Inntöne Festival 2022
(Diersbach, Austria, 30 July-1 August 2022. Festival Report by Oliver Weindling)
The Inntöne Festival has changed and adapted itself as a result of the pandemic, and in remarkable ways. Having moved from the Pfingsten/ Whitsun weekend in 2020, it has now really consolidated that change of date and become a stalwart of the end-July European festival circuit. It has moved from the barn to a site outdoors behind the Zauner family farm. That has transformed our viewing and listening experience: there is more space to sit and focus (and less scrapping over who has bagged seats). And whereas in previous years we suffered from rain, this year we dealt with the lack of shade and a scorching sun. It was also very noticeable this year that the American musicians and bands are back.
On the first day, just limited to three groups, we had Tuba Skinny, highlighting the new generation of Dixieland/jug bands around. Playing with great energy and panache, they then repeated their performances inside the barn over the following days. A perfect location for a hoedown! For these gigs they alternated with young local musicians, none older than 10, playing exemplary versions of Beatles, Stevie Wonder and more. Some jaw-dropping keyboard and vocal soloing.
Discovering vocalists has always been one of Paul Zauner’s strengths, since he was the first to bring Gregory Porter to Europe, over a decade ago. This year, we were treated to Samara Joy, winner of the Ella Fitzgerald Prize. She showed an awareness and musical lines almost as if she was doing some instrumental solos from bebop and beyond. And a technical tightness. Mention should also be made of her guitarist, Pasquale Grasso, whose interplay with the vocalist and own playing and soloing was exemplary and dynamic. Similarly when in the exposed situation of just playing with the bass of Ari Roland, reminding me of the recent gig that I went to of Sheila Jordan and Cameron Brown.
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Cut from a different cloth is Dana Masters. Originally from South Carolina but now resident in Belfast, there is something about her that reminds me of Chanda Rule. Both vocalists with strong awareness of their gospel tradition but now resident in cities in Europe where one wouldn’t expect such a powerful singer- Vienna in Chanda’s case. Dana also has been schooled by being vocalist for the past six years for Van Morrison, one that must have been revelatory in many ways. But she has a presence on stage which is second to none. And beautiful performances of standards such as ‘Nature Boy’ and ‘Autumn in New York’. She also brought her family’s involvement in human rights across the Atlantic with her, and it made one of the strands of her performance. Strongly accompanied by a band led by her musical director from Dublin Cian Boylan.
As the sun went down each night, we were treated to a choice of headliners. On day one, this was the uniquely great Hermeto Pascoal. Now 86, he spent the first hour mainly keeping his band performing in the true Hermeto tradition – tight, energetic and unexpected twists and rhythmic leaps – with just a few solos himself. Reminding us that a true band leader doesn’t have to be centre stage, though frequently waving his arms about like a conductor. But for the last half hour, he himself exploded. On melodica, keyboard and, ultimately, on tea pot! Interesting how colourful his music seems, captured very accurately by Aurelie Freoua who was back as resident artist of the festival.
The Alfredo Rodriguez Trio with Richard Bona, the late band on Saturday, treated us to an energised and entertaining show. Rodriguez comes from the school of Cuban music where fantastic technique matches the drive of the music. Drummer Michael Olivera is a multiple threat: he sounds as if he is playing different instruments with his hands and feet. Meanwhile Richard Bona showed us versatility and virtuosity of the highest order.
And on the final night, we had the Gerald Clayton Trio. Clayton is driven forward by the drive of his rhythm section of Gregory Hutchinson on drums and Joe Sanders on bass. Already a star in the making, Clayton has a facility and communicative ability through his great playing, never overpowering and leaving space for the rest of the band.
As with the contrast of vocalists, so with the contrast of pianists. Monty Alexander is someone where every note seems to reflect the music’s history, not just standards such as ‘Summertime’ but also reggae (No Woman, No Cry). Still full of energy and vigour.
To be classed in the ‘rising star’ category – certainly for us in Europe – is Nicole Glover. New York saxophone playing of the highest order. Too little heard in Europe (and especially UK) till now, though most recently as part of the group Artemis. She showed the vitality and focus on long lines that a piano-less saxophone trio can bring.
But no Inntöne Festival is complete without its complement of top Austrians and special selections where jazz and world music meet. Aguamadera continued Zauner’s love of South American music. A duo of vocalists/guitarists (Marco Grancelli and Maria Cabral) who took us on a tour of South America, starting in their home country of Argentina. Colourful and adept.
With musical links looking East was the duo of Markus Stockhausen, highly focussed with often-muted trumpet and flugelhorn, and Alireza Mortazavi, originally from Iran, on different types of santur, a sort of zither. The modal sound, the swirl of the santur and intensity created a spirituality that floated across the fields and into the the woods beyond.
From Austria, we were treated to the quartet of Christoph Pepe Auer. Much more lyrical than one might have expected from the title White Noise; but unsurprising given that he focused on clarinets (and a bit of saxophone) ranging to the contrabass clarinet and part of the sound came from having a cello, in this case Clemens Sainitzer. And Mario Rom’s Interzone have grown tight and even more focused since we saw them in London in 2018. Mario Rom solely speaks through his trumpet, the announcements being made by Lukas Kranzelbinder, a dynamo on bass whose mind and creativity seem to be constantly racing with energy and innovation (as was seen with his band Shake Stew at Cheltenham this year).
Even more than ever, we have experienced at Inntöne great music, atmosphere, food and drink over three days. Next year, a new Steinway C arrives – and how many farms possess such an instrument? Let’s see what that adds to an already special mix.
RADIO BROADCASTS: There will be broadcasts of some of the gigs on Austrian radio (oe1.at), which will then be listenable to via their audiothek. Already confirmed are
* Hermeto Pascoal & Grupo Ö1 / On stage, 05.09.2022, 19.30 CET
* Nicole Glover Trio Ö1-Jazznacht, 29./30.10.2022, 23.00 CET
* Richard Bona & Alfredo Rodriguez Trio Ö1 / On stage, 17.10.2022, 19.30 CET
* Monty Alexander Trio Ö1 / On stage, 22.08.2022, 19.30 CET
LINKS: The complete cache of official photos from Inntöne Festival 2022 is HERE