– CIA Silent Movie Night. Peter Madsen, Alfred Vogel & Johannes Bär accompanying Hitchcock’s The Lodger, Bolzano Filmtheatre
– Interzone, Fahlberg Castle, Prissian/Prissiano.
(Suedtirol Jazz Festival Alto Adige, Mon 27th June 2016 Review by Alison Bentley)
With the sun out over the mountain crags after two days of thunderstorms (and Italy playing Spain ) it was a testament to the musicians and Hitchcock that there was a good-sized audience. Musicians often talk about ‘telling a story’ in music; these musicians did so by responding to the onscreen narrative.
The 30s cartoon short Things That Go Bump in the Night opened, (with Private Eye Flip the Frog) as a surreal, entertaining satire on the Hitchcock genre. Johannes Bär’s trumpet squeals represented the frog stalking his own shadow. A cartoon piano with insects dancing on the strings was given voice by US pianist (Austrian resident,) Peter Madsen. Austrian Alfred Vogel’s mallets on the snare built suspense as the frog ran from a skeleton.
Master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock made The Lodger in 1927, using tension and release in the silent scenes, the way music can. ‘The Avenger’ had been killing blonde girls in pea-souper fog on London’s embankment. Madsen’s dark organ chords and Vogel’s clattering percussion set the mood. Bär’s chattering tuba gave expression to people’s gossiping, and squelchy synth sounds interpreted images of technology: printing presses, telegraphs.
Cut to a family home: Ivor Novello, the vampire-like new lodger, turned paintings of blonde women to the wall. The landlord and (blonde) daughter seemed oblivious to the danger. If only they could have heard Madsen and Vogel’s scary diminished synth chords and restless drumming to help them understand what was going on.
There’s no spoiler alert, as I sadly had to leave before the end to get the bus to the next gig. Was the killer the new lodger (dark keyboard bass arpeggios, then almost a Weather Report feel) or maybe the detective in charge of the case? (scratchy trumpet, free drumming, Fender Rhodes.)
The trio added so much to the film, with their sensitivity to the images and to each other’s playing.
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Vienna-based trio Interzone also have a film connection: they’ve made short Jarmusch-eque films (on YouTube) to illustrate their music, with a mysterious black centipede motif.
The Rise of the Black Centipede introduced this gig. A simple ostinato bass line (Lukas Kranzelbinder) exploded into Blue Note swing, echoing off the castle walls as the sun set behind the mountains. Bandleader and trumpeter Mario Rom, with his Dizzy-style bent bell, had a Hubbard feel, but raunchier. Tightly orchestrated stops became an Elvin Jones-ian Afro-Latin groove (Herbert Pirker on drums); but then everything freed up, full of growls and squeals. Black Cloud also had its roots in American jazz, with Pirker’s almost military drum rolls and Kranzelbinder’s propulsive bass. The phrases of the bass solo pulled against the beat; the trumpet solo’s unusual intervals fluttered away to blend with the birdsong, recalling Dave Douglas at times.
Joan Lee had an atonal bass line and shuddering brushes, with eerie, drooping trumpet notes. Interzone take their name from a collection of William S. Burroughs short stories, and this, the freest piece, seemed to be developing a new jazz language of experimental sounds. As Burroughs said, ‘language is a virus’-perhaps one that all these musicians had got from each other. The trio stood completely still at the end till an audience member broke the silence with ‘Bravo!’ Another Burroughs phrase, Everything is Permitted, provided the title of both the next piece and their new album. Its pulsing swing, with full percussive force and simple bluesy trumpet riffs, edged into Arabic trills.
Hans had a slow, melancholy melody, and almost New Orleans-style trumpet- Wynton Marsalis etched with Don Cherry. An improbably long drum roll finally broke into a 6/8 swagger- they never seemed far from the blues. Jazz is Disco Music, named for a Qatari who was worried the trio would play disco in his hotel, had humour and menace. It alluded to techno, complete with bass drops and a wild drum solo. The encore, an unexpectedly tender treatment of Blue Velvet with sweet swinging trumpet, ended with minimalist grace.
You could tell how much the trio had played together- and trusted each other. Their music had discipline, freedom and a lot of fun.