FESTIVAL: Round-Up Of Inntoene (Austria) 2014 – Raul Midon. Sun Ra Arkestra, Jazzmeia Horn, Pablo Held Trio

Sun Ra Arkestra at Inntoene 2014
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski. All Rights Reserved

Inntöne Festival 
(Diersbach, Austria, 6-8 June 2014. Round-up review by Oliver Weindling)

Inntöne in Austria remains a go-to festival for the Whitsun weekend. Taking place on Paul Zauner’s organic farm near the river Inn in Upper Austria, audience numbers have grown in the 12 years since it moved there, to 1,200 visitors a day. They were treated to glorious weather and an equally intriguing variety of music. It takes a matter of seconds to move from the tables for drinking and eating in the farmyard to hearing the music on the single stage in the 800-seater barn.

The range of music at the festival is impressive and appeals as much to the local as it does to the visitors from further afield. Zauner, not just a farmer but also the artistic director, trombonist and owner of the PAO label, has been able to discover a range of artists, on regular trips to Chicago and New York, and through extending his strong connections among his Austrian fellow musicians.

Gregory Porter did his first concerts in Europe here six years ago, through his mentor Mansur Scott. The resultant album on Zauner’s PAO label, Great Voices of Harlem, also includes pianist Donald Smith, and has just been released. Mansur himself, a recent visitor to the Vortex to promote the album, was at the festival, sitting and overseeing events in a dignified and avuncular manner.

This year’s new vocal discovery was again from New York – Jazzmeia Horn. Young and dynamic at an age of just 22, she scats beautifully. Providing gold-plated accompaniment was Kirk Lightsey.

The initial pair of gigs on Saturday showed two routes through the contemporary jazz scene. A quintet jointly led by saxophonist Jure Puckl (originally from Slovakia but now based in New York, and who played the Vortex a while ago with Michael Janisch) and trumpeter Robert Nösing. They presented some imaginative melodic heads, Puckl’s confident virtuosity balanced by Nösing’s greater lyricism. This gave space to allow extensive soloing by rest of the band.

The Pablo Held Trio from Cologne has really to be viewed as an organic whole, Pablo’s piano playing totally empathising with Robert Landfermann‘s bass and Jonas Burgwinkel‘s drumming. Whereas the trio nominally has Pablo’s name and he takes the lead in making the announcements, there is an integrated interplay with all able to express themselves. A sonic awareness exists between them and they seem to know the “right” moment for the full trio to reduce to a duo or solo section. Musically, they let the music breathe together. Whereas the set evolved as a continuous whole, the one non-original was a version of Manuel de Falla’s Elders as an encore. It is intriguing how more of the new generation of musicians are able to build bridges between apparently more complex 20th century classical music – Bruno Heinen’s take on Stockhausen’s Tierkreis or Tin Men and The Telephone’s arrangement of Messaien come to mind. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the trio has forged a great bond with Kit Downes’ Trio and have exchanged dates and even personnel at times. This is a band that is reaching greater heights every time that I hear them.

 Raul Midon at Inntoene 2014
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski. All Rights Reserved

Amongst other highlights of the weekend, we were able to enjoy the personality of Raul Midon, (who has ben brought to London by Georgia Mancio – feature by Sara Mitra here) which came through so clearly in his solo performance. His guitar playing has a uniqueness of being able to balance melody and rhythm. His ‘trumpet’ soloing too also makes the whole set absorbing. Totally at ease in talking and joking about his blindness, he had us all in the palm of his hand. Musically his set was mainly one of originals, both written himself alone or with Bill Withers, and a striking cover of The Who’s I Can See For Miles.

 Carlton Homes at Inntoene 2014
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski. All Rights Reserved

On the Sunday, Raul Midon had followed Carlton Holmes‘ piano solo set. Holmes has been seen at Inntöne before as a member of Mansur Scott’s band. The music was generally relatively ethereal and thoughtful, veering at times towards the New Age.

 Later that evening a landing strip on the fields around the festival was cleared to allow the arrival from the Sun Ra Arkestra space ship from Saturn. It was good to hear them in a more focussed environment to contrast with the greater openness that we hear when they appear at Cafe Oto. Overseen by the presence of Marshall Allen ensures a balance of big band riffs with freedom of expression. His energy alone is boundless. Perhaps because the journey here had been long, it took a few tunes for the band to get into its stride, but when it did, there were smiles and dancing all round the venue as we all travelled the spaceways together.

Ending the night was Hazmat Modine. I was pleased to hear them as I had missed their show in Coutances the previous week. Hard to pin down. Having that “devil may care” abandon of New York, I also detected the New Orleans irony of Randy Newman, perhaps helped by the use of tuba, banjo and melodica. The band wears its heart well and truly on its sleeve.

On Friday night, I was happy to catch Billy Boy Arnold in a storming band echoing the history of Chicago blues. We could have been in a club on Chicago’s South Side. Also to be noted, Nino Josele on Sunday, one of the great flamenco guitarists, showed how jazz standards are fused so easily into the flamenco style; and Lorenz Raab leading a band including phenomenal tuba (and serpent) player Michel Godard.

 Michel Godard at Inntoene 2014
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski. All Rights Reserved

And finally: an incredibly broad CD stand, where it was possible to find many of the latest releases from the likes of Delmark, Intakt, Pi and Aum Fidelity and talk with a man who knew every album in his rack intimately. Almost worth the trip on its own!

 Some practical details: Schärding, an attractive small town on the river Inn, just recovered from the worst floods for 500 years, is a great place to stay. From there you can get an hourly shuttle to the festival,taking 15 minutes and costing just €2. Passau is another good alternative, also similarly connected to the festival by shuttle. Trains run regularly from Munich or Linz, two possibilities if you are flying, though I met a Vortex regular who had done the journey by train via Paris! She found the camping facilities exemplary.

Categories: miscellaneous

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