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Three acts from the German Jazz Expo at jazzahead! 2022


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(Jazzahead! Bremen – 30 April 2022, Report by Sebastian Scotney)


The support structures which nurture jazz among younger musicians in Germany are a thing of wonder. The mantra/buzzword one tends to hear most often when such things are discussed is “Nachhaltigkeit” (sustainability). The German talent development systems take many forms, but the central principle is that sustainable careers for creative musicians are possible. And quite rightly, what drives everything else is the determination to provide the means to make that idea a genuine reality .

Each of the three groups I was able to witness live (of the eight in the German Jazz Expo at jazzahead!, coincident start times made it impossible to see more) showed a different set of such efforts at work, and their effects.

Keno Harriehausen Quartet

Keno Harriehausen Quartet – phone snap

As a pianist, and a very good one indeed, Keno Harriehausen, sounds like he is in thrall to the intensely magical and harmonically kaleidoscopic world of Ravel – think of a piece like “Noctuelles” (night moths) from “Miroirs”, for example. As a composer, Harriehausen loves contrasts. As a quietly-spoken yet clear-headed bandleader he is clearly interested in accommodating very different characters in his concept of chamber jazz. Cellist Maya Fridman, Moscow- and Amsterdam-trained, plays wonderfully forthrightly and melodically, whereas German bassist Andris Meinig somehow co-exists by being her polar opposite. She caresses her phrase, he attacks his. And they agree to differ, each clearly listening intently to the other. Latvian saxophonist Kārlis Auziņš is one of those players (Chris Cheek is another) who makes the listener hear a melody as if he has written it himself. He is also a powerful improviser.

It is impossible not to be struck by the international nature of this quartet, which proudly declares itself to be “founded in the Netherlands, shaped in Denmark and Norway, and at home in Germany”. Germany is a network at the heart of Europe. Leipzig, where Harriehausen now lives, is a crossroads within it. Open-mindedness, open-heartedness are everything in the way this quartet chooses to make its music. Wolf Kampmann, in the sleeve-note of the new album, has written something rather good: “[Harriehausen] does not lose himself in the pragmatism of the best possible compromise, but goes to extremes with the radical unification of opposites for the good of the whole.”

The groups new album is on Leipzig’s Lakeland Records and is available on Bandcamp.
Recommended track: “Contemplating”

Vincent Meissner Trio

The track record of the ACT’s Young German Jazz series as a means to launch careers speaks for itself. With the Vincent Meissner Trio’s album “Bewegtes Feld” things have come full circle. Michael Wollny’s first album with his [em] trio was the first ever Young German Jazz album to be released. Meissner is a student of Michael Wollny…and it is the teacher who has produced the debut album,  “Bewegtes Feld” (Moving Field), for the much-admired pupil . This trio does not shy away from either complexity or of contrasting it with simple expressiveness. Meissner is just 22 yeas old, and while the album with its mesmerizing switchbacks is full of joy, daring and invention, to me (and possibly only to me) he seemed a bit overawed by the occasion and by the need to be still standing at the end. There is no question, Meissner is a fascinating player at an early stage in what is bound to be a substantial career.

Bewegtes Feld” is on ACT

Track: “Stadt Land Fluss” (city, country, river) from “Bewegtes Feld”

Clara Haberkamp Trio (*)

Clara Haberkamp Trio. Phone snap

Ever since she emerged from the piano chair in BuJazzO, the weight of expectations on Clara Haberkamp, this phenomenally able and hard-working pianist, originally from the Dortmund area, have been high. She is fully aware of not just the need to impress (she is in the middle of a doctorate based on some of the intricacies of voice-leading) but also to make an emotional connection. So the remarkable thing about her set at jazzahead!, with Dudley-born bassist James Banner and drummer Lukas Akintaya, was that she seemed to cast all vestige of external pressures aside; she was simply enjoying the act of playing as well as she does. A delight.

Re-Framing the Moon is on Malletmuse Records

Track: “Mein Herz ist Unterwegs” from “Re-Framing the Moon”

(*) Disclosure: Sebastian wrote the sleeve-note for “Re-Framing the Moon”

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