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Outreach Festival 2022 (Schwaz, Tyrol, Austria)

Outreach Festival 2022

(Schwaz, Tyrol, Austria. 4-6 August 2022. Festival report by Oliver Weindling)

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Alex Sipiagin (trumpet) and the Sonarkraft String Quartet. Photo by Oliver Weindling

This year’s Outreach Festival, the thirtieth anniversary edition, in the town of Schwaz near Innsbruck, managed to bring back one element of its former strengths – the visit of some smart American musicians also to teach in the summer music academy – but additionally to blend it with some of the adaptations which had initially been forced on it by Covid. 

In particular, having a ‘revolving’ night with three bands each doing three shortish sets of around 20 minutes, with poetry, by the likes of Stephen Crane as a short breather. This approach can give a great momentum to the evenings: the bands have prepared themselves for this more unusual performance approach, all listening to, and often learning from, each other. But it makes a long night for the audience with no proper interval. The concept could work with a bit more tweaking.

In a carefully worded introduction (to be read in German on the festival website (link below) the rationale of the festival’s subtitle of ‘Burst Bubbles and Unite’ is explained: an aim of bursting the ‘bubbles’ of unreal fantasies and returning to the basics, through collaboration and strong playing together. Something that couldn’t necessarily be properly undertaken during the pandemic. 

Most memorably was the strong array of trumpeters and other brass players. Perhaps not too much of a surprise given that the guiding spirit behind the festival Franz Hackl is a trumpeter himself (and, like his father, a trumpet-maker). 

From New York, we had NY-based Russian-born trumpeter Alex Sipiagin. Always known for his exemplary technique, this was articulated through a beautiful clear mellifluous sound on flugelhorn, allowed to float over a string quartet (the Sonarkraft Quartet of Sarah Kurz, Lydia Kurz, Andreas Trenkwalder, Johanna Niederbacher).

From Vienna, we had Mario Rom (who is known for his own trio Interzone) in the band Memplex. Though the rest of the band (Werner Zangele, Philipp Jagschitz, Walter Singer and Niki Doll) were equals. Clever, almost serpentine interplay between the band members with great feeling and energy.

At the other end of the stage that night, we had the quartet from Como of pianist Lorenzo de Finti. Thoughtful playing by de Finti and the rest of the band (Stefano Dall’Ora (bass) and Marco Castiglioni (drums)). But here too one could but admire the playing of Alberto Mandarini, whose soloing really stood out.

A regular highlight is at least one bigger band. So, on the second night, we had the Outreach Orchestra. No fewer than 4 trumpets, including Hackl himself. The centre piece was a concerto written for trumpet of Markus Winkler by Gene Preisner, the indefatigable director – as adept at composing and arranging as a guitarist and even a rapper. Clearly demonstrating how far jazz has moved into fully integrating with composed music.

The Austrian scene is always well represented at the festival. Clemens Rofner, the co-director, took a more modest playing role on double bass this year, just anchoring the Outreach Orchestra. However, as ever, his finger is definitely on the pulse of the Austrian scene. Not just Memplex, but also AHL6 on the first night led by drummer Lukas Aichinger (which seemed to get better from set to set). 

JD Hive.

And, more especially, JD Hive. JD is violinist Johannes Dickbauer, whom we have heard in London when he was a member of Radio String Quartet Vienna. But now showing his leadership skills in his own right. A powerful sound, great classical virtuoso technique, improvisation of the highest order and also memorable compositions. His collaborators in the quartet are with him all the way. Their new album will be out in September and will be worth it, in addition to experiencing them live.
Particular mention should be made of bassist Andreas Waelti, who himself has a solo album recently released of the highest order.

Meanwhile, some of the older generation were not forgotten! Wedged between De Finti and Memplex, we had Austrian elder statesman Karl Ritter, whose career spans 50 years and ranges between the punk of Ostbahn Kurti and blues. To reflect this he had an array of guitars with him on stage. And he performed with a relaxed energy, ably supported by his younger band. 
There was also the power and energy of bass trombonist Dave Taylor who gave a solo show with flair and panache on the first night. Of particular note was his duo with French horn player John Clarke, one of the best on this instrument, who has incredible facility despite having to blow through 4 metres of piping to get a note. Meanwhile the set also ranged right back to reworkings of Schubert lieder!

A particular feature is the openness of the concept of the festival. This was truly represented in the variety of styles on show, ranging from the ‘classical’ form (such as Schubert, the concerto or the use of string quartet) through to the lively energy, which some purists might deride as too popular, of Karl Ritter. 

The passion of Franz Hackl keeps it all together. He, his family and his extended ‘family’ of musicians keep Schwaz on the jazz map!

LINK: Outreach Festival website

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