Live review

Südtirol Jazzfestival, 2019 – Part 3

Südtirol Jazzfestival – Part 3
(Alto Adige 28 June-7 July 2019. Round-up by Alison Bentley)

symph at Batzen Sudwerk Ca’ de Bezzi –Bozen/Bolzano on 1 July (Photo: Alison Bentley)

Experimentation is at the heart of jazz and at this Festival. In the brewery basement, with its authentic jazz club atmosphere, Portuguese trio symph played an uninterrupted set with lots of moods. They looked like a classic piano trio, but appearances were deceptive: the sound at times was manipulated live by drummer Pedro Melo Alves, so that José Diogo Martins’ free opening piano scales were blurred at the edges, like e.s.t. in a fairy tale cavern.

Hugo Antunes hunched over his double bass as if waiting to see what sounds it would make. He played recognisable jazz shapes but not harmonies. Some parts seemed to be written, but was it an illusion? Elvin Jones-style drumming changed the mood; Martins sounded like Bill Evans playing Ligeti, then just this side of funk, experimenting with the almost-familiar. Antunes’ electric bass was growly and unforgiving, as the others built tense patterns- completely absorbing.

Mn’JAM experiment at Bolzano Fair Courtyard – Hotel 4 Points by Sheraton – Bolzano/Bozen on 3 July (Photo: Alison Bentley)

Mn’JAM experiment performed outside in a white modern atrium, where the huge screen behind them portrayed striking images created by Portuguese “visual musician” JAM. He also manipulated sounds live, as images flickered to the music’s rhythms, using a turntable to create hip hop scratch sounds. Australian/Portuguese singer M sang tricksy lines over acid jazz grooves. American Matt Adomeit’s double bass had a strong resonant tone underpinning the electronica. Spanish guitarist Virxilio Da Silva sounded a little like Ronnie Jordan in One Body and Soul’s amen break grooves, while M’s voice was deepened to a male pitch. She looped her vocals in a setting of a Portuguese poem, while a grungy arrangement of Stella by Starlight (accompanied by onscreen robin- “the song a robin sings”) had strong drumming from Hungarian Peter Somos.

The ballad Fragments pitched arco fast free bass lines against minor vocal layers. Odd Times (commenting on its own rhythms, as well as making a political statement) invoked rock and rap, heightened by onscreen street scenes. The soulful Use Me, with its quotes from Jean Pierre, included a jazz joke- the audience were asked to talk extra loudly during the bass solo. I wanted to be pulled further into their world – perhaps one long unbroken set would have done that.

Back in the basement, musical experiments (“Jazz Labs”) were taking place under controlled conditions: 20 minutes per quartet. The 12 musicians hadn’t played together in these combinations before – how would they react? The first group began with a burst of energy, as if they were excited to be working together. After a few minutes, more delicate interactions began to happen. Anne Quillier (France) drew patterns with her Fender Rhodes, while Beatriz Nunes (Portugal) sang a lament with Italian Filippo Vignato’s trombone. Paal Nilssen-Love (Norway) played imaginative percussion as well as drums.

Jazz Labs: Pedro Branco, Lotte Anker, Leïla Martial, Matteo Bortone at Batzen Sudwerk Ca’ de Bezzi – Bozen/Bolzano, 3 July (Photo: Alison Bentley)

The second used humour from the start, with French singer Leila Martial’s repeated spoken phrases: “Welcome to the basement.” Pedro Branco (Portugal) looked as if he was fighting his guitar, while jumping up and down on his effects pedals with colourful trainers. Martial’s whistle notes seem to merge with the high tones of Norwegian Lotte Anker’s sax. Matteo Bortone (Italy) used mallet and drumsticks on his double bass. There was serious musicianship alongside the fun.

The third group created a dreamy beauty, as the notes of Portuguese João Paulo Esteves da Silva’s Messiaen-like piano dropped freely into drones from bass clarinet and tenor sax. (Pierre Horckmans and Julien Pontvianne, both French.) Their notes resonated with the piano strings. The horn players had shown in other bands how fast and fluidly they could play, but they held back here to suit the improvisation. Then, as da Silva seemed to be climbing Ligeti’s Devil’s Staircase in a bluesy manner, sax and clarinet notes bubbled up, echoed by Italian Jonathan Delazer’s sensitive drums.

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