Schaffhauser Jazz Festival (Kulturzentrum Kammgarn, Schaffhausen, Switzerland. 23-4 May 2019. Round-Up by Alison Bentley)
This the third and final part of Alison Bentley’s report on Schaffhauser Jazz Festival 2019
Samuel Blaser “Early in the Mornin'”(24 May); Roman Nowka Solo (23 May); Christy Doran’s Sound Fountain (23 May)
“What would jazz be without the blues?” asks the Festival website, and three bands brought their own distinctive take on the tradition. Trombonist Samuel Blaser’s Early in the Mornin’ quartet featured music from their 2018 album, where traditional tunes, such as Black Betty and Lonesome Road Blues are given freer treatment, along with Blaser’s own compositions. They opened freely, with piano, (Russ Lossing) tumbling bass (Masa Kamaguchi), and amazingly full-toned drumming (Gerry Hemingway), and from Blaser’s first note you could hear the blues at the core of his tone. Blue notes were drawled, chirped and chattered as the tempo increased in dizzyingly complex writing. The pieces seem to glide into each other. One had chorale-like piano, and a languorous trombone solo, as if waking from a dream state over walking bass. Lossing switched back and forth between piano and Fender Rhodes as notes trickled through the heavy swing, drawing brilliantly on blues and free jazz, as he began a phrase on one instrument and finished it on the other. Time doubled, Afro Latin, and the way the quartet responded to each other’s rhythms was breathtaking. Kamaguchi seemed to be pulling notes from his bass strings along with the rootsy wah-wah trombone. The atmosphere made me think of a very modern version of Ellington’s Harlem Suite, imagining walking around a city of the future, hearing the blues in different places.
Roman Nowka’s solo guitar drew on Hendrix and John Lee Hooker. He opened with jazz-rock blues, playing bass lines, melodies and improvised lines all together. He’s recorded tributes to Ellington and Monk, and moved into ragtime pieces with Monkish glee, weighted with reverb and quirky whole tone scales. The audience loved his infectious tunes, strong grooves and deadpan humour- at times, he seemed to be looking for a phrase, stopping to look at the guitar, as if he may or may not find it. He broke up the mood, deliberately stopping the audience from getting too involved. But then the next piece would be powerfully emotive, with outbursts of Hendrix distortion.
Guitarist Christy Doran was born in Ireland, and grew up in Lucerne. His 1970s jazz-rock band OM was very influential across Europe, and his Sound Fountain trio oozed molten jazz and rock. A punk-edged driving groove had contrastingly delicate drumming from Lukas Mantel, and an emotive guitar solo, drawing on blues and free jazz in a very original way. All three members have written for the band, Aftertaste being by bassist Franco Fontanarrosa. Delicate guitar tones and bells burst into agitated funk, spiky slap bass played cross-rhythms beyond human comprehension. Doran’s solo notes were free and bluesy – a little Marc Ribot, a little Derek Bailey. Another piece had a spacey intro breaking into a John McLaughlin-esque taut groove with superb, almost New Orleans-style drumming. Doran’s solo dug deep into the blues. The opening discords to Purple Haze seemed to have influenced another tune (Doran has recorded a Hendrix album); grungy bass and lightning cymbals delved into a dark back beat and free electronic pulse, bringing the blues to a new place.