ROUND-UP: jazzahead! 2017 (including German Jazz Expo)

Niels Klein and Jonas Burgwinkel
Photo Credit: Ralf Dombrowski

Sebastian writes:

jazzahead! is huge, and the sheer concentration of musicians and behind-the-scenes people who attend it means that there is an overpowering abundance of choices of things to go, people to meet, and music to hear…. this is a tiny selection  

I have focussed on more general issues elsewhere (links below). This round-up concentrates on a tiny cross-section of what happened at jazzahead! : 

– The German Jazz Expo 
– The Gala Concert featuring the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen 
– The ECM club night
– The Award for Jazz Journalism
– The 30th Anniversary of JAZZTHETIK

Julia Huelsmann Trio
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

German Jazz Expo

“Hut ab”, as the Germans say, to Richard Williams who had a superb piece written and published about piano trios within roughly an hour of the end of the German Jazz Expo. He says that whatever doubts one might have about the overabundance of piano trios, they were instantly dispelled by the “poise, purity and radiance” of the playing of the Julia Huelsmann Trio, the last act in the Expo. I’ll second that. This group also managed to turn the tricky challenge of a half-hour showcase slot into the most natural-seeming format in the world.

Of the eight bands in the showcase, designed for club bookers and festival directors to get a taste and a cross section of the German scene, I particularly enjoyed the Timo Vollbrecht’s Fly Magic, which had a strong band sound concept and four fine musicians. The bassist Matthias Pichler was a superb anchor, and the range of processed sounds that guitarist Keisuke Matsuno was conjuring up was fascinating. Also the Niels Klein group Tubes and Wires with ace drummer Jonas Burgwinkel is a top-flight band which for the moment is relishing its sonic experimentation, and hopefully will develop more of a common aesthetic. I also liked Eve Klesse‘s Leipzig- based Quartet, which seemed to connect with a high voltage energy source – with her dynamicleadership they were absolutely going for it!

Iiro Rantala at the end of the Gala Concert

The Gala Concert

At the Gala concert in the Glocke concert hall, with Iiro Rantala, the best was remarkable: Rantala’s sonorous solo exploit at the beginning on his tune Pekka Pohjola showed what a powerful pianist he is. His Mozart concerto with his own improvised cadenzas were brimming with life. The strings of the Deutsche  Kammerhilharmonie Bremen – a superb chamber orchestra  of completely passionate high quality musicians showed their grittier edges to great effect (and not before time) in some pieces by Rautavaara. The German audience absolutely loved it –  about a hundred people queued patiently at the CD stall afterwards.

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The ECM Club Night

There were three set’s in the packed Sendesaal of Radio Bremen, a room with a wonderful acoustic. (I heard the first two). Django Bates has huge musical resources. To become an ECM pianist he may have left some other enthusiasms and proclivities that don’t fit the label’s aesthetic at the door, but his trio’s performance was commanding, particularly on another Charlie Parker “Rhythm” changes number, Passport. I also heard the Tarkovsky Quartet, whose reverential understated aesthetic is deep in the ECM pocket, and does come across particularly well on record.

German Jazz Journalism Award

The jury of three which selected th winner  includes a musician – in this case drummer Eric Schaefer -plus journalists Wolf Kampmann and Ralf Dombrowski. They had chosen – uncontroversially – one of the leading and most reflective voices at WDR3 and JazzThing, Martin Laurentius. The laudation praised the way he sets context, and his thoroughness, contacts book and integrity. “Not just a jazz journalist but a very good journalist who writes about jazz.”
Christine Stephan and her 30th Anniversary/
birthday flowers

The celebration of Jazzthetik’s 30th birthday

Publisher Christine Stephan was celebrating the 30th anniversary of the magazine JAZZTHETIK,. jazzahead! also happened to coincide with her birthday.

The announcement was made that the 2017 Partner Country wil be Poland.

Sebastian was in Bremen as the guest of jazzahead! (Messe Bremen / WFB Wirtschaftsförderung Bremen GmbH) and the Initiative Musik gGmbH. He writes a regular London Column for JAZZTHETIK (latest column)

LINKS: Interview with Sybille Kornitschky of jazzahead! 
Interview with Christine Stephan 
Sebastian’s translation of a guide to the German scene Ralf Dombrowski 

Categories: miscellaneous

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