REVIEW: Jazzdor Berlin 2016 – Day 3 (Naïssam Jalal + QÖÖlp – Ceccaldi brothers/ Graupe / Lillinger + Electric Vocuhila)

Ronny Graupe of QÖÖlp at Jazzdor Berlin
Photo credit: Stefanie Marcus

Jazzdor Berlin 2016 Day 3
(Kesselhaus, Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin. June 2nd 2016. Review by Alison Bentley.)

Jazzdor’s Day 3 offered an eclectic, thoughtful programme, from world music to modern classical spliced with free jazz.

The flute isn’t an instrument immediately associated with resistance – perhaps more with being soothing, or even compliant. But Franco-Syrian flute-player and composer Naïssam Jalal brought an impassioned ferocity to the instrument, echoed by the Rhythms of Resistance. The heart of her set had an Arabic title meaning ‘death rather than humiliation’- the piece was a tribute to Syrian people who had died and those still living there – resisting. Matyas Szandai’s bass and Karsten Hochapfel’s cello created a drone as the flute bent the notes like a sob. Jalal sang in harmony with her own flute-playing, overblowing for a powerful, anguished effect. The story continued with an almost military drum beat (Arnaud Dolmen), then fast swing, as if they were being chased.

In other pieces, Hochapfel doubled on archtop guitar bringing a bluesy feel, a touch of Salif Keita, or more ambient strumming. Jalal studied Arabic music in Syria, and she used maqam scales the way many jazz musicians use modes to improvise. Sometimes she played long, meandering lines in unison or harmony with Mehdi Chaib’s tenor. Jalal’s ney (wooden, end-blown flute) was especially evocative in its quarter tone trills. In one 5/8 piece the sax built to a beautiful qawwali-like frenzy. Jalal’s Rhythms of Resistance brought Arabic music together with jazz in a very humane and expessive way.

Tenor saxophone Mehdi Chaib of Rhythms of Resistance
Photo credit: Stefanie Marcus

QÖÖlp was a band created especially for the festival. It brought French (brothers Theo Ceccaldi and Valentin Ceccaldi) and German (Ronny Graupe, Christian Lillinger) musicians together in a set of uninterrupted, unannounced pieces – full of disciplined minimalist writing, and creative improv. Graupe and Lillinger play guitar and drums in a Berlin trio, Hyperactive Kid – a name which gives some idea of their musical energy. From the start the drums sounded talkative, full of squeals of metal, fist on cymbal as rustly as a rainstick. Yet he played the kit with extraordinary precision and speed – delicate drum rolls and on one occasion irresistible swing. Graupe’s electric guitar veered from percussive riffs, pizzicato with the Ceccaldis’ cello and violin, to white noise. Sometimes he played long lines behind the others, or the blues, or distorted, rock-edged phrases. Valentin Ceccaldi’s cello at times played ostinato shapes, suggesting minimalist classical music. The cello rumbled, or sang elegantly, or riffed spikily with the guitar. Theo Ceccaldi’s violin could be plaintive and sweet, wild with tsigane flourishes, or downright rocky.

None of this describes the excitement of hearing them together – the precision, virtuosity and playfulness. The audience loved it – the first standing ovation of the Festival.

Electric Vocuhila at Jazzdor Berlin
Photo credit: Stefanie Marcus

The third evening ended with dancing – this was the Festival’s 10th anniversary, after all. The audience wouldn’t let Electric Vocuhila go until they’d played four encores of their spirit-raising African beats. Compositions by saxophonist Maxime Bobo leaned heavily on classic soukous, like Kanda Bongo Man without the vocals. Boris Rosenfeld on guitar played the kind of circular riffs over two or three chords that once developed to imitate a thumb piano. Bobo’s bright scales on tenor hinted at Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time. Bassist Goichon Riffaud played high on the neck, blending with Etienne Ziemniak’s excellent African-style drumming. The groove emerged, trance-like, from all the interlocking patterns. Another piece in 10/8 was funkier, the bass deep, Bobo playing tenor and soprano at once with rhythmic blasts. He even added to the colour with some subtle keyboard. Sometimes the groove shifted imperceptibly- there was a little reggae and rock, always keeping the African feel.

The band had a seemingly inexhaustible supply of music that left the audience wanting more – and more.

Categories: miscellaneous

1 reply »

  1. The Ceccaldi brothers played last night at the Vortex, in Sylvain Darrifourcq's In Love With. They are a special pair of musicians – energy, empathy, technical proficiency in the extreme. So, a standing ovation for what they did in Berlin is no surprise at all, especially as they were paired with two equally thrilling others.

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