After worming up day first, full of surprises and good vibes the show goes on. Once I am back into routine everything just clicked in and I am feeling great in old good Berlin like in my own home again. Here we got a following report for most of the events fulfilling the Friday night.
Friday, the 3rd of November 2017 BFT
Albert-Mangelsdorff Prize (German Jazz Award)
Awardee: Angelika Niescier
Main theatre of BFS
ANGELIKA NIESCIER saxophone
TYSHAWN SOREY drums
CHRIS TORDINI double bass
(BJF program notes)
For many years, Angelica Niescier has been one of the most interesting protagonists on the European jazz scene. She is an extraordinarily inspired saxophonist and composer, with a bold sound of her own. Her work for her own ensembles and for larger groups is characterised by enormous musical versatility, while also displaying an authenticity and clarity of musical concept which unfailingly reflect her personal voice. In all this, she bears in mind both freedom of improvisation and communication with her fellow musicians. The wide range of her work, both on and beyond the stage, is proof of the vitality of contemporary jazz. With every note, every word, she displays her vivid interest in her counterpart’s position with a stylistic and integrative openness that not only builds on her own experience, but encourages the development of joint paths. Her example shows that improvised music is an important voice within the current social-artistic discourse.
That said I can only add that that reward was more than well-deserved and jury didn’t have to struggle with a choice at all. For us the treat was the set however, which took place straight after ceremony.
Angelika has a heart made for jazz and huge hunger of playing, therefor it was such a realise when she return the mic to conferencier. After the flood of official speeches she jumped straight to the set. Accompanied by her long-time collaborators represented by 2/3 of Tyshawn Sorey Trio, a drummer himself and the bassist Chris Tordini. With those two she feels like a fish in the water. The recording they made together as NYC Five with Florian Weber on piano and Ralph Alessi on clarinet brought them highly regarded Deutschen Shallplatten Kritik Award.
She played fiery and fast set, full of challenge and punch. Going through the modal figures with the speed of typhoon. This is not your usual lady sax player, she has got a lot energy to burn and one can feel it blowing off the stage. Her fast and figurative walks through the scales supported by Tyshawn’s sensitive drumming made a fest for the ears and proper kick for another festival day. From the sleepy laziness of the award ceremony he brought the audience into full storm experience within minutes.
Her set was a show off for the Trio abilities at its best and somehow helped Sorey to recover after last nights fail. But it is no surprise here knowing how much they all like and respect each other. And how much they share that sheer hunger for making music. That set clearly confirmed that she really is on the top of her game right now and this curve that started to grow. Together with first recognition and prizes she started winning since 2010 is steel step and far from the end. She is the one to be watched close in upcoming years.
Main theatre of BFS
MICHAEL WOLLNY piano
First Act of this evening made me thrill as I am fully committed fan of Wollny. Doesn’t matter if its a solo, duo, trio or with the big Orchestra. Whatever comes as a challenge he is always a winner to me. Here I got a rare chance to hear him again playing solo. After attending recently his trio set during another festival with the new bassist I was already sure that he is in a top form.
This program was covering pretty much everything he recorded in his two-decade career. Referring to his Hexentanz and Wunderkammer solo realises, but also bringing some new inspirations to the table as well as giving some new emotional makeover to the music of the composers like Schubert or Hindemith which he did flirt with before. The inspirational almost hour long journey he created took us back to the J.S. Bach music as well, with full of taste quotes of partitas weaved into the dynamic tissue of his own, charged with the modern piano improvisation and various lines of the music inspired with everything one can imagine.
The pop such a Bjork, minimal like Cage or Cowell. Reflective nocturnal music like Lou Harrison. I could keep tracking for long. The fact is the more you know the more you will be able to find. Michael’s focus is pretty much everywhere. There is no such a subject he couldn’t touch and turn into the gold. He ‘s been always a Wunder Kind, but the fact is he didn’t end up like most of them. He became the Marvellous Adult for now and he keeps getting better and better, even if that is hardly possible to imagine after what I did hear on that stage tonight.
My fascination in the ocean of his imagination sunk even deeper and I am heating an Abyss now but one thing which occurred to me after is that there is nobody around except Michael Wollny today who could keep on going with a long piano solo improvisation tradition, like this created by Terry Riley or Keith Jarret in the 70’s. Both those great masters, hopefully still alive and around they do not have any more a physical condition to survive an intensity of the performance like that. Even if there is nothing wrong with their imaginative perception.
I hope that he will take that challenge and keep carrying on becoming for our and future generation the same source of the spiritual energy as those two great master mentioned above were for the previous one during past few decades.
Main theatre of BFS
AMBROSE AKINMUSIRE trumpet
DEAN BOWMAN vocals
GERALD CLAYTON piano
MARVIN SEWELL guitar
JOE SANDERS double bass
KENDRICK SCOTT drums
Ambrose Akinmusire set was special in many ways. Let BJF introductory words get you into the core of the subject so everything I will write bellow become more understandable:
(BJF program notes)
“Ambrose Akinmusire’s new composition, written specially for the festival, is inspired by four songs of Mattie Mae Thomas. They were recorded by a Library of Congress musicologist in 1939 during a field trip to the Mississippi State Penitentiary, better known to generations of African-Americans as Parchman Farm. Mattie Mae Thomas was an inmate of the women’s section; nothing more is known about her – not her age, her circumstances, her crime, or her eventual fate. Only these four extraordinary pieces survived to preserve a memento of a singer of great natural skill, self-confidence and emotional depth. When Akinmusire heard the recordings for the first time, he remarked that they reminded him of the singing of his own grandmother, who had been born in Mississippi and lived there most of her life. The trumpeter himself was born in Oakland, California in 1982 and has become one of the preeminent jazz musicians of the 21st century.”
Commissioned by Berliner Festspiele / Jazzfest Berlin
Now I can tell you more about what was most unexpected, There was the fact that we did listen to the two voices there. Original Mattie’s singing looped on the tape had been a part of the performance with the male vocalist he brought to the project. That concept nicely counterpointed Mattie’s deeply emotional singing with the voice full of strength and passion, rich in transients and blossoming on the bottom of the scale. In contrast Dean Bowman’s own bass- baritone made wonderful harmonies with chorales sung unison or phase shifted with recording.
Ambrose playing was great too. Very rich and corresponding spiritually with the depth of Mattie’s message from the past. It also was very stylish and stylised to sound very root and delta alike. The Band was nothing less but equally great in the technical aspect. Certainly, it was much bigger success of his performance than his 1st time appearance on the same stage 2 years back, But I have a mixed feeling.
Why then? My first feeling is that despite the fact I really liked the music I had a feeling that it wasn’t bonded together so well yet as it could’ve been, giving the class of the musicians who were a part of the project. If that was not enough time for the rehearsal or the project didn’t really get toughen enough yet to fully convince me?
Whatever the reason, my gut feelings are that it is going to be great recording once matured and being taken on the tape. Singer’s attempts for example, giving the fact that he really does possess a beautiful voice, stay audibly behind emotional tension which Mattie’s voice introduced to the tissue.
Not just as the voice from the anonymous soul who once back in time had a tough life there as we can imagine, given how hard times Afro-Americans were going through back in these days. But the powerful touch of the human dignity, despite the situation. Something which really is timeless. I can easy understand why it touched the young trumpeter so deeply that he ended up with composing and performing that wonderfully bluesy music, filled with such a great amount of personal touch and family memories he had grown with.
In fact, Mattie’s voice touched my own heart with equal deepness and I cannot get it out of my head. Even if the words are simple the message is seriously powerful, especially when amplified by today’s fear. Which modern world being playing games with what the history toughed us with no respect brings to the inner concern. I must get that recording and go deeper into it. It has more truth in it than all religions put together, that did fail so badly over the past.
I can see, hear and feel a lot of honesty which made him make it and I like it a lot. But I also have a feeling that he is trying sometimes too hard to make things happen. And why he is always trying to make things so meaning? Here with those four tracks from the back in time, no one can compete. You cannot make things more meaning than that.
Friday, the 3rd of November 2017 A-Train
Kit Downes, Philipp Gropper, Lucy Railton, Oliver Steidle
Berlin-London Conversations 2
The A-Train club
KIT DOWNES piano
PHILIPP GROPPER tenor saxophone
LUCY RAILTON cello
OLIVER STEIDLE drums
This year Berlin – London conversations, as I mentioned earlier quadrupled to the quartet. Therefore, became richer and completely different to what we remember from the 1st introduction of this idea last year. Here is a bit about the musicians’ bellow and then the mini review offered by dear journalist friend Norbert Krampf, who did attempt it. Due to multiple overlapping between performances in the program in this year I could not make it happen.
(BJF program notes)
“ The second instalment of these musical exchanges features four musicians who, in various combinations, know each other well. The two British musicians, Kit Downes and Lucy Railton, play regularly together in a duo called Tricko. The two Germans, Philipp Gropper and Oliver Steidle, are to be found together in Gropper’s quartet, Philm. Downes and Steidle are both members of the thrash-jazz ensemble Killing Popes. Gropper, born in Berlin, studied at the University of the Arts and is a member of the Jazzkollektiv Berlin. Steidle was born and studied in Nuremberg, where he played big-band jazz and in garage rock bands. Railton, who lives between London and Berlin is a cellist focusing on Neue Musik, improvisation and electronic music. She regularly collaborates with artists, choreographers and film makers and is also curating new and experimental music programmes in the UK (London Contemporary Music Festival, Kammer Klang). Downes, a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music, will also appear on the final afternoon of the festival, playing the organ in the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche.”
Review by Norbert Krampf:
“London Conversations” vol.2: Lucy Railton, Philipp Gropper, Kit Downes, Oliver Steidle.
Overall a perfect mix of high quality compositions and improvisations; in every single note the personality of the 4 members was very obvious and recognizable.
The dynamic range was immense, from very delicate and silent moments (not always the full 4tet, often just duo or only one a cappella) to complex and dense parts. The volume changed permanently, sometimes all of a sudden, but more often slowly. Motives and themes flow, sometimes kind of melodic, sometime atmospheric; then they drift in different directions, counterpoints, crossing lines. The interaction was impressive, at all time tightly interlocked. Everybody listened to the others and was – besides some expressive moments – always attentive. No egocentric/self-obsessed solo-ism.
Also, everybody developed a specific sound on her/his instrument. Cellist Lucy Railton is obviously inspired by contemporary music with a variety of sound colours, sometimes also kind of drones. Philipp Gropper presented his characteristic rough, raspy, at the same time warm and earthy tenor sax tone. Drummer Oli Steidle was very much into sounds as well. Grooves showed up, sometimes, but were less important. Kit Downes on piano played the part of the man who kept things together. (at least it seemed so to me, I haven’t asked him about it).
Uneven meters, transitions between compositions and abstractions, various tempi and breaks, fragile and powerful moments: to sum it up, it was very unpredictable, sophisticated, thrilling and up-to-date.
I think, with its knowledge about Jazz-icons, a certain feeling for contemporary music and modern aesthetics, the young quartet has a lot of potential/capability for the future. For me it shows, more than some difficult/superficial experiments of Jazz musicians with rappers, how Jazz can sound today and tomorrow, when musicians dilate/widen their perspectives.