a very popular act with the audience. Pop songs – the title number is by Lady Gaga – were played anthemically by this strong-toned player, originally from Piacenza, and his guitar/ bass/ drums crew.  Similar treatment was also given to songs by Rihanna, the Black-Eyed Peas and Katy Perry.

I thought he kept the best – the most jazz-infused – till last. It was as if he had waited for his time to be up, for the house lights (Muenster’s theatre’s roof is an extraordinary sight, bedecked with hundreds of domestic lampshades) to come back on for his encore. As he came down the final straight he let the band stretch out properly, and delivered an entire chorus of ecstatically loud reed-slaps. 

Tom Arthurs. Photo credit: Ansgar Bolle
 The second programme was a ‘world premiere’. German pianist Julia Hülsmann and trumpeter Tom Arthurs have appeared as a duo, but this was their first appearance as quartet, and the first public outing for the material which will be on their forthcoming ECM release In Full View.  The act was billed in the programme as the Julia Hülsmann trio with Tom Arthurs, but, such is their sense of common purpose, they have – since the programme book went to print, it’s that recent – become the Julia Hülsmann Quartet. Arthurs somehow looked and sounded fitter, stronger, younger. He can still play with that delicacy which makes the trumpet sound often like a flugelhorn and sometimes – the opening of Forgotten Poetry – like an alto flute. But on the opener Spiel, and the album’s title track – In Full View – he was breezy busy, interactive and extrovert.

Hülsmann was playing the Münster Theatre’s Ferrari-red Steinway. Her regular trio members, husband  Marc Muellbauer on bass and Heinrich Koebberling on drums have a deep familiarity from their years of playing together, but also an astonishingly strong assurance of where the pulse is from Hülsmann, so they are free to be constantly creative. Koebberling visibly has mesmerizing independence of the two hands, and Muellbauer is free often to lean/ lead into and reinforce the strong beat with a preparatory upbeat. I would venture to suggest that this derives a deeply embedded German speech pattern. Anyway…he did this to particularly good effect tonight in the encore, Nana from de Falla’s Siete Canciones Populares.

Edmar Castaneda. Photo credit: Ansgar Bolle

The third act presented one of those occasions when an audience has its hands permanently ready to clap a true phenomenon. Colombian Harpist Edmar Castañeda takes the harp, subdues it, thumps it , swings it, makes it sing, and plays it quite unbelievably fast. His command of the instrument makes one wonder why millions of musicians all over the word wilfully limit themselves to the six strings of a guitar, rather than going for the full, grown-up works: the thirty-four strings of the harp. Castañeda was a new name to me, but is not exactly undiscovered. He has worked with Marcus Miller (above) and Joe Locke. Un. Be. Lievable.

I will miss the remainder of this festival but there are some great acts to come. I particularly enjoyed the local press hype, conjuring up quite a vision for Sunday: “Saxofonisten übernehmen das Theater – Golden Klappen fliegen von morgens bis abends” (“Saxophonists take over the theatre – Golden Keys Fly from Morning till evening”).  You have been warned.

Categories: miscellaneous

2 replies »

  1. Much of the rest of the festival was equally riveting. Actually there seemed to be a strong influence of brass instruments throughout, but it was a few of the pianists who most interested me.
    Giovanni Guidi, playing in both Enrico Rava's Michael Jackson project and in duo with Rava, created many intriguing and fascinating chordal and tonal colours on his piano. I also enjoyed Irene Aranda's merging of Moorish, Jewish and Spanish musics.
    To temper the strong European focus, there was Steve Bernstein, giving bezazz and energy to make a trio sound a lot like Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy.

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