|Emilia Mårtensson with (L-R) Fulvio Sigurta
Luca Boscagin and Adriano Adewale
Photo by Alison Bentley
INNtöne Jazz Festival 2017
(Diersbach, Austria, 3 June 2017. Saturday round-up review by Alison Bentley)
Paul Zauner, trombonist, organic pig farmer and Festival Director, chooses all the bands in this remarkable festival himself – in an extraordinary breadth of styles. People come year after year because they trust his choices (this was the 32nd Festival). The afternoon was hot and sunny; people were camping on the grass and milling round the huge wooden barn where most of the concerts take place – meeting old friends and chatting to new ones.
First was German trumpeter Markus Stockhausen and pianist Florian Weber’s duo INSIDE OUT. Stockhausen has talked about the importance of ‘intuitive music’ (his father Karlheinz Stockhausen’s phrase). They opened with dreamy rubato, emotive call and response between flugel and Fazioli grand with some electronic wizardry from Stockhausen. They seemed to be waiting for the pieces to emerge. A melancholy folk song flowed in unexpected directions; a Latin piece had a stronger groove.
Photo credit : Alison Bentley
Stockhausen had a captivating way of emphasising a note at the height of a phrase then falling away from it; he provided emotional force while Weber created serene textures with a little Jarrett in his style. Sometimes they recalled early Azimuth: Weber studied with John Taylor in Cologne, and some of Stockhuasen’s high leaps invoked Kenny Wheeler – but this was more Romantic, like hearing the notes through a mist. The audience was entranced.
Award-winning singer Emilia Mårtensson divides her time between London and Slovenia. This band, with London-resident Italians Luca Boscagin (on Godin nylon-stringed guitar) and Fulvio Sigurta (trumpet) created lots of space for her subtle phrasing. Along with Brazilian percussionist Adriano Adewale, the band recalled Egberto Gismonti’s work with Nana Vasconcelos.
Mårtensson performed with a down-to-earth grace. She’s half-Swedish, and she opened with a Swedish folk song of lost love and Learnt from Love, from her 2014 album Ana. In Ellis Dreams, Mårtensson sang delicately, then with strong clear notes, to draw us into her imaginative world. Sigurata’s trumpet could be warm-toned but also drew on free jazz, with squiggly sounds and quirky phrases.
Mårtensson is also half-Slovenian and To the Sun, to the Moon was her version of a Slovenian folk song, where she sounded like Sandy Denny- with jazz phrasing. In Harvest Moon she communicated warmth over the folk-edged guitar and trumpet harmonies. Her ‘moon section’ continued with a Swedish song Telegram to the Full Moon. The jazz chords of Jimmy Webb’s gorgeous The Moon is a Harsh Mistress were played in a folkier style, with rushing cymbals and shaker sounds. Dat Dere (shades of Rickie Lee Jones in the gamine vocal delivery) opened with humorously punchy trumpet phrases and a bluesy dialogue between trumpet and guitar. Adewale never drew attention to himself but enhanced everyone else.
Ana was Mårtensson’s song for her grandmother, with arcing vocal lines like Norma Winstone and a fine percussion solo. A song about social justice (‘has your soul been sold?’) showed that Mårtensson’s soul was still firmly in her possession. Paul Simon’s Jonah was their encore, rootsy with lovely interweaving of vocal and trumpet. The audience wouldn’t let them go.
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski
‘We grew up musically together,’ was how Franco-Syrian flautist Naïssam Jalal described her band, with its stirring mixture of Arabic, African and Latin music. Tumbling oriental lines (composed by Jalal) harmonised with Mehdi Chaïb’s sax and Mederic Colignon’s trumpet – an urban urgency over rock and funk grooves (versatile drumming from Arnaud Dolme). One piece (translated from the Arabic as Death rather than humiliation) commemorated Syrian peaceful protesters shot by the regime. The flute was vulnerable and light over drones from bass (Zacharie Abraham) and cello (Karsten Hochapfel). Love and War had meditative flute over guitar harmonics (Hochapfel) then wild flute as if being chased. Colignon brought anarchic humour with his singing, beating his larynx. The audience stood to join in and show their approval.
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski
Paris-resident American pianist Kirk Lightsey is a festival regular – he also plays in Zauner’s band. “It’s one of my favourite places to be on tour, here on the pig farm!” On this day he was leading a trio with excellent US bassist Darryl Hall (also France-based). Lightsey and drummer Famoudou Don Moye were reunited; they’d played together in The Leaders in the 80s. Moye is best known for his work with The Art Ensemble of Chicago: “He’s deep in the history of this music,” as Lightsey put it.
This was a classic jazz piano trio, and you could hear so much history in Lightsey’s playing. With his luxuriant chords and extrovert performing style, you felt he could never run out of ideas. The ghost of Oscar Peterson appeared, but also modern, dissonant harmonies. Lightsey sounded more like Bill Evans in In Your Own Sweet Way, Hall holding things together with his sensuous tone. In a 5/4 Latin piece, Moye seemed to be playing in a different time signature for a while – the effect when he came back into time was explosive. A tune played by Lightsey on flute recalled Charles Lloyd, with the audience yelling approval at Moye’s conga solo, Lightsey laughing with delight. Lightsey played a section of Ravel’s Tombeau de Couperin at an amazingly fast tempo, the melody of Spring is Here tucked away in the left hand among Ravel’s arpeggios. At 80, Lightsey was full of energy and excitement.
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski
In total contrast was young Austrian band Shake Stew, led by bassist and composer Lukas Kranzelbinder. Their 2016 album was The Golden Fang, golden stripes (fangs?) were painted on their black shirts, and huge golden gongs provided a theatrical backdrop. Kranzelbinder opened Shake the Dust playing electric bass with a plectrum; the three horn harmonies and ’60s sounds recalled John Lurie with Tom Waits. Goodbye Johnny Staccato had anarchy and discipline, as the two drummers (Niki Dolp and Mathias Koch) moved from free jazz to simple rocky grooves. The two basses (now Manu Mayr on electric) soloed together while Johnny Schleiermacher’s throaty tenor solo was soulful. How We See Things had a fine trumpet solo from Mario Rom. Singer Angela Maria Reisinger (aka Queen Mu), resplendent in long, gold cape, sang and screamed – Nina Hagen meets Nico. A dialogue between trumpet and alto (Clemens Salesny) sank into a louche Chicago blues feel with distorted sounds. Preaching to the Choir had Dudu Pukwana-esque horn harmonies and a township groove; huge spacey gong sounds were created with mallets. “Just free your mind,” intoned Queen Mu, as the audience started dancing in the aisles.
|Zhenya Strigalev and Ivo Neame
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski
Russian (London-based) saxophonist Zhenya Strigalev calls his band the Never Group because it’s hard for busy musicians to stay together – so it’s never the same band. This formation brought together UK pianist Ivo Neame with Mauritian (Paris-based) electric bassist Linley Marthe and Belgian drummer Stéphane Galland in a burst of huge energy and musicality. Underreach had deep funky bass and Neame on Fender Rhodes, (excellent Hancockian solo) summoning Miles’ Bitches Brew. Take Off Socks had a Prime Time feel, with a focussed wildness among Strigalev’s carefully-written phrases. Some Thomas was like a squiffy Giant Steps with a Caribbean St Thomas groove. The audience was cheering all through Marthe’s utterly vituosic solo – he shook the whole neck of the instrument to bend the notes. The loosely funky Not Upset had a blistering sax solo – the sax seemed part of Strigalev’s body. A white sax case was mysteriously raised on a stand, like a tailor’s dummy; it hid an EWI of some kind, but looked as if Strigalev was playing the case itself, producing looped electronic sounds. And I’ve never seen anyone dance to a drum solo before.
Sleep called, but rumour has it there was dancing to the mysteriously masked Blow Trio till 5am…
LINKS: Inntoene Festival
Film Review: Paul Zauner’s Sound of Sauwald
The Friday programme at Inntöne was equally diverse and full of quality. Dickbauer Collective was founded by saxophonist Klaus Dickbauer, one of the elder statesmen of the jazz scene, but also brought up locally. He teams up with his family, most notably fabulous violinist son Johannes (leader of the Radio Jazz Quartet), but also other majestic Austrian players in a programme of originals by father and son. Masses of joy and energy, though at times it felt a bit too dense. We then heard a new rising star of the Cologne scene: guitarist Tobias Hoffmann revisits the blues with a contemporary jazz flair and even plays Monk on banjo! The final item of the night was a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald by Carmen Bradford, former singer in the Basie Band and daughter of Bobby Bradford and Melba Joyce. As well as imaginative singing and enjoyable personal anecdotes, the young big band from Styria who played their charts with verve and accuracy.