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

Turquazz: Anatolian Jazz & Roots Fes…

  The inaugural Turquazz: Anatolian Jazz & Roots Festival – a...

Read More.....

Saxophonist Seamus Blake launches new al…

Acclaimed saxophonist Seamus Blake releases his new album, Guardians of...

Read More.....

Taborn's Finessed Tapestry Of Textures F…

  The large number of musicians at this sold-out show says...

Read More.....

Abdullah Ibrahim, Gregory Porter, Yazz A…

The full line-up has been announced for Cheltenham Jazz Festival...

Read More.....

Irreversible Entanglements + Matana Robe…

  Matana Roberts (above) is so relaxed tonight her short opening set...

Read More.....

Jazz FM Awards nominations celebrate gia…

The names for the 2019 Jazz FM Awards were revealed...

Read More.....

Patchwork Jazz Orchestra premiere ‘Badge…

The London-based 17-piece Patchwork Jazz Orchestra are set to release...

Read More.....

NJYO, JCM, friends and family pay tribut…

As Jon Hiseman would say: “If you are going to...

Read More.....

Sons of Kemet, Moses Boyd, Nubya Garcia …

The programme has been announced the inaugural We Out Here...

Read More.....

NCO hit bullseye with CTI at Ronnie Scot…

Tomorrow’s Warriors’ role as a springboard for emerging talent in...

Read More.....

Countdown To Ecstasy: Royal Academy Big …

  There are some people, who I've never understood, who smirk...

Read More.....

Melt Yourself Down, Laura Mvula and Kama…

The second edition of Love Supreme at the Roundhouse takes...

Read More.....

Michel Legrand 24/02/1932 – 26/01/2019

The prolific French film composer and pianist Michel Legrand was...

Read More.....

Hamasyan In Inspired Orchestral Manoeuvr…

The Brussels Jazz Festival is a relative newcomer, but this...

Read More.....

Zara McFarlane and Soweto Kinch turn up …

The night goes on and they keep on coming, a...

Read More.....

Jazz meets theatrical protest with The A…

Few styles of music can claim to have come as...

Read More.....

Snarky Puppy return with new album Immig…

Grammy-winning groove crew Snarky Puppy return with a new studio...

Read More.....

Blue Note spearheads 80th Anniversary Ye…

The iconic Blue Note label will celebrate its milestone 80th...

Read More.....

John Turville dives in Head First – new …

Pianist and composer John Turville returns with a new album...

Read More.....

Uri Caine and Henri Texier dazzle while …

Jazzfestival Münster is celebrating its 40th anniversary, but has only...

Read More.....

Ezra Collective bring the Brit-Jazz Nois…

Much like in other recent editions of New York's Winter...

Read More.....

Yazz Ahmed and Jasper Høiby line-up for …

For some there is a Holy Grail in jazz: to...

Read More.....

Matthew Herbert marks Brexit with Big Ba…

Composer, conductor and sampling-supremo Matthew Herbert is set to release...

Read More.....

Joseph Jarman 14/09/37 – 9/01/19

  The recitation of 'Non-Cognitive Aspects Of The City' by Dante...

Read More.....

Wandering Monster step up with 'Samsara…

Bass-led progressive jazz group Wandering Monster are set to release...

Read More.....

Cécile McLorin Salvant, Oded Tzur Quarte…

  The unfeasibly warm November weather was matched by the heat...

Read More.....

Edinburgh embraces the Thrill of Belgian…

Belgium may be better known for its beer than its...

Read More.....

Mitchener And Yarde Break Blues Boundari…

The blues is a lived and living truth, as much...

Read More.....

Ra's Arkestra Announces Annual Lewes Aff…

The Sun Ra Arkestra – led by that indomitable intergalactic...

Read More.....

Steve Williamson, Silje Nergaard and Tin…

Southampton’s Turner Sims music venue has announced an impressive line-up...

Read More.....

19-year-old vibraphonist Sasha Berliner …

19-year-old vibraphonist Sasha Berliner wins LetterOne Rising Stars Award California-based...

Read More.....

Nordic Wonders: Rune Grammofon Bring The…

Determined individuals who ignore categories define the Norwegian scene, in...

Read More.....

Mehldau Marvels At Jazztopad

  The entire spectrum can dazzle at Jazztopad, a Polish festival in...

Read More.....

Jazz FM Awards return for 2019

The Jazz FM Awards return for a sixth time next...

Read More.....

Chick Corea, Madeleine Peyroux and Kamaa…

The organisers of the Love Supreme Jazz Festival, which runs...

Read More.....

Peter Boizot 1929 – 2018

The press obituaries for Peter Boizot, who has died aged...

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

@KirkdaleBooks a bee-hemoth
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
@ZrazyMusic great skills, but great tackle at the end 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