REPORT: First two nights of WDR3 Jazzfest 2016 at Theater Münster

The lampshades in the roof of Theater Münster.
Photo: Lutz Voigtlaender/ WDR

WDR3 Jazzfest 2015
(Theater Münster, 28th and 29th January 2016. Report by Sebastian Scotney)
Theater Münster, a building you don’t forget, the one where you look up and capture the extraordinary sight of hundreds of domestic lampshades. It was the very first new theatre in Germany to open its doors after the second world war – in fact it will be celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of its official opening next Thursday – and the Münsteraner are justifiably proud of it.

That sense of pride in culture ran deep through the Friday night prize concert, which is the centre-piece of the WDR3 Jazzfest. The head of radio for WDR, Valerie Weber, called the region of NRW unequivocally the “größte Heimat des Jazz in Deutschland” (the most important home/homeland for jazz in Germany.) The first two nights of the festival have reinforced the theme of the exemplary commitment which the region and its broadcaster give to jazz, and the many forms which that support takes.

The prize concert celebrated four different aspects of that activity, and virtually all the other events on the first two nights brought to the fore the theme of sustainability. The spotlight was also put on several previous winners of WDR jazz prizes. The message is clear, that jazz musicians change and develop, and a continued and sustained approach to their creativity rather than one-off flashes in the pan is what creates a sustainable scene. One special event, which fell outside those themes was the appearance of Martial Solal, which I have reviewed separately.

A big big band with double wind and bass.
Unijazzity the Münsterland Youth Band
The first prize of the evening went to the big band of Münsterland Unijazzity, propelled by a very impressive young drummer.

L-R: NRW Culture Minister Christine Kampmann,
Sidsel Endresen, Annette Maye

The region of NRW has also given two European female artist prizes, to Norwegian vocalist Sidsel Endresen and to German clarinettist Annette Maye. 

Julia Hülsmann and Torun Eriksen

This year’s speial prize acknowledged the work of the Union Deutscher Jazzmusiker, which was re-launched in 2011, and has been an effective force in bringing recognition and understanding of what  professional jazz musicians do, and raising it in the political discussions at regional and national level. A prime mover in that re-birth was pianist Julia Hülsmann. She had appeared earlier in the evening with Norwegian vocalist Torun Eriksen. For me there was one magical moment when Eriksen switched to her native language, and the way Hülsmann tracked and reinforced the speech rhythms suddenly gave an extra level of expressive freedom to both of them.

Tobias Hoffmann trio
Photo credit: Lutz Voigtlaender/ WDR

The third of the evening’s prizewinners was the awardee for improvisation, guitarist Tobias Hoffmann. He is a core member of the Klaeng collective, a group of musicians of the same generation, which also includes pianist Pablo Held. Hoffmann’s recent CD 11 Famous Songs Tenderly Messed Up has won prizes, and his brief set drew the audience in immediately into its reflective, bluesy world.

Karolina Strassmayr and Shannon Barnett
of the WDR Big Band

The final prizewinner of the evening is from a very different generation. Saxophonist and arranger/composer Stefan Pfeifer-Galilea is in his mid-fifties and fell under the spell of the Thad Jones Mel Lewis band as a teenager in the hot summer of 1976. His writing still bears the imprint of that baptism. He was an eloquent and strong-toned soloist in a composition dedicated to his wife- in which I thought I also heard a mischievous quote from My Old Flame, and also had a number featuring the two female members of the WDR Big Band.

Gianluigi Trovesi and Annette Maye

The evening came to a happy close by briefly presenting one of the quiet legends of the European jazz scene, Gianluigi Trovesi, alongside prizewinning clarintettist Annette Maye.

There were several celebrations of previous prizewinners in the other concerts of the first two nights.

Steffen Schorn, his tubax and the Zurich Jazz Orchestra

Composer / saxophonist Steffen Schorn is a man irresistibly drawn to extremes. His preferred instruments are the tubax, bass flute and contrabass clarinet, and the themes of his compositions space travel, an encounter of Catweasel with the inventor of the metronome and “all the female creatures in the universe.” It was a lively and varied set.

Gabriel Perez and the CCJO

Gabriel Perez is an Argentinian-born, passionately expressive musician steeped in the folklore traditions of his native country. His opening set of the festival featured two remarkable musicians, the fine accordionist Luciano Biondini and the Cologne Contemporary Jazz Orchestra’s guitarist Markus Segschneider.  

Jan Clare’s group
Finally, two reflective late night sessions on the festival’s small stage. On the first night  Münster-based saxophonist Jan Clare had a highly musical quartet who slipped easily from composed sections and Hanns Eisler-like marches to free sections where the bassist and the trumpeter both simultaneously produced delicious slidings and slitherings in pitch.

Robert Landferman’s Quartet

Festivals which give a local musician carte blanche to construct his or her dream band deserve a special salute. I remember Lotte Anker being given this opportunity by the Copenhagen Festival in 2010. Lat night it was the remarkable bassist Robert Landfermann. His quartet with Chris Speed, Jim Black and Achim Kaufmann held a late night audence’s attention completely through their  beautifully thought-through, long and complex interactions.  

LINK: Preview of WDR3 Jazzfest 2016

Categories: miscellaneous

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