Live reviews

REVIEW: Sunlight (Kinch/Schaerer/Kalima) + Partisans at the 2019 Cheltenham Jazz Festival

L-R: Andreas Schaerer, Kalle Kalima, Soweto Kinch
Photo credit and ©: John Watson/

Sunlight (Kinch/Schaerer/Kalima) + Partisans 
(Parabola Arts Centre, 3 May 2019. Cheltenham Jazz Festival. Review by Jon Turney)

Swiss voice artist Andreas Schaerer’s Cheltenham debut three years ago saw him perform with a drummerless trio, who were joined briefly by Soweto Kinch. The saxophonist clearly already had a connection with the Schaerer’s rhythmic virtuosity and exuberant deployment of effects that constantly push the envelope of what is possible with breath, lips, vocal chords, and microphones.

Kalle Kalima
Photo credit: John Watson/

So a return visit in which the two were joined by resourceful Berlin-resident Finn Kalle Kalima on guitar looked a brilliant prospect. It did not disappoint. This was a freer affair than the 2016 offering, beginning with low-key stirrings of awareness from all three that became denser, gave way to cries out of the fog, and then resolved into dark, bluesy guitar lines with wordless vocal over the top. Schaerer’s references here sounded biological – his voice and movements both often birdlike, though he can also be an entire rainforest if he wants to be.

Soweto Kinch
Photo credit: John Watson/

Kinch wove in emphatic statements on alto and tenor saxes – with less use of effects than in recent work with his own trio. And his own voice supplied a sunlight-themed rap which featured twice, once unaccompanied, and a closing reprise with the trio that had more force. His words are rhythmically charged and impassioned but lack the linguistic brilliance that Kate Tempest, say, might supply in a similar context.

Musically, though, this was a richly rewarding meeting of minds, with an hour only just long enough to sample the possibilities. Any Schaerer gig has at least one moment of genuine amazement at what he is doing – this time featuring the ability to whistle while singing and simultaneously deliver complex percussion effects. But the group sound was distinctive, too, and trios afford generous space for the interaction that lifts all the players. A memorable one-off, or the birth of a marvellous collaboration? Let’s hope it’s the latter.

Julian Siegel of Partisans
Photo credit: John Watson/

The members of Partisans – who played the storming set that followed in the same space – must have had a first meeting at some point. But after two dozen years as a band, it’s hard to imagine a time when they didn’t play together. Reuniting less often since guitarist Phil Robson’s move to New York, they still revel in each other’s playing, and have lost none of their high-powered exuberance. Old and new tunes displayed all the familiar ingredients: boppish unison at supersonic speeds, hefty tenor solos, more reflective episodes on bass clarinet (both courtesy of Julian Siegel), blustery, rising to gale force drumming from Gene Calderazzo and unobtrusively brilliant perfectly pitched bass support from Thad Kelly.

Thad Kelly
Photo credit: John Watson/

The set was a bit of a musical whirlwind, almost as if they were raising tempos to fit more songs into their allotted hour. But that’s how they have always played. There are brief spells when the band pull back on the reins, but pretty soon they are at full gallop again. Still a splendid thing to see, and the best possible advertisement for their newly-pressed live album, captured at the Vortex last Autumn.

Categories: Live reviews

Leave a Reply