Blueblut, Bohemia After Dark, Carol Alston Gospel of the Blues
(Passau Jazz Festival, 8-9 August 2023. Reviews by Oliver Weindling)
This is the second of Oliver Weindling’s reports from Jazzfest Passau. He covered the opening concert by Leo Genovese (link below), and was back for a couple of evenings in early August. He writes:
Not yet a subscriber of our Wednesday Breakfast Headlines?
Join the mailing list for a weekly roundup of Jazz News.
Jazzfest Passau has continued through most of August both outdoors and in Cafe Museum with two concerts a night. All the gigs at the festival have free admission. So, it’s certainly worth a detour to this beautiful city known as The City of Three Rivers, situated at the confluence of the Inn, the Danube and the Ilz.
A chance to hear the latest music of Blueblut is not to be missed. As much the concept of Mark Holub, best known to us as drummer of Led Bib but resident in Vienna since 2012, it follows in an intriguing route of newer Austrian jazz ensembles: they frequently have unusual lineups which musically travel in unexpected directions.
In this case, it’s a trio of theremin, guitar and drums. The theremin player, Pamelia Stickney, is an exceptional musician. Minimal physical movement of her hands, in contrast to what one frequently expects from a theremin player. And she makes the instrument sound at times like a guitar, at others like a bass. Indeed she looks as if she’s playing air guitar!
It acts as a stimulus for a fascinating journey for the instruments. The impact of guitarist Chris Janka is vital. He is one who throws in samples and apparently strange sounds, but they all travel well together. He himself has a recording studio, and is developing some AI robots which will be programmed to ‘improvise’ along with the band. They will make it all even more of a surprise than already is. And all seeming even more incongruous since we have a band very much ‘of the moment’ performing in a courtyard of the old town hall.
When there, I was also able to catch two nights, in the Cafe Museum, of the Prague-based band Bohemia After Dark (also known as BaD). An appropriate name for a band, given its home location and also repertoire. Started by English expat drummer, Ben Hague, it includes Andy Schofield, the alto player known in the UK as having been a pivotal member of Nick Purnell’s Creative Jazz Orchestra around the turn of the century.
The repertoire focuses around the era of the original tune, written by Oscar Pettiford for his band with Kenny Clarke. So it’s a wonderful upbeat trip around the bebop era, which, if one closes one’s eyes, makes you imagine that you’re in New York at the end of the 1940s. So, we hear tunes also by Parker, Monk, Gillespie, Tadd Dameron and more. The rest of the band live up to the high standards required. Particularly enjoyable was the soloing of Czech pianist Stanislav Macha, who had an impish grin throughout.
I also heard singer Carol Alston who has been resident in Vienna for many years. She performed a lively show of gospel tunes and spirituals. Her technique is flawless, as befits someone who has sung a broad range of repertoire at Vienna’s second opera house the Volksoper. Her band, including Paul Zauner on trombone and Oliver Kent on drums, also has the right energy. Especially Jan Korinek on Hammond organ, who himself deserves a double credit – great playing along with the important position of artistic programmer of the whole festival.