|L-R: Florian Weber, Anna Lena Schnabel,|
Michel Benita, Nasheet Waits
WDR3 Jazz Festival
(Theater Gütersloh, 31 January 2019. Opening Night. Round-Up and iPhone snaps by Sebastian Scotney)
The annual three-evening WDR3 Jazz Festival is centred around tonight’s annual “Prize Concert”, which will take place in Theater Gütersloh, and will draw attention as ever to a new crop of prize-winners. A recurring theme running through the rest of the festival is what the Germans call “Nachhaltigkeit”, sustainability. Previous winners are regularly welcomed back and given carte blanche to build projects large or small. For me, the undoubted highlight of this opening night was a quartet put together by one of these former prizewinners, the hugely versatile pianist Florian Weber.
He is at the heart of many different projects, and this quartet had elements from two of them. He has a duo with rising star German saxophonist Anna Lena Schnabel (first mentioned on this site as a member of BuJazzO as long ago as 2012). His most recent album for ECM, Lucent Waters, has Nasheet Waits on drums – and Linda May Han Oh and Ralph Alessi. The quartet last night was completed by that very complete bassist Michel Benita. The logistics of this concert were far from simple or ideal since Waits had flown straight in from a concert the previous night in Mexico. Nevertheless, the whole set had a crackling energy about it, a sense of just “going for it”. It also ranged widely stylistically, and so the energy was directed in many directions.
The first thing I noticed was the extent to which having a bassist and a drummer with the power, heft and sheer quality of Benita and Waits freed up Florian Weber to explore and roam freely. When you have rhythm players who can inject this level of belief and conviction into what they do, all risk that “going-through-changes” might be repetitive or predictable has disappeared.
|Schnabel, Benita, Waits and Weber taking the applause|
Benita also showed the range of his creativity from deep thrum and anchoring a groove to filigree work a la Garcia-Fons. Waits has an astonishing liveliness about him, the only thing one missed was a chance for him to stretch out. There was probably a reason. This set is certainly as good as anything I have heard anywhere so far this year.
|Sandra Hampel and Hendrika Entzian|
The pick of the soloists were guitarist Sandra Hampel and trombonist Shannon Barnett both of whom had dedicated features, and the paired tenor saxophonists, the searing and urgent Sebastian Gille and the more urbane and sweet-toned Matthew Galpin.
|“Sisters in Jazz”|
There is one real collector’s item among the Norby original songs: First Conversation is that extreme rarity, a song on the subject of “anamnesis”, the theory of the high romantic era that new-born babies harbour a vision of the eternal, which gave rise to the improbable story of the poet Shelley wresting a baby from a pram while crossing Magdalen Bridge in Oxford.
I got called away to do a live radio interview about the Festival in German and had to miss most of the set from Dutch-born, New York-based alto saxophonist Marike van Dijk. I liked what I heard but will have to catch up with it later; the whole evening was recorded for WDR3 and Arte Concert (links to follow).
|Marike van Dijk|
Categories: Live reviews