Live reviews

Jazzdor Strasbourg-Berlin-Dresden 2023, opening night

Jazzdor Strasbourg- Berlin-Dresden

(Kulturbrauerei in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin. 6 June 2023. First night. Report by Sebastian Scotney)

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Christophe Monniot and Nguyen Le (centre). Phone snap,

I had it all planned…down to the last detail. Jazzdor Berlin-Dresden this year, the 15th edition, was going to be set in motion by a concert led by a female bassoonist. Surely that must be something that has never happened at a jazz festival before…This unique occurrence called for the expert ears of LJN’s Berlin resident bassoon correspondent, an alumna of Germany’s super-elite conservatoire class in Hannover back in the day, someone who really knows her Püchners from her Heckels…

But it wasn’t to be. Sophie Bernado is injured, so the chance to hear her fascinating-sounding group with vocalist Marie-Pascale Dubé, Joachim Florent on bass and Pina Bettina Rücker on crystal bowls, a fascinating prospect, was cancelled and will have to be for another time. I look forward to that.

So it was left to came a group of seasoned players, bandleaders all, under the tutelage of alto saxophonist Christophe Monniot to provide the big energy, swagger and joy of last night’s double bill. The linking theme of their newly-commissioned suite of “Six Migrant pieces” was that more than half of the musicians have come to France from somewhere else. The blurb for the concert describes their music as “an irresistible, nuanced combination that mixes subtle flavours from France, Italy, Belgium and Vietnam.” It was.

The Vietnamese member was the stellar Nguyen Le, and his constant ability to bring fantasy and dreaminess from another world was the ideal foil for the different kinds of devil-may-care kilowatts coming from the rest. For his first appearance, bassist Bruno Chevillon set the scene for him with bass sounds reminiscent of a Japanese koto – or (strictly for pedants) a ‘dan tranh’. Monniot and trumpeter Aymeric Avice seemed to energize each other, and drummer Franck Vaillant lived up to what it says in one official biography: he is “first and foremost, a musician who loves adventure.” Jozef Dumoulin on piano, Fender Rhodes and synth, was constantly creative, alert, and showed the sheer range of what he can give to a band. This was a set in which every member really gave of their best, and the audience’s enthusiasm and warmth seemed to grow as one contrasting number followed another.

O.U.R.S (Ornette Under A Repetitive Sky and also a play on the French word for a bear) were at their best when violinist (and also guitarist) Clément Janinet threw caution to the winds and gave us the full Jean-Luc Ponty. The quartet has recorded a well received album for the enterprising Budapest label BMC. There are bands who shine in the Kesselhaus, and the audience seemed to enjoy O.U.R.S., but my feeling last night was that this quartet might thrive better in a more intimate space.

There are three more nights of treats in store from Jazzdor Berlin-Dresden. It is an incredible achievement by Philippe Ochem to have kept showing the vibrancy of the French and Berlin scenes for seventeen years, and still to be coming up with great surprises.

Sebastian is in Berlin as the guest of Jazzdor

Categories: Live reviews, Reviews

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