Live reviews

Jazzdor Strasbourg-Berlin-Dresden 2023, 3rd night

Jazzdor Strasbourg- Berlin-Dresden

(Kulturbrauerei, Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin. 8 June 2023. Third night. Report by Sebastian Scotney)

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Jozef Dumoulin, Tony Malaby, Samuel Ber

Last night, the third evening of the fifteenth Jazzdor festival in Berlin, I found myself above all transfixed by the craft of the two veteran American musicians present: saxophonist Tony Malaby and drummer Tom Rainey.

Neither is a household name, but both are hugely influential, even indispensably so among musicians of later generations. Legends? Icons? Frankly, I’m not sure such labels are helpful….and one must also that the context is one of teamwork… Rainey had fine bassist Bruno Chevillon alongside him. And yet both of these players were showing their craft at an unflaggingly jaw-dropping level last night, somehow participating in the particular alchemy which can transform and bring focus and purpose to the groups of players around them.

Saxophonist Tony Malaby effectively has a second instrument always at his disposal. He is not limited to the conventional, diatonic saxophone range, but has developed the craft of producing all kinds of parallel tones, harmonics . It is more than a “palette” of additional tonal and microtonal colours, but rather an astonishing and seemingly unlimited expressive armoury. What was great last night was that he was being pro-active, leader-ish, throwing out challenges for the others to respond to. I cross my fingers this concert. which had real shape to it, was being recorded. This was a set with a wonderful sense of flow and direction, and one of the highlights of the festival so far.

Malaby was in a trio with two top players from the thriving Belgian scene, keyboardist Jozef Dumoulin (b 1975) and drummer Samuel Ber (b. 1995). Ber explained that the repertoire was a combination of his compositions and free improvisation. The fact that the three have worked together elsewhere as a trio many times, and ever since 2015, was clearly bringing its benefits: all three sounded at their most inventive and best.


The group with Rainey was a sextet with guitarist Richard Bonnet, pianist François Raulin, rapper/ slam post Mike Ladd , plus bassist Bruno Chevillon. This was music with lots of different things going on at any one time, a fundamentally busy way of being. Rainey is perhaps known above all as a hugely inventive and creative player, but what came across most strongly to me was his incredible precision in everything, a sense that no matter how complex the material in his part, and going on around him might be, he would not only nail everything, but also be the pivot, the backbone and give unmistakable signals.

Musina Ebobissé, Olga Amelchenko

The third and final group ended this third evening on a note of hope. The idea that the quality of musicians coming through are leaving this creative and specialised music in safe hands was palpable in the quintet of tenor saxophonist Musina Ebobissé. He is a very fluent and strong improviser, (there is an album on the Jazzdor label which shows that well. He has a contrasting , equally authoritative voice next to him in the group in alto saxophonist Olga Amelchenko  and a strong rhythm team of Povel Widestrand  on piano, Igor Spallati on bass and drummer Moritz Baumgärtner. As they say in France, “La relève est assurée.”

Categories: Live reviews, Reviews

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