Bärtsch's Mobile Go Minimal Amid Homegrown Diamonds At Estonian Summit

 

Every music festival has its logistical problems – from gremlins in the backline equipment to stormy weather for open-air gigs – but the most common obstacle that producers have to clear is that of transport. Flight delays are almost a given. So it proves this time round for Jazzkaar when an electrical fault at Amsterdam airport grounds half of Nik Bärtsch's Mobile. Only the pianist-leader and drummer Nicholas Stocker (above), who had travelled to the Estonian capital Tallinn, on other flights, made the gig. They present what could be called R.M.E – Reduced Mobile Experience.

Bärtsch makes light of the situation by welcoming the audience to the 'premiere' of a new band, and that raises the stakes. Is the duo going to be the quartet by half or two musicians creating as much interest as four? It is definitely the latter, and then some. Bärtsch's core principles are still identifiable – serial structures; eerie, icy motifs, particularly from his finely-weighted right hand; start of a new cycle marked by his trademark cry of "Oh!"; slow-burn narratives that release tension at crucial moments. However, this intricate groove aesthetic, touched by minimalism and non-western music, is really enhanced by Stocker's outstanding work on drums. The sensitivity and economy of his touch brings out a considerable amount of detail in the music that makes the absence of bass clarinet and additional percussion anything but problematic. Stocker's discreet, almost spectral drifts into melody, by way of a glockenspiel and kalimba thumb piano, enhance the uncluttered grace of the duo.

This and other headline concerts at the 10-day event – that included, prior to my arrival, The Bad Plus, Ambrose Akinmusire, Cory Henry and Sons of Kemet, to name but some – take place at two venues at the Telliskivi centre, a hipsterish cultural hub that encourages people to see as much music as possible. If Bärstch went down well at the large concert hall of Vaba Lava, then Delbecq 3 is an equal success in the smaller adjacent space of Punane Maja. French pianist Benoit Delbecq has been one of the most consistently creative figures in improvised music in the past decade, counting the likes of Mal Waldron and Muhal Richard Abrams as sources of inspiration, while being able to fashion his own language in many different contexts. This trio, featuring Canadian double-bassist Miles Perkin and Congolese drummer Émile Blayenda, has a fascinating blend of metric ingenuity and soundscaping, but the advanced numbers games and otherworldly sounds yielded by Delbecq's careful use of prepared piano do not obstruct the clarity and focus of the music. Blayenda, who is also of the acclaimed Les Tambours De Brazzaville, is something of a marvel, and the range of timbres he draws from several calabashes combined with his sparing depolyment of cymbals takes him far away from kit-drum conventions, without compromising the nuanced dynamics of the ensemble.

Kirke-Karja

Less engaging are the singers who come thick and fast on the closing weekend – Britain's Myles Sankho, as well as Estonia's Ashilevi and Anna Poldvee all have decent voices, but their material, broaching soul, electronica and rock to varying degrees, is unfortunately pedestrian. In contrast, the 'home concerts', which as the name suggests, are gigs in front rooms, are a real pleasure. Taking place in relaxed atmospheres where the hosts provide hospitality, the performance is more like a gathering among friends than a concert per se and certainly provides the opportunity to hear an artist up close and personal. Pianist Kirke Karja (above), one of the figureheads of a new generation of very gifted Estonian musicians, plays an engrossing set in a spacious lounge, with sunlight streaming in on a Steinway, which she uses to display the full range of compositional ideas that catch the ear for a lyricism that frequently soars over stark, sometimes austere harmonies. Her time is sufficiently fluid to make her switch between counts of  four, seven and nine, with the alterations being seamless rather than telegraphic. And her ability to draw inspiration from Stravinsky or Debussy, all the while avoiding any 'classical jazz' typecasting, is excellent. Her compatriot, bassist Peedu Kass (below) also acquits himself well, giving a consummate display of rhythmic verve, sweet balladry and technological ingenuity on acoustic and electric versions of the instrument. He starts with Mingus' 'Goodbye Porkpie Hat' and climaxes with Massive Attack's 'Teardrop', but between there is a bracing African-oriented number reflecting the influence of Rich Brown.

Peedu-Kass

Plugged-in sounds of a different kind prove to be a fitting climax to the festival. Bill Evans' Petite Blonde is the group that might convert fusionphobes before they blow the amp of their own prejudice. With the powerhouse rhythm section of Dennis Chambers and Gary Grainger as its axis this is a solidly funky quartet that makes much of a hard steady downbeat and slinky themes and unison lines from their leader's saxophone, still sporting the bandana from his distant Milesian days, and Swedish guitarist Ulf Wakenius. Wakenius is a dazzling soloist whose gritty, occasionally grinding tone and expanded lines, bubbling over with energy and agitation, are a potent compliment to Evans, harmonically. In any case, the keyboard-less group sound has an edge that is appreciated by a wildly responsive audience. Then again, in their centenary year of independence, Estonians have no problem lifting their voices.

Kevin Le Gendre

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Breaking News

Gary Bartz with We Out Here, Rob Luft, E…

The latest names announced for this year’s EFG London Jazz...

Read More.....

Ronnie Scott’s Piano Trio Fest returns w…

This year’s edition of the Ronnie Scott’s International Piano Trio...

Read More.....

Mark Lockheart busts out new jazz-rock Q…

We were getting in at the beginning: the first public...

Read More.....

João Gilberto 10/6/1931 – 6/7/2019

João Gilberto was born in Juazeiro, Bahia, in Brazil in...

Read More.....

Chick Corea, Snarky Puppy, SEED Ensemble…

Love Supreme’s seventh year continues its unique strengths, as an...

Read More.....

Countdown to Love Supreme Jazz Festival …

The Love Supreme Jazz Festival is set to open its...

Read More.....

Braxton Sets New Standards At OTO

Following his glorious residency at London’s Cafe OTO in May...

Read More.....

Shai Maestro, Electric Lady Big Band and…

After its successful inaugural year in 2017, the Jazz Leeds...

Read More.....

Chrissie Hynde goes jazz, Blue Note trib…

Some sizable additions have been added to the EFG London...

Read More.....

Zorn blasts through 50 Bagatelles and Sn…

1959 was a good year for fans of Miles, Trane...

Read More.....

Tony Hall: producer, manager and Jazzwis…

It is with huge sadness that we report the death...

Read More.....

Manhattan Comes To Rottingdean

Unexpected pleasures are the best, even for jazz fans, and...

Read More.....

Saxophonist Alexander Bone wins Kenny Wh…

Twenty-two-year old saxophonist Alexander Bone (above) has been announced as...

Read More.....

LA Fusion stars Spirit Fingers fire-up f…

Virtuosic LA jazz-fusion band Spirit Fingers are set for a...

Read More.....

Call The Cops: Jazzers Run Riot At Bruss…

The annual Brussels Jazz Weekend operates on a gargantuan scale...

Read More.....

Hundred Years Gallery Holds Speaker-Thon

The Hundred Years Gallery, a not-for-profit space showcasing free improvisation...

Read More.....

Babelfish swim to Kings Place for Once U…

Acclaimed jazz-folk group Babelfish are set to launch their new...

Read More.....

Michael Janisch kicks out the jams for n…

Whirlwind Recordings label boss Michael Janisch (above centre) steps back...

Read More.....

Lost Miles Davis Rubberband album snaps …

Rubberband, a previously unissued 1985 album by Miles Davis, is...

Read More.....

Grégoire Tirtiaux and Gratitude Trio lea…

This is a festival where it’s possible to completely miss Kamasi...

Read More.....

Final Bow For The Night Tripper – A Trib…

Refuting the title of his biggest hit, ‘Right Place, Wrong...

Read More.....

Rossano Sportiello rounds out Harriet Co…

For 40 amazing years, the singer Harriet Coleman has presented...

Read More.....

Ronnie Scott’s rolls up to Royal Albert …

Ronnie Scott’s, the iconic London jazz club, will mark its...

Read More.....

Wollny Steals The Night As Moran Breaks …

The first thing to notice were the queues, over 200...

Read More.....

Steam Down, Emma-Jean Thackray and Leafc…

Stroud’s reputation as the alternative hippy hub of the Cotswolds...

Read More.....

Andrew McCormack returns with Graviton: …

Award-winning pianist Andrew McCormack storms back with the second volume...

Read More.....

Jazz Cafe sax summit kicks off second Lo…

Following its successful inaugural run last year, the London Saxophone...

Read More.....

McFerrin Moves Estonian Voices To Jubila…

The second half of Tallinn’s 10-day Jazzkaar festival was particularly...

Read More.....

Herbie Hancock, Terri Lyne Carrington an…

The line-up for this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival is...

Read More.....

Williams And Mancio Find Home With Subli…

  Kate Williams and her distinctive Four Plus Three, that’s her...

Read More.....

McBride, Porter, Reeves and Jazz At Linc…

Although it is a respected cultural event throughout the Caribbean...

Read More.....

Major unreleased Tubby Hayes Fontana alb…

Christmas comes early for fans of the late, great Brit-jazz...

Read More.....

Ripsaw Get Rolling

Baritone saxophonist Cath Roberts and guitarist Anton Hunter take their...

Read More.....

Cello Fellows Honsinger, Dixon & Lon…

The fifth annual Chicago Jazz String Summit took place at...

Read More.....

Bristol Jazz Fest launches Crowdfunder l…

The Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival has launched a...

Read More.....

Marcus Miller, Tim Garland and Leïla Mar…

The full line-up for this year’s Manchester Jazz Festival has...

Read More.....

Making The Cut Mpu 300x500px

Subcribe To Jazzwise

Advertisement

Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

@WesTirey especially when it is in your house
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
@AbstractTruth I can see that, too
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

© 2016 MA Business & Leisure Ltd registered in England and Wales number 02923699 Registered office: Jesses Farm, Snow Hill, Dinton, Salisbury, SP3 5HN . Designed By SE24 MEDIA