|Les Faux Freres|
Suedtirol Jazz Festival Alto Adige 2014. Round-up.
(Various venues in Bolzano, Merano and Renon. Review by Alison Bentley)
Mon. 30th June, Emilia Anastazja Duo; Pipeline. Tues. 1st July, Les Faux Frères; Peirani-Parisien-Fisseau. Wed. 2nd July, Rafaelle Rinaudo; Julien Desprez; Didier Levallet’s Voix Croisées.
Mon. 30th June, Bolzano (Bozen)
It was hard to walk through Bolzano’s streets without stopping to gaze at the stupendous mountains surrounding the beautiful old town. In the balmy garden of the Parkhotel Laurin were Swiss duo Emilia Anastazja and Eliyah Reichen, playing Anastazja’s soulful original songs. Reichen coloured in the chords, Herbie Hancock-like on Fender Rhodes. The soft bluesy vocal improvisations recalled Lauryn Hill, but higher and breathy, Bjork-like. Reichen created spacey sounds with his iPad, while the bells of Bolzano and Anastazja’s warm guitar resonated dreamily through the electronica.
There was a shuttle bus waiting to take the audience to the next gig, in the Parco Semirurali’s open-air amphitheatre. French band Pipeline could have been upstaged by the sun setting on the mountain behind, but their music was wild and elemental. Yann Joussein’s drums rumbled like an avalanche, his tough grooves driving the carefully-arranged yet anarchic-sounding pieces. The musicians are part of the French COAX Collectif, inspired by 90s jazz-punk. (Think Pinski Zoo or Defunkt). Electric bassist Fanny Lasfargues’ grungy sounds recalled the UK’s Trio VD. She plucked the strings with a plectrum and even stroked them with a hairbrush. Double bassist Ronan Courtry hit his instrument with sticks, like rocks exploding. Antoine Viard’s earthy sax sizzled with split notes, or oozed melodies like lava bubbling under the groove.
Tues. 1st July, Renon (Ritten) and Merano (Meran)
The next afternoon, a 15-minute dizzying cable car ride took the audience to join funky 6-piece French street band Les Faux Frères on a mountain train. How could the band play so groovily, standing up, as the train swayed constantly through the mountains of Ritten? They played a French tune, appropriately named Le Petit Train. The two drummers drew on Balkan, rock and samba grooves, the trumpet and trombone blasting with a sense of carnival, like a scaled-down Hypnotic Brass Ensemble ‘Are you having fun?’ they yelled. The audience:‘Bellissimo!’
Another short train ride took us into a garden in Sandplatz, Merano: Vincent Peirani (button accordion) and Émile Parisien (soprano sax) played pieces from their duo album Belle Époque with empathy and virtuosity. (Bechet’s Egyptian Fantasy and Song of Medina) Temptation Rag opened with sax squeals, Peirani bending notes with the accordion’s bellows, before they tossed phrases of the melody back and forth. Pariesien’s tone was as sweet as Bechet’s but drew on free jazz too. In their plaintive tune Schuberauster, it wasn’t clear whether Parisien’s notes were imitating the swallows, or their cries imitating him, as they spooled overhead. In Song of Medina, Peirani sounded Balkan then Oriental, pulling the time around and placing the accents unexpectedly, a big band all by himself. French-Indonesian singer Serena Fisseau joined them for Abbey Lincoln’s paean to the I Ching, Throw It Away. Fisseau’s voice sounded natural and strong. Peirani adapted his style to her voice sensitively in Jobim’s Luiza, Hendrix’ Castles Made of Sand and two Indonesian songs. The impossibly tricky La Valse a Hum displayed Fisseau’s perfect intonation as sax and accordion harmonised with her. Pure pleasure.
Wed. 2nd July , Bolzano (Bozen)
The EURAC research centre was holding a conference, asking: what’s the relationship between an artistic performance and where it takes place? Two solo concerts by electric harpist Rafaelle Rinaudo and guitarist Julien Desprez (both from the COAX Collectif) helped to answer the question.
In the austere white room, Rinaudo’s performance was very visual- she opened comically by firing coloured ping pong balls at her harp to create random chords. She moved her hands dramatically across the strings to unfold technical effects and prepared sounds- birdsong, rushing water, mooing cows- as a pastoral background. As she hit the strings with mallets, I had the illusion that the harp was the inside of a grand piano, stood on end. Sometimes the harp sounded traditional, or darkly grungy: electro-classical music meeting free jazz.
Julien Desprez also moved far from traditional guitar in his Acapulco suite. In the ascetic white atrium of the MUSEION Modern Art Gallery, it was all about the sound. There were phases of Hendrix-like distorted rock; scratchy pulsating sounds as he shook the guitar, like Stockhausen’s electronic music. Sometimes he rested a hand on the guitar, eyes closed meditatively to an electronic chant. My brain filled in a sci-fi movie with whale cries, aquatic groans, sleeping monsters.
In the evening, outside in Walther Platz, a downpour had just subsided, but the audience seemed ready for all weathers. French bassist Didier Levallet had created Voix Croisées with long-term drummer François Laizeau, and three excellent young soloists: Céline Bonacina (bari and alto sax), Airelle Besson (trumpet) and Sylvaine Helary (flute). Levallet’s compositions tended to have fairly simple chords, leaving lots of room for extraordinary, beautiful arrangements- like Gil Evans, or Kenny Wheeler, but with a township or tango feel. There were several special moments where the horns improvised freely yet created a mysterious, unstated pulse, the notes flying round each other but never clashing, like bats in the dusk.
The Suedtirol Jazz Festival and its musicians reached great heights in many ways: intriguing programming, imaginative use of locations and excellent musicianship.