Live review

Jazzdor Festival 2021, Strasbourg – first three concerts

Sebastian Scotney writes:

The opening concert: Sofia Domencich. Photo by Adrien Berthet, courtesy of Jazzdor

Last year, Jazzdor Festival director Philippe Ochem and his team had to cancel everything they had worked to create. I interviewed him before that happened, well in advance of 2020’s 35th festival (HERE), a piece we co-published in two languages with Citizen Jazz. This year’s festival is running for two weeks and I am here to cover the opening weekend, 5-7 November. Here is a write-up of the first three concerts of the festival.

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Ochem is clear what this festival is supposed to do: he takes the view that the business of this festival is to put on live concerts. As he said last year: “For me streamed concerts are not a solution, it is not a plan we have. Our plan, even if we are just at half-capacity, is to do everything we can to make the concerts happen. Streaming is not even a Plan B. We are going to do the concerts, unless we are forbidden from holding them.”

Others think differently, notably Jazzfest Berlin, which is also happening this weekend. There are many ways to make things work, but there is certainly – always – clarity and leadership with Philippe Ochem. This festival has a wider influence, especially within France, and the choices are always interesting.

Sofia Domencich (solo piano and Rhodes)

The Parisian pianist has a new solo album, Le Grand Jour (PeeWee), on which she plays both piano and Rhodes. On both instruments she is an absolute model of clear lines and textures. That repertoire formed most of last night’s highly engaging first set. Before her career got going properly, she emerged from the Paris Conservatoire as the winner of two Premiers Prix as a classical pianist, but that world wasn’t for her, and it wasn’t long before she found other routes. One stand-out ensemble was her trio with Tony Levin and Paul Rogers. She has also worked substantially with both Robert Wyatt and Paul Dunmall. Try the sinuously cinematic “Les Arbres Somnambules” (sleepwalking trees) from the new album.

Papanosh + André  Minvielle. Photo by Adrien Berthet, courtesy of Jazzdor

Papanosh + André  Minvielle: Prévert Parade

André  Minvielle is from Pau in the South-West of France, and describes himself as a “vocalchemist troubadour”. Papanosh, a highly entertaining five-piece band formed as a collective in Rouen have been going for most of a decade. Their set was a combination of slam poetry and song, political activist/anticapitalist/rebellious and madcap surreal, and musically they go pretty well everywhere (highly convincingly) from valse-musette to dirty blues, with a sopranino sax and a slide trumpet to produce some interesting sounds. In pianist/organist Sébastien Salis the band has a remarkable composing/ songwriting force. This show is quite wordy, and aimed at audiences of native French-speakers, with all kinds of cultural references going back decades, but is carried by an irrepressible sense of fun and also some very fine musicianship.

Ramon Lopez. Phone snap.

Ramon Lopez (solo drumkit/percussion and projected images of paintings)

Spanish-born French-based percussionist/painter Ramon Lopez has one of the more unusual slash careers (Han Bennink is another, there may be more?). He played free/ solo as paintings of his were projected. The darker-hued pictures seemed to calm him. At one point when an a large mint green patch entered his field of vision he seemed to want to recoil from it.

LINK: Jazzdor Strasbourg Festival website

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