REVIEW: INNtöne Jazz Festival 2017 (Sunday: Martin Taylor, George Freeman, Jazzmeia Horn, Kompost 3..)

Jazzmeia Horn
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

INNtone Jazz Festival 2017
(Diersbach, Austria, 4 June 2017. Sunday round-up review by Alison Bentley)

At this festival, there was no competition for the audience share. Most of the time just one band was playing in the massive wooden barn, and the audience greeted each one with total attention. But to ease gently into the day, people were eating brunch in the farmyard, between the St Pig’s Pub and the excellent exhibition of paintings by Arne Stahl. In among the trestle tables was traditional Austrian orchestra Innviertler Trachtenkapelle Solinger, singers yodelling in harmony with brass accompaniment. Festival Director Paul Zauner himself has worked with musicians from all over the world. Many of the day’s musicians were from Austria, playing together with musicians of various nationalities and varying ages.

Invo Vogl, Eduard Jungwirth
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

Together were formed in 1999 at a family concert- clarinettist Eduard Jungwirth wanted to support his son, sensitive drummer Georg Jungwirth, born with Down’s Syndrome, and challenge perceptions of disability. Led by keyboardist Gerald Endstrasser, and joined by Andreas Pointecker on bongos, the group created ambient, acid jazz grooves. Christian Bachner’s tenor was Brecker-ish and Invo Vogl’s ‘cabaret’ was satirical and humorous – rhythmic monologues. The audience and band roared with laughter.

Austrian piano trio Triple Ace have a subtitle for their name – ‘colours in jazz’ – and there were many subtle shades as the three instruments blended together. Pianist Oliver Kent reminded me of the UK’s David Gordon, with his classical skill, fluid style and great jazz feel. His solos were full of quotes from jazz standards which flew by, reshaped to fit the passing chords – Get Happy, then Pick Yourself Up in a Jarrett-esque Country groove. A gospelly piece recalled Billy Taylor, a shuffly minor blues had echoes of Fever and Yesterdays – uplifting chords. Kent’s solos were completely involving because he played as if he really wanted to know what was coming next. Gil Evans’ Gone had free drumming from the excellent Serbian-born Dusan Novakov and fine pulsing swing from Uli Langthaler’s bass. This was music to provoke happiness.

Martin Eberle and Manu Mayr of Kompost 3
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

It was good to hear Viennese quartet Kompost 3 in a concert setting (last spotted in a late-night bar in Suedtirol.) Whatever Happened in Roswell? from their 2015 album Ballads for Melancholy Robots was a clue to their sci-fi interests, and their music was a balance between the eerily alien and emotively human. Benny Omerzell played Hammond (Nord keyboard balanced on top,) with dark swirling whorls. Each piece was carefully developed to take the audience through a range of almost cinematic moods, but the effect was free, not calculated. One piece sounded as if it was melting; the falling notes of Martin Eberle’s slide-trumpet (like a small trombone) blended with Manu Mayr’s electric bass, played with bluesy bottleneck slide. Mayr also played what sounded like a guitar solo on bass. Some ’70s keyboard sounds, dripping with reverb, recalled Brad Meldhau’s work with Mark Guiliana. Drummer extraordinaire Lukas König used drum and bass rhythms among the funk – he could play with massive power, but also delicacy, sticks beating on snare like hummingbird wings. Harmon mute and rocky groove evoked Miles’ You’re Under Arrest, and a Chicago blues feel built to a massive climax.

The 26-year old American singer Jazzmeia Horn glowed on the stage in a yellow dress and Erykah Badu-style headdress – as extrovert as her performing style. She immediately won the audience over with her energy and charm. Pianist Kirk Lightsey threw her some unexpected chord voicings that made her sound at times a little less assured than on her best-selling album A Social Call, but she soon settled into vivacious improvisation. In Don’t Get Around Much Any More, her bright swinging tone recalled Dakota Staton. In All Of Me she leapt precipitously from chord to chord in some bravura scat singing, belting in Dee Dee Bridgewater style with Wolfram Derschmidt’s bass and Dusan Novakov’s drums. In Betty Carter’s classic Tight she sounded very like the singer. High ululations introduced How Insensitive, and her unstoppable energy got the audience singing along to Let the Good Times Roll. She was the winner of the 2015 Thelonious Monk prize and it’ll be fascinating to see how her style develops.

George Freeman
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

90-year-old American guitarist George Freeman has been part of jazz all his life. Brother of Von and uncle of Chico Freeman, he’s worked with the greats, such as Parker and Webster. Jan Korinek (from the Czech Republic) talked movingly of how in his teens, he’d heard an LP of Freeman playing with Jimmy McGriff, and how it had inspired him to take up the Hammond. He began as a bassist, and tonight his left hand stoked up some swinging blues. A hand-jive groove opened, with the fine Jeff Boudreaux on drums. In a shuffle blues, Welsh saxophonist Osian Roberts articulated some wonderful bebop phrasing behind the simple blues chords. The beating heart of the band was Freeman himself, who played simply – sometimes just one note, bent to the limit, expressing the history of the blues. Korinek’s Hammond supported him, with emotive swells and a luscious space for the guitar to push against in a slow 6/8 blues with a strong backbeat from Boudreaux.

Martin Taylor
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

British guitarist Martin Taylor’s style was quite different. Played solo, strong tunes and amazingly detailed chord-melody arrangements held the audience spellbound. He had the ease of an experienced performer, and a disarming humour. “I thought I’d tell you what I’m playing, as people don’t always recognise it. I’m a jazz musician – that’s my job!” he joked. In I’m Old Fashioned, and They Can’t Take that Away From Me he played like a whole band, with improvisation and walking bass lines, and still managing to imply the chords. There were some lesser known pieces- a Carpenters’ song and Mancini’s Two for the Road, slower with percussive Latin feel. It was as if he was playing the words. The Django-esque feel of Hymne à l’Amour was a reminder of his work with Stéphane Grappelli, while the rococo arrangement of Some Day My Prince Will Come had the sweetness of Bill Evans. Inspired by Art Tatum’s stride style, he warned us that his double time I Got Rhythm might force him to ‘lie in a dark room’, but he still had energy for a languidly bluesy Georgia.

Florian Willeitner (centre)
Photo by Alison Bentley

Young German violinist Florian Willeitner talked about how he’d come to the festival as a child, and how Paul Zauner had introduced him to jazz and encouraged him to play. Florian Willeitner had met the Paweł Kaczmarczyk Audiofelling Trio while taking part in a competition in Poland – it was good to hear these young musicians starting out. Willeitner’s fluent style was at times gypsyish, or rather like Regina Carter, with her mix of jazz and world music influences. At times, he played freely, or used scratchy sounds, building to a frenzy of notes. In Birthday Song, the timbre of the violin with Kaczmarczyk’s piano with was a little like the classic Metheny/Mays sound, but with some arco bass from Kuba Dworak, and fab drum and bass from Dawid Fortuna. Kaczmarczyk had a way of building tension with repeated riffs, then suddenly breaking out of them in shimmering fast runs. In a piece called, I think, Catch More Chicks (we were on a farm, after all!) Rachmaninov-like tracery melded with pizzicato violin strumming, and cymbal washes, all full of feeling.

On the other side of the farmyard in the St Pig’s Pub, there had been distinct signs of hip swivelling to ORGANized CRIME’s sax and trumpet-led boogaloo Hammond grooves. The night had cooled, and in the big barn, seats had been cleared to heat things up with dancing. People were already walzing to wiadawö! & Arnaud Nano Méthivier Waltz on Rave Highway’s soundcheck. A Tyrolean waltz from Arnaud Nano Méthivier and Mischa Niemann’s accordions; a grungy backbeat from Andreas Luger. There was three-part vocal harmony and yodelling; an asymmetrical Balkan groove and tsigane-style violin from Gotthard Wagner. The shuttle buses awaited (times staggered to suit all levels of stamina) but the dancing continued…

LINK: Saturday at the 2017 INNToene Jazz Festival

Categories: miscellaneous

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