REPORT: Jazzdor Berlin 2015 Nights 1 + 3

Antonin-Tri Hoang and Charlotte Greve. Photo credit: Stefanie Marcus

Jazzdor Berlin 2015
(Kesselhaus, Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin. Round-up review by Henning Bolte ) 

BACKGROUND NOTE: Amsterdam-based jazz writer Henning Bolte (making his first appearance on the LondonJazz News site, and very welcome here), and Sebastian divided up our coverage of the Franco-German festival Jazzdor Berlin equally. There have already been a report on the second and photos of the  fourth by Sebastian (links below). Here is Henning’s round-up of the first and third nights of the festival.

Five groups with differing approaches and unusual instrumentation were presented the first and third nights of the Jazzdor Berlin Festival. There was a group with two alto saxophones (Charlotte Greve and Antonin-Tri Hoang), a young vibraphonist as leader (Simon Kanzler), a drummer who simultaneously played drums and electric guitar (Jérémie Piazza) plus a reedman who played as much as possible different reed-instruments, even simultaneously (Raphaël Quenehen). There was another drummer who used toys and a lot of other additional objects and devices making sounds in a musically remarkable way (Moritz Baumgaertner). Each of these five configurations not only had its very own character and signature, but also its very own strong approach of going into sounds and shaping them.

The juxtapositions on the two nights highlighted contrasts. On the first night there were the sophisticatedly woven, richly textured passages of German-French trio Daniel Erdmann/Johannes Fink/Christophe Marguet, memorably very different indeed from the seemingly unlimited unfolding of amazingly shimmering lines of the Charlotte Greve/Antoine-Tri Hoang double alto front line. The third night brought even starker contrast of approach and temperament. It presented the clamorously collaged farce of the duo Petite Vengeance, the angular, deeply into southern blues digging quartet Equal Crossing and the more light-footed quintet of young German vibraphonist Simon Kanzler manoeuvring between rotating and fracturing grooves.


The festival had been programmed to open with “Three Roads Home”, the premiere of the newly formed trio of saxophonist Daniel Erdmann, legendary French bassist Henri Texier and French drummer Christoph Marguet. Texier unfortunately had an injury to his hand and therefore could not make it to the Berlin concert,  so bassist Johannes Fink from Berlin replaced him. Fink has played extensively with both Erdmann and Marguet, and had been part of Erdmann’s Special Relativity Quartet with legendary German tenor saxophonist Heinz Sauer that performed at Jazzdor in 2013, a concert has just been released on CD in the Jazzdor-series.

Christophe Marguet, Daniel Erdmann, Johannes Fink
Photo credit: Mathieu Schoenahl

Daniel Erdmann (born 1973) is one of the musicians who is at home in both the German and the French scenes, takes part in a number of French ensembles and also in ensembles with players from different countries. He has the trio with Texier and Marguet and a new French-British-German trio with French shooting star violinist Theo Ceccaldi and British drummer Jim Hart. He is part of the French-Danish-German group Das Kapital, the French-British-German group The Rich Tailors, the French Vincent Courtois Trio and The Claude Tchamitchian Sextet “2015” (based in Marseille). With his multiple connection and commitment he is a natural for Jazzdor.

Erdmann has a signature saxophone timbre, great fluidity and subtlety and is one of the most versatile saxophonists around. He ‘sang’ like the wind when swirling up the sand grains – dying down and buzzing again intensely. Fink, a rock solid musician, appeared to have absorbed the newly composed material already at a deeper level and Marguet delivered extraordinary cymbal work sometimes harshly contrasting with his harder other drumwork. The trio opened up and navigated through sensuous and beguiling passages, before finally arriving in Texier territory, locating its beautiful (North) African sensibilities.

Antonin-Tri Hoang and Charlotte Greve. Photo credit: Mathieu Schoenahl

Charlotte Greve  and Antonin-Tri Hoang are from a younger generation, both in their mid-twenties, they are both nonetheless remarkably mature and accomplished. Greve, originally from the Berlin scene, is now based in Brooklyn. Hoang is Paris-based and was invited to play at Jazzdor with Greve’s group Lisbeth Quartett comprising pianist Manuel Schmiedel, bassist Marc Muellbauer and drummer Moritz Baumgaertner. Its third album, Framed Frequencies, has been released in 2014 on Traumton Records. Tri Hoang  was a member of Orchestre National de Jazz under the direction of Daniel Yvinec from 2009 and participated in the orchestra’s Robert-Wyatt- and Astor-Piazzolla-project. His debut-album from 2011 is a duo with well-known French pianist Benoit Delbecq. Hoang collaborates with pianist Eve Risser (duo Grand Bazaar and as a member of her White Desert Orchestra). He is also engaged in the bass clarinet quartet WATT inspired by the work of the composers La Monte Young and Giacinto Scelsi.

Experiencing Greve’s and Hoang’s altos fronting this high calibre group was sheer joy and a revelation. By blending their altos, unifying or spectralizing the sound, converging and slightly diverging, they reinforced each other what kept their lines infinitely unfolding, shining and shimmering. It was no doubt a departure to new realms of musical sound making – a kind of circular or spiralling and self-energizing minimalism that can be observed among more younger composers and musicians in contemporary music and jazz. The other musicians were of highest importance to achieve this all round enchanting sound experience especially drummer Moritz Baumgaertner who emulated a wonderfully singing marsh landscape as a bottom and background of the chanting altos.

The group’s last piece, a piece of its very own beauty, evoked some friendly associations with Benjamin Britten’s Corpus Christi Carol. It was fascinating to experience the patience and power Greve, Hoang and the other musicians dedicated to the sound creating something of themselves bigger than themselves. It transcended the customary notion of ‘jazz’ and would also appeal to a broader range of listeners – this was a highlight.


Raphaël Quenehen of Petite Vengeance

The third night started with a startling duo, Petite Vengeance, a drumming guitarist vice versa and a reedman rapidly changing or assembling instruments on a wild ride through all kinds of popular Latin trivialities. Drummer Jérémie Piazza and reedist Raphaël Quenehen, both part of the brilliant young French group Papanosh, know how to play around with this kind of stuff, overshoot it and let it crash. They know how to entertain – heirs of Willem Breuker and French group L’Attirail. It was music on the humorous side of the jazz mountain.

Marc Ducret at Jazzdor Berlin 2015. Photo credit: Mathieu Schoenahl

Quite something else but in a way very French too was Equal Crossing, the second group of the night. The quartet, a new group of violinist Régis Huby, guitarist Marc Ducret, pianist Bruno Angelini and drummer Michele Rabbia entered its very own flaming fields of sounds and energy. Its angular music had an incremental southern charge with a deep spooky blues trace. It was fascinating how high density emerged from wide spaces, how gentle and enchanting violin lines were steeped into dark shading or how rock-patterns dissolved in greenish blue haze and vivid ghostliness. It is a new group with a uniquely rich chemistry, haute cuisine.

And then again a transmutation of ear and mind to another mode with young Berlin vibraphonist Simon Kanzler’s German-Swedish-French group with Swedish saxophonist Otis Sandsjö, French trombonist Geoffroy De Masure, bassist Igor Spallati, drummer Tilo Weber. De Masure and Sandsjö already joined the group on Kanzler’s latest album Dialogue (Unit Records, 2015). Kanzler laid the ground for the group manoeuvring between rotating and fracturing grooves with lots of generative layered interlocking possibilities. The addition of two colourful horns, contrasting in temperament, gave the music voice and extra power. It revealed as a group on its way to a new combination of clarity, space, rhythmical sophistication, groove and colour to conjure up the spirits.

These two nights of Jazzdor Berlin 2015 presented a broad variety of music that was neither reproducing known patterns, nor pandering to commercially determined short term ‘needs’. The was music played with knowledge of the tradition, found, loved, hated etc., taking sounds from various sources, creating something of the artist’s own which speaks to our emotion and imagination. The 2015 edition of Jazzdor presented a balanced selection of generations of musicians and bands, opened windows with new, inspiring views. The challenge, as ever, is to translate this potential into attractiveness for new and uninitiated people, and to awaken in each of them as individuals the urge for enriching discovery.

Report of second night
Photos of fourth night
Jazzdor Berlin website

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