Review: Maggie Nicols/ Charolles/ Chevallier; Actuum; Sauer/Erdmannn – second night of Jazzdor Strasbourg-Berlin

Maggie Nicols. Photo credit: Andy Newcombe

Maggie Nicols/ Charolles/ Chevallier; Actuum; Sauer/Erdmannn “Special Relativity” Quartet
(Second night of Jazzdor Strasbourg-Berlin. Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin, 6th June 2013. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

The second triple-bill concert of Jazzdor Strasbourg-Berlin had a theme running through it. The evening’s programme focused on the work, and on the far-reaching influence of a small but highly significant organisation in French jazz, currently celebrating its twentieth year. Known until recently as AFIJMA, (short for Association des Festivals Innovants en Jazz et Musiques Actuelles), it was re-born in January as AJC , (short for Association Jazzé Croisé). Rather than being a festival umbrella organization, it now has a much more specific mission and set of objectives, and prominent among those is the imperative to foster international collaborations. A full statement of its raison d’etre (in French) is HERE

This organisation has been at the heart of enabling a young cross-border band like Barbacana to get going as part of is UK-French Jazz Shuttle programme. It is also associated with a French-British collaboration which was the centre-piece of the evening’s three sets, and the undoubted highlight of the evening.

Maggie Nichols, Denis Charolles, David Chevallier.  Jazzdor Strasbourg-Berlin 2013.
Photo credit: Matheu Schoenahl

Scottish-born Maggie Nicols, now based in Wales, is a “Singer of Songs & Sounds” with a lifetime of experience as performer. If you take it for granted that life inevitably gets more complicated as you grow older, then Maggie Nicols is an artist who sets out to understand, explain, enjoy and to live life in its fullness, bringing out its ironies, discontinuities and contradictions. To focus on her singing is itself an over-simplification: on the Nichols website, she lists no fewer than nine other identities she has: “Musician, Performer, Community Catalyst, Teacher, Dancer, Improviser, Composer, Actor, Activist”. But she knows how to use all of that wide-ranging experience to great effect, steadily to build an utterly convincing and engaging set, and to hold the audience’s attention throughout.

Along with drummer/ trombonist/ backing vocalist/ energizer Denis Charolles and massively resourceful guitarist David Chevallier she started with Dylan’s The Times They Are a-Changin’ – Chevallier on Bela Fleckish fast banjo. The set reached its apogee with Stevie Wonder’s Superstition as an assault on the stuntedness and the bipolar hopelessness of capitalism, with Chevallier on roof-shaking noise metal guitar. People were still coming up and congratulating her for it around the festival breakfast this morning.

This trio will be at the Vortex on November 19th as part of the London Jazz Festival, thanks to AJC. Ram it.

Earlier in the evening, Jazzdor had presented the young band Actuum, all ex-students from the jazz course at the Paris Conservatoire. Actuum, led by trumpeter Louis Laurin, provide a good example of the context where AJC ex-AFIJMA do invaluable work, helping the group to get around the festival circuit and facilitating the building of national and international profile.

Actuum play fast and fearlessly, captured well on video HERE. The band seem to snatch and grab staccato phrases from each other, they specialize in precise land-on-a-dime endings. Laurin gave an interesting ‘envoi’ at the end of the set, congratulating the audience on having done “the tricky part, the intellectual moment of the evening.” Actuum will inevitably develop and widen their range of expression, and will be an exciting prospect.

The final part brought to the two-saxophone pairing of Heinz Sauer and Daniel Erdmann. There is a neatness in the maths of their ages: Sauer the veteran has just passed his eightieth birthday, Erdmann in a few months will pass forty. Their pairing is based on the similarity of their tonal conception on the saxophone, two men with beefcake sound, who clearly admire each other’s music. When they played in unison, it became a very forceful presence, which came across as particularly poignant in the Kinderhymne, that bold attempt by Brecht in 1950 at a new national anthem, to music by Eisler, which would re-shape the hollowed, destroyed sentiments of “Deutschland uber alles” into a more conciliatory and optimistic message. Bassist Johannes Fink provided the third strong full-toned melodic voice with his arco playing, and drummer Christophe Marguet made a particularly full, almost orchestral sound on the lower-tuned drums.

Maggie Nichols’ most recent album is Human, on Phil Hargreaves’ WHI label


Categories: miscellaneous

1 reply »

  1. Actuum will be playing Vortex on 25 July as part of Match & Fuse minifest.
    The Vortex itself is a member of AJC, as there are a few foreign members from Germany, Belgium, Finland and Luxembourg. Hence the Club's involvement with the Jazz Shuttle scheme (e.g. Tweedledee, Rich Tailors, Barbacana)

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