FESTIVAL ROUND-UP : Jazzdor Berlin 2017 (Part One of Two)

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Jazzdor Berlin Festival 2017
(Berlin, Kulturbrauerei / Kesselhaus, Berlin, 30 May – 2 June. Review, photos by Henning Bolte)

The round-up of Jazzdor Festival in Berlin goes in two parts. Part 1 deals with a new multinational supergroup confiuration and six mainly French configurations. 

Part 2 deals with the music around four striking characters: Finnish guitarist Kalle Kalima, French guitarist Marc Ducret, French clarinetist Louis Sclavis and German drummer Dejan Terzic.

The annual Berlin edition of the Strasbourg Jazzdor festival presents new bi- or multinational collaborations and introduces French new and existing configurations to the Berlin audience. The festival has a fine balance of continuity and variation of participating musicians, of younger and older musicians. Some artists return in different combinations and constellations, and regularly there are new faces and configurations. This year there were 11 concerts with French, German, Swiss, Finnish and US-American musicians. In this part seven out of eleven configurations will be reviewed.

Out of Land

The 2016 Berlin edition of French festival Jazzdor started with brand-new French-German-Swiss supergroup Out of Land. It is a combination that grew gradually from a series of mutual collaborations of four musicians, starting with a collaboration of French accordionist Vincent Peirani (b.1980) and Swiss vocalist Andreas Schaerer (1976) and went on with a collaboration of Schaerer and French saxophonist Emile Parisien (1982) and the well-known duo of Peirani/Parisien. Each of these two musicians also collaborated with acclaimed German pianist Michael Wollny (1978). Coalescing into a unit of four was in the wind and finally happened. The unit came into being bottom-up on musicians’ initiatives and their inaugural performances were issued as a live album by the German ACT label (REVIEWED). Peirani was the pivotal figure and Schaerer the driving force of this non-hierarchical group. It turned out that from the four strong worlds and the individual combinations these musicians brought a new world into being, a new world in terms of tinder dynamics, intensity and on the spot creation of solid musical fireworks.

Emile Parisien and Andreas Schaerer

They play each other’s compositions giving them a completely new twist which comes across as a richness of temperament, colour, temperature and drive. It was a panoply of on-the-spot accelerations, sudden surprising turns and great climaxes. Especially vocalist Andreas Schaerer showed an amazing capacity to work directly and influence pace, direction and mood. It was rousing and infectious and the music was taken to a higher level. It was not yet going too much in-depth or getting too personal, yet  each musician involved has the capacity to do so. It was a strong and convincing festival debut. From their worlds this foursome created a common world and let it shine full of bright life.

Sophia DomancichSimon Goubert; Elise Caron /Edward Perraud; Bass X3 

Two musicians is an intimate configuration, in the case of three musicians some kind of rotational equilibrium has to be achieved throughout. This edition of Jazzdor presented two duos from France and a German-French-American trio of dark tonalities.

Sophia Domancich and Simon Goubert

Plainly surprising, wonderfully light-heeled and ultimately enjoyable in the best sense was the duo of pianist Sophia Domancich and percussionist Simon Goubert. They did a very special thing, full of allusions to heterogeneous sources absorbed deeply into their very own effortless flow. They have a precious conjunct sense of the role of rhythm, melody and space. Solely the view of Goubert’s drumset – even more high cymbals than his colleague Kenny Wollesen – told a lot. There is no division of the common roles as instrumentalists but both musicians contribute to rhythm, melody and space at the same extent. The duo sounded fresh, sincere and charming. As broadly oriented musicians both can look back on a rich musical life up to now. Amongst others they participated in legendary French beyond-group Magma. Their newest instalment is a wonderful group with kora player Ablaye Cissoko. Domancich and Goubert are not very well known outside France but undoubtedly have something delightful, really unique to offer to venues and festivals in the world around.

Quite different was the second duo of vocalist Elise Caron and drummer Edward Perraud. Perraud, a much in demand force in French jazz, played Jazzdor Berlin more than once, among others with German saxophonist Daniel Erdmann and together with Hasse Poulsen in legendary group Das Kapital. Caron, an outspoken border-crossing artist performed 2 years ago at Jazzdor Berlin in the group of pianist Roberto Negro. She has worked as actress in movies and as a vocalist in various genres/styles where she collaborated with a.o. John Greaves, Robert Wyatt, Henri Salvador, Michel Graillies, Fred Frith and Luc Ferrari. Caron acted in a kind of off-record manner by commenting and withdrawing in a playful way from what she was doing vocally. She took some funny ‘escapes’ and some disturbingly poetical ways to re-establish the common performance pattern. It was a quite original and challenging approach that in my perception did not work out convincingly strong enough to really get burning.

BassX3 is the child of Gebhard Ullmann, one of the busiest German and Berlin jazz musicians with a pretty broad range of musical activities and group projects. BassX3 started more than ten years ago with Ullman on bass flute and bass clarinet together with Chris Dahlgren and Peter Herbert on double bass. Bass experimenter Clayton Thomas later replaced Herbert. For this year’s Berlin Jazzdor edition French renowned double bassist Hélène Labarrière took the role of Clayton Thomas. It was a well-done entre’act following a well-known approach of spontaneously giving the skeletal compositions shape in and through the performance.

Quatuor Machaut

The music of poet and composer Guillaume de Machaut (1300-1377) exerts a lasting strong attraction to all kind of musicians. Why is this music so longevous, re-used again and again? Quentin Biardeau, Simon Couratier, Francis Lecointe and Gabriel Lemaire not only chose Machaut as the name for their saxophone camarilla. With their saxophone quartet they did not restrict themselves to the fine-tuning of the of the sonorities of the saxophone family. By treating Machaut almost as a contemporary source, they went ‘saxophoning’ deep into his music, especially into his famous mass. Consequently they also admitted the music to stretch out and went into the adventure to fathom and probe new musical sense making as a kind of extended Machauts. Another component of the quartet’s recital was its deliberate choreographed form. It was a kind of elongation and reconfiguration of the zero-tableau of common emplacement on stage. They split up in parts spread over the hall’s space making moves away from and towards each other re-uniting at musically significant moments. They continuously formed new ground constellations in and through space for their celestial sounds. These well-executed manoeuvres increased the sensuality and expressiveness of the music substantially and made it a highly concentrated and enjoyable performance.

Quatuor Machaut


Coronado, the quartet of guitarist Gilles Coronado was a striking and innovative affair, heavy but with a lot of light humour and understatement. Guitarist Gilles Corona was/is also part of Louis Sclavis’ Atlas Trio and Silk Quartet, saxophone explorer Matthieu Metzger already participated in the 2011 and 2015 editions of Jazzdor, drummer Frank Vaillant is a mainstay on the present scene associated with a lot of Jazzdor contributors and keyboardist Antonin Rayon is a quite prominent keyboarder connected to groups of a.o. Marc Ducret and Dominique Pifarély. In this group he spiced the music with nice heavy strange sounds from underneath (in a way that could make Jamie Saft jealous). A competent Dutch visitor commented with a bright smile: “in France rock jazz and fusion is still sold over the counter.”

Post K

Behind the cryptic name Post K are hidden the saxophonistic Dousteyssier brothers Jean and Benjamin, the latter being the prominent bass saxophone voice in Eve Risser’s White Desert Orchestra. Together with pianist Matthieu Naulleau, who – due to an injury – managed to play the whole set one handed, and drummer Elie Duris they quite explicit and playfully dug into old time jazz from the 20s of the last century onwards. Trumpeter Steven Bernstein started this kind of rediscovery and reshaping some twenty years ago and in the music of Henry Threadgill it is incorporated on a higher/deeper level. With verve the French foursome plunged into the heat of old treasures – far enough away from present calibrations of sound making and close enough to the pulse of our time and leading into new amenities. It is an approach worth to be followed and pursued by more young musicians.

Post K

Categories: miscellaneous

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