(Inntöne, Diersbach, Austria 14-16 August 2020. Review by Oliver Weindling)
The irrepressible Paul Zauner had to adapt his INNtöne Jazzfestival substantially to have it occur at all this year. Moving it from May, when obviously things were all locked down, he worked closely with a sympathetic and supportive local authority to create a safe environment. Numbers were limited at 750, instead of the usual 1200+. The main stage was moved to a field adjacent to the family farm where the festival is held.
It created more space for the audience, and, with excellent sound, the ability to really appreciate the music. Of course, it affected the overall economics of the festival and, both to balance this out but also to take into account adequate spacing of musicians, there were more small line-ups than usual.
The open field around the stage made the event more vulnerable to the weather and we braved some heavy rain on Friday and, to a more limited extent, on Saturday. Sunday was a perfect day weather-wise and the atmosphere enhanced the musical experience.
But the rain didn’t dampen our spirits. No gig fell below a high level of performance. Perhaps because all were so happy to be playing but also, inspired by an appreciative audience equally starved of live music over the past months, there was an additional boost.
We were treated to the cream of performers of instruments which are not usually focussed on in jazz so much. Such as the bass clarinet. The standard was set with a vengeance by the opening duo of Louis Sclavis with Benjamin Moussay on piano. Sclavis’s fearsome technique, which led us to hear some unique pyrotechnics, was balanced and enhanced by Moussay’s lyricism and thoughtfulness.
Two further bass clarinettists featured. Mirco Mariottini played with ECM pianist Stefano Battaglia, bringing out, both on clarinet and bass clarinet, the melodic power which seems to characterise so much of Italian jazz. Contemporary/improvising bass clarinettist Oğuz Büyükberber intertwined with the sinuous saxophone playing of Viennese Sophie Hassfurther. A much more intense and different experience. Check out their duo album Mind Like Water available on Bandcamp.
This year, New York participation was limited to pianist Leo Genovese (whose own trio includes Jeff Williams and had recently toured with Christine Tobin and Phil Robson) who did a gorgeous interplay with Franz Hackl on trumpet (freed from his own Outreach festival).
Another instrument which we hear less frequently in London is the accordion. We were lucky to enjoy vocalist Andreas Schaerer with accordionist Luciano Biondini. Schaerer’s voice and effects are totally natural, and there was great contrapuntal work between the pair. Especially moving though were some of the slower pieces where Schaerer’s emotional range could be appreciated.
Other accordionists in the line-up, showing a diversity in approach and style, were Bruno Galeoni, in duo with lively and emotive Puglian singer Maria Mazzotta, and Simone Zanchini in the ADRABESA quartet of saxophonist Vasna Antanasovski. The quartet held the audience in the palm of its hand, merging Balkan – and particularly Slovenian – sounds into their repertoire, with the wonderful wild card of Michel Godard anchoring the group on tuba and serpent.
Pianist Jason Rebello played solo and grabbed us by his range and exquisite texture. Music from Errol Garner through to originals were played with panache. Over the years there have been wonderful solo piano gigs from the likes of Abdullah Ibrahim and Kenny Werner. This certainly ranked with them.
Jason was part of a strong British contingent on the Saturday. Later on that day, the Swiss Albanian singer Elina Duni, performing material from her forthcoming ECM album, crafted a great show together with Rob Luft and Corrie Dick. So many languages and styles, ranging from Swiss-German through Albanian to English, but delivered perfectly.
The other British contribution came from JZ Replacement, the duo of Zhenya Strigalev and Jamie Murray, who act as the foundation for some special collaborations. This time it was with Elliot Galvin, who motivated the others with some imaginative lines and improvisations. It made an uplifting end to the day.
Inntöne has been called a “Vortex in the fields” (! ) and band that proved this vividly was the quartet of trumpeter Hildegunn Øiseth with pianist Espen Berg (whom we last saw in London with Seamus Blake) and bassist Magne Thormodsæter, who recently collaborated with Eddie Parker, James Allsopp and James Mainwaring on an album of South African music. Because of quarantine restrictions they were forced to have a local dep on drums. But Herbert Pirker, known to us in London as a member of Mario Rom’s Interzone, filled in at short notice and certainly inspired. Hildegunn’s sound and style certainly comes from that unique Norwegian sound world inhabited by the likes of Arve Henriksen and Mathias Eick. On a perfect day, surrounded by woods and hills, it seemed to enhance everything around it. Well worth investigating her new album on Jazzland!
Paul Zauner is therefore to be congratulated for not just getting his festival going and giving all of us hope, but also for the great line-up. His determination sets an example to us all.
LINKS: INNtöne Jazzfestival website