Live review

JazzFest Berlin 2019 Round-Up (Part 2: Sinikka Langeland/The Australian Art Orchestra/ Late Night Lab 2/ Paul Lovens)

JazzFest Berlin 2019
(Haus der Berliner Festspiele. 31 October – 3 November 2019.  Round-Up Part 2 by Alison Bentley)

Sinikka Langeland/The Australian Art Orchestra/Late Night Lab 2/Paul Lovens

This is the second part of Alison Bentley’s three-part round-up of JazzFest Berlin 2019)

Sinikka Langeland (Photo courtesy of ECM)

Some jazz seems inextricably linked with a sense of place. Sinikka Langeland is Norwegian, and comes from the Finnish Forest. It’s a part of Norway where Finnish culture is preserved, including the kantele, which she plays while singing Finnish folk songs with jazz improvisation. In the modern Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial church, every time she strummed the strings of the kantele, it was like sunlight through the hundreds of small squares of blue glass that made up its walls.

Her Sauna Cathedral evokes ancient Finnish rituals (apparently there were even stone age saunas). The pieces were run together – no applause to break the spell. There were songs of warrior eagles; a fire-fish formed by lightning; the healing spirit of the sauna, and the forest’s influence. There were carefully-composed sections: saxophone (Trygve Seim) and trumpet (Eivind Lønning) lines, and reworkings of Bach chorales from harmonium-player Maja S.K. Ratkje. Langeland’s voice was other-worldly but earthy, in the spaces between bursts of improvisation, like clearings in a forest. She bent the notes of the kantele in a bluesy way, echoed by Markku Ounaskari ‘s cymbal strikes. There were strong grooves too, pulsing with Mats Eilertsen’s bass. Trumpet and sax solos were melodic, but full of free sounds in this mesmeric musical world.

Australian Art Orchestra. (Photo © Berliner Festspiele/Adam Janisch)

The Australian Art Orchestra have collaborated with indigenous musicians, and their music evoked the open spaces of their homeland. In Trauma, Simon Barker’s drums, like occasional thunder on a distant horizon, accompanied atmospheric chords with soft trumpet (artistic director Peter Knight) and trombone (James Macauley.) The energy increased in a gentle triphop feel, Jacques Emery’s bass pinning the groove. A piece written by guitarist Julia Reidy used her 12-string in filmy overlapping washes. The emphasis was on textures rather than individual virtuosity. The Plains was inspired by an Australian novel, and Georgina Darvidis intoned an extract like a poem, dreaming about exploring landscapes; wavery electronic sounds “crossed and re-crossed.”

Late Night Lab 2. (Photo © Berliner Festspiele/Monika Karczmarczyk)

Late Night Lab 2 brought together three bands in a musical experiment. The improvising nonet T(r)opic is co-led by trumpeter Rob Mazurek and electric guitarist Julien Desprez. But the grooves of the São Paulo Underground and traditional dances by COCO gave the gig a strong Brazilian flavour. They opened with powerful dance, stomping their beats with feet on the stage. Cries and bell-like percussion developed into Mette Rasmussen’s sax solo, with its Elton Dean-ish vibrato. Some parts were orchestrated, interlocking like mechanical toys. Isabel Sorling sang with her own looped harmonies; strong drumming and percussion almost brought a carnival feel.  Dancers Pauline Simon and Ana Rita Teodoro moved slowly in a kind of punk Butoh. Congas exploded into electronic Latin beats.

Paul Lovens (Photo © Berliner Festspiele/Monika Karczmarczyk)

German drummer Paul Lovens was awarded the Albert-Mangelsdorff-Prize by the Union of German Jazz Musicians (UdJ) on the final day of the Festival. He responded in a concert improvised with Swiss guitarist Florian Stoffner. Electric guitar sounds moved cheekily in and out of watery gongs and driving grooves. The cymbals created glittering sequins of sound and sticks made washboard rolls. Stoffner rocked back and forth, coaxing notes from his guitar, while Lovens used his sticks as if rooting around in a toybox, full of playful creativity.

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