The Lage Lund Trio, Julia Hülsmann and Christopher Dell inspire at Jazzfest Bonn

During its unlikely spell as the post-war capital of West Germany, Bonn was the butt of numerous jokes about its size. Its nickname, the Federal Village, says it all. Nowadays it's still too sleepy and provincial to have much of a music scene. But it has history. Beethoven was born here and the ailing Robert Schumann spent his final years in an asylum just outside the city. It's also the base for Germany's national youth jazz orchestra, the BuJazzO, which has been bringing through future stars for the past 30 years. And, if you follow the River Rhine a little way north, you're in Cologne – home to one of Europe's oldest and most highly-regarded university jazz courses; the WDR Big Band; and excellent venues the Stadtgarten and the Loft, whose organisers are doing great things with minuscule budgets.

Numerous players from the Cologne scene, including pianist Pablo Held, were on the bill for this year's JazzFest Bonn, which was founded by dynamic saxophonist Peter Materna in 2010. As were international stars John Scofield, Django Bates and Ed Motta. Not that the festival does headliners. Materna knows how hard it is to build a profile as a musician and one of his philosophies is to give all the acts equal prominence in the marketing material. For the same reason, each concert in the festival's two-week run is a double-bill, and Materna has tried to programme unlikely pairings, to introduce audiences to something new.

Huelsmann-Dell c Walter Schnabel

That's a nice idea in theory. I think the crowd at the Beethoven-Haus, an airy 200-seat recital room adjoining the composer's birthplace, enjoyed local vocalist Inga Lühning and bassist André Nendza's mix of jazz pop covers and originals (complete with groovy beat-boxing and the odd kazoo solo) more than I did. But it was worth it for the second half: a meeting between pianist Julia Hülsmann and phenomenal vibraphonist Christopher Dell (pictured above), two key figures on the Berlin scene playing for the first time as a duo. Piano and vibes is a challenging combination and, with both musicians playing chords and trying to keep on top of the time, the early numbers felt a little rigid. But there were some gorgeous, disorientating moments when the sound of the two instruments blurred and you couldn't tell whose scrambling lines and fractious, close harmonies were whose. And from the balladic 'Weit Weg' onwards everything was freer and more relaxed. Hülsmann cut through the brightness of Dell's vibes on 'Hundert', by damping the piano strings with her hand and playing wiry, percussive figures. And Dell scattered notes like hundreds-and-thousands on his own abstract solo composition, 'Plötzlichkeit', taking tennis swings at the bars and throwing his limbs around like a second set of beaters. For sheer invention there aren't many contemporary vibraphonists who can match him.

Two nights later, after another divisive set of jazz pop (from UK vocalist Julia Biel this time, pictured below), he sounded equally comfortable shredding over minimalist rock grooves with charismatic drummer Wolfgang Haffner and his quartet in the theatre of the Haus der Geschichte. Haffner is a showman and he worked the crowd like a pro: cracking jokes, leaping to his feet in time with the final cymbal whack of each tune, and closing his set with a feature-length version of 'Concierto de Aranjuez', as heard on his latest release Kind Of Spain. It opened with a theatrical bass solo for Christian Diener, incorporated a snare drum feature, and climaxed with bruising chords from Dell and pianist Roberto Di Gioia, as Haffner gave it everything on kit. Cue two standing ovations and two encores.

The most satisfying double concert pairing was also the least surprising – a night at the Brotfabrik cultural centre, which opened with a set from Norwegian guitarist Lage Lund (pictured top). There's an easy-going weirdness to Lund's compositions that distinguishes them from run-of-the-mill post-bop, and a thoughtful air to his playing that I like. He stared into space as he played, cloaking the uneasy melody of 'Brasilia' in a complex nexus of chords and puzzling, unexpected resolutions on 'Suppressions'. 'California' was a balmy feature for bassist Matt Brewer, whose upper register blended beautifully with Lund's guitar. While Justin Faulkner, a prodigious drummer who gave the Branford Marsalis Quartet a new lease of life, tore up a Metheny-ish unnamed composition with a solo full of thundering rolls and crash cymbal cuts. His explosive energy was the perfect foil for Lund's glossy, unhurried calm.

The second half was a gentle, musical conversation between Belgian guitar great Philip Catherine and bassist Martin Wind. They traded melodies and choruses on 'How Deep Is The Ocean', 'But Beautiful' and 'Why Can't You Behave?'. And Wind (a wonderfully melodic player) added some glistening bowed phrases to lesser-known Hoagy Carmichael tune 'Winter Moon'. These three days at JazzFest Bonn felt genteel and both sets perfectly suited that mood.

Thomas Rees 

– Photos by Walter Schnabel (Hülsmann/Dell) and Lutz Voigtländer (Biel/Lage)

For more info visit www.jazzfest-bonn.de

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

Archie Shepp’s Art Songs & Spirituals blows the blues away at Barbican

Archie Shepp’s Art Songs & Spiritual…

This evening gets off to a flying start with Simon...

Read More.....
Gregory Porter, Joshua Redman, The Bad Plus, Sergio Mendes and bigger Big Top for Cheltenham 2019

Gregory Porter, Joshua Redman, The Bad P…

The first names have been revealed for next year's Cheltenham...

Read More.....
Billy Harper charges up Church Of Sound

Billy Harper charges up Church Of Sound

A house of praise is the perfect setting for one...

Read More.....
Ezra Collective Get Sweaty And Prophetic For Jazz-Plus Party At Patterns

Ezra Collective Get Sweaty And Prophetic…

  "This is about joy and happiness and celebrating everything that's...

Read More.....
GoGo Penguin: Kings Of The Bill Take Flight At Concorde

GoGo Penguin: Kings Of The Bill Take Fli…

  The Concorde usually hosts mid-ranking rock bands or popular club...

Read More.....
Helena Kay’s KIM Trio launch Moon Palace album with 'L and D' video

Helena Kay’s KIM Trio launch Moon Palace…

Fast emerging saxophonist Helena Kay is set to release her...

Read More.....
Ben LaMar Gay Breaks Back Of Chicagoan Post-Jazz With Melancholic OTO Matinee

Ben LaMar Gay Breaks Back Of Chicagoan P…

A wet afternoon in the 'Big Smoke' is brightened by...

Read More.....
Shepp Sharp, Fiery and Free at Enjoy Fest

Shepp Sharp, Fiery and Free at Enjoy Fes…

The Enjoy Jazz festival is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary...

Read More.....
Baker On A Roll As Her Eden Project Pays Tribute To Ed Blackwell At Brunswick

Baker On A Roll As Her Eden Project Pays…

  Lorraine Baker recorded one of the season's freshest sounding releases...

Read More.....
Freestage Stars Ready To Fire Up EFG London Jazz Festival

Freestage Stars Ready To Fire Up EFG Lon…

With the full programme confirmed for this year's EFG London...

Read More.....
Sons of Kemet: Kinetic and Chaotic at Komedia

Sons of Kemet: Kinetic and Chaotic at Ko…

There is already a sense of excitement in the air...

Read More.....
Henri Texier, Denys Baptiste, Ghost Note and AEC heat up 37th Tampere Jazz Happening

Henri Texier, Denys Baptiste, Ghost Note…

The 37th edition of what is a key date on...

Read More.....
Dave Holland's Aziza Up The Ante At Ronnie's

Dave Holland's Aziza Up The Ante At Ronn…

The old joke that the audience will have a chance...

Read More.....
Art Ensemble and Mary Halvorson among the hair-raising turns at Berlin Fest humdinger

Art Ensemble and Mary Halvorson among th…

The English music critic Richard Williams finished his three-year stint...

Read More.....
A Melting Pot Of Sounds – Pelin Opcin talks about the EFG London Jazz Festival

A Melting Pot Of Sounds – Pelin Opcin ta…

Alyn Shipton spoke to Pelin Opcin, the EFG London Jazz...

Read More.....
Roy Hargrove – 16/10/69 – 2/11/18

Roy Hargrove – 16/10/69 – 2/11/18

Although several of his legendary predecessors met their maker while...

Read More.....
Victor Wooten puts the bass on top at Ronnie Scott’s

Victor Wooten puts the bass on top at Ro…

No one really noticed the quiet, contemplative figure who was...

Read More.....
Love Supreme Jazz Festival launches new monthly music series

Love Supreme Jazz Festival launches new …

With the first names still be announced for the 2019...

Read More.....
Alexander Hawkins heads up Emulsion Fest Part VII

Alexander Hawkins heads up Emulsion Fest…

The seventh installment of the genre-busting Emulsion Festival is set...

Read More.....
Shirley Tetteh, Denys Baptiste and Ian Shaw among Parliamentary Jazz Award winners

Shirley Tetteh, Denys Baptiste and Ian S…

The winners of the 14th annual Parliamentary Jazz Awards took...

Read More.....
Omar Puente and Steam Down Collective for Albany

Omar Puente and Steam Down Collective fo…

South London's longstanding music and arts venue, The Albany, has...

Read More.....
Up From The Vaults: Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet Albums Back on Vinyl

Up From The Vaults: Don Rendell/Ian Carr…

Long regarded as among the most notable and, in recent...

Read More.....
Georgia Mancio's triumphant triple bill at second Pizza Hang

Georgia Mancio's triumphant triple bill …

It's been something of an annus mirabilis for the vocalist...

Read More.....
Makaya McCraven’s Universal Beings, The Necks and Ambrose Akinmusire make moves at Mondriaan Jazz Fest

Makaya McCraven’s Universal Beings, The …

The second edition of the Mondriaan Jazz Festival takes place...

Read More.....
Black Top boogie on down for Sardinian Extravaganza

Black Top boogie on down for Sardinian E…

This exciting initiative taken by London-based vocalist Filomena Campus is...

Read More.....
UK Seers Foresee Future Homegrown Visions At Jazz In The Round's Emergence Fest

UK Seers Foresee Future Homegrown Vision…

Jazz In The Round promoters Chris Phillips and Jez Nelson...

Read More.....
Julian Siegel and Renegade Brass light up Limerick Jazz Festival

Julian Siegel and Renegade Brass light u…

This year's festival was perhaps short on surprises, compared to...

Read More.....
Dayes Of Future Past As Yussef Dazzles At Brighton's Haunt

Dayes Of Future Past As Yussef Dazzles A…

The bouncer outside is busy checking ID and handing out...

Read More.....
Gobbling Gourmet On Finnish Baltic Sea Jazz Cruise

Gobbling Gourmet On Finnish Baltic Sea J…

Most jazz cruises skim through moist Caribbean parts, proffering smooth...

Read More.....
New York group SUM premiere ‘Sinking Sand’ video

New York group SUM premiere ‘Sinking San…

Fast emerging New York group SUM bring together jazz, soul...

Read More.....
Claire Martin and Liane Carroll top JBGB autumn jazz line-up

Claire Martin and Liane Carroll top JBGB…

There's a busy jazz line-up at the Other Palace, PizzaExpress...

Read More.....
Guadeloupean Drummer Dolmen Goes For Gwoka At French Institute

Guadeloupean Drummer Dolmen Goes For Gwo…

The World Is Moving is an apt title for this...

Read More.....
Riot Jazz Brass Band for ISM Trust's The Empowered Musician Conference

Riot Jazz Brass Band for ISM Trust's The…

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) Trust are holding a...

Read More.....
Bishop Bones Up In Glasgow

Bishop Bones Up In Glasgow

Chicagoan trombonist Jeb Bishop (Vandermark 5/Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet/Globe Unity...

Read More.....
Szun Waves share new video for ‘Moon Runes’

Szun Waves share new video for ‘Moon Run…

Jazztronica trio Szun Waves have just released the video for...

Read More.....
Flying Machines Video Exclusive – ‘New Life’

Flying Machines Video Exclusive – ‘New L…

Guitarist Alex Munk returns in emphatic style with his hard-driving...

Read More.....


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

Office late pm vibes: dulcet guitar arpeggios punctuating raindrops, spirit in Motian @ECMRecords @ProperJazz… https://t.co/N7J5HWDOcM
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
Archie Shepp’s Art Songs & Spirituals blows the blues away at Barbican https://t.co/VwHEFpEUbB https://t.co/mmoiGPFKG3
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