Friday 09 November
If it were not for the sudden proliferation of BBC microphones and London Jazz Festival banners, the annual jazz festival season would pass for normal in NE London. Cafe Oto scored a coup worthy of the festival two days before it commenced, hosting pianist Marilyn Crispell in a rare London session with AMM founder Eddie Prévost and Harrison Smith. And over the road at the Vortex Jazz Club, day one of the festival coincided nicely, as director Oliver Wiendling couldn’t resist pointing out, with “day 313 of the Vortex jazz festival”.
Bushman’s Revenge, SynKoke, Albatrosh
8.30pm. The Vortex
You couldn’t ask for a more exemplary contemporary Jazz duo than Albatrosh. Drawing mostly on original material from their terrific 2011 album Yonkers (Rune Grammofon), pianist Eyolf Dale and saxophonist Andre Roligheten played music full of subtlety and delightful nuance that had little truck with voguish polarisation of Jazz in chamber or avant-rock camps. Their music is instantly identifiable as Jazz, yet they have no obvious antecedents. They draw on extant styles but avoid direct quotation or mimicry, playing meticulously conceived compositions with the spontaneity and dynamic flair of free improvisors.
SynKoke couldn’t be more different. This dynamic quintet aim for a crushing intensity of sound leavened by abrasive choral riffs, most effective when played out at climactic length. Bassist Ellen Andrea Wang is the calm, steadily thrumming heart of the group, laying down a monotone pulse throughout the long-form “Prisoner” while drummer Kurt Andrè Aase, guitarist Ole Ådland and keyboard player Kristian Notland Harnes whip up lacerating whorls of noise. Erik Nerheim’s sax breaks the surface as a keening melody that draws the listener in. Having peaked early in intensity, SynKoke ground the latter half of their set with more jagged older material, which they’ve well described as “punked jazz”.
Bushman’s Revenge get their mojo working after a lacklustre stat by exploring their more tender virtues with a downtempo ballad. Thereafter, while drummer Gard Nilssen powers the trio along a hyperkinetic jazz-rock trail blazed by precursors such as Ginger Baker, Rune Nergaard works his limber bass lines in melodic counterpoint to guitarist Even Helte Hermansen’s lead. Bushman’s really hit paydirt with a power blast through Sonny Sharrock’s “As We Used to Sing”, which has a strong implicit lyricism that their own material mostly lacks. With Albatrosh saxman Andre Roligheten sitting in here, the group extrapolate from Sharrock’s killer melody in absolutely irresistible style.
Saturday 10 November
Adventures if Sound
2pm. Cafe Oto
I dropped into the sessions for BBC Radio’s ‘Adventures if Sound’ sessions at OTO hoping to catch Peter Brötzmann’s ADA trio with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, but my timing was off, and I just caught a brief set – one longish piece – by Golden Age of Steam.
Led by saxophonist James Allsopp, GAOS has expanded to a quintet completed by Kit Downes (keyboards), Alex Bonney (trumpet and electronics), Ruth Goller (electric bass), and Tim Giles (drums). The blend of Downes’s Hammond and Bonney’s electronics provides a rich palette for Allsopp’s painterly compositions, imparting a kaleidoscopic feel despite Goller and Giles’s boldly defined, tight-knit rhythmic grooves.
I missed sets by Eve Risser, Metal-O-Phone, and Johannes Bauer & Per Åke Holmlander, which were all recorded for broadcast.
Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet
8pm, Cafe Oto
Playing for the second consecutive night at OTO, the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet promised to be the highlight of the year, let alone the festival, and they didn’t disappoint.
Rather than fire on all cylinders, the Tentet operates most effectively on a one in/one out basis, where the balance of power shifts constantly between subsections of the band, and reedsmen Mats Gustafsson and Ken Vandermark carve eloquent solo statements out of effective bridge sections.
Fred Lonberg-Holm, on cello and electronics, sometimes operated as a wildcard, playing either unsettling drones that wormed their way through the macho brass bluster, or discombobulating percussive scrabbles of processed sound. Drummers Paal Nilssen-Love and Michael Zerang meanwhile played to their individual strengths – Nilssen-Love a kinetic powerhouse, Zerang more relaxed and freewheeling.
The Tentet’s phenomenal brass section – Joe McPhee (pocket trumpet), Johannes Bauer and Jeb Bishop (Trombone), and Per Åke Holmlander (Tuba) – were on magnificent form, particularly in the second set, so I was disappointed when Brötzmann peremptorily terminated a fiery exchange between Holmlander and Bishop. But the bandleader wanted to clear the sound field to expose a particularly poignant Kent Kessler bass line, and he’d obviously heard within it the germ of his own subsequent solo, which was perhaps the most inspired and original I’ve ever heard him play, in any context.
London Jazz Festival 2012, part 2: AKODE, Black Motor, Kuára, Rakka
London Jazz Festival 2012, part 3: Bill Frisell – The Great Flood + Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith and John Tilbury
Peter Brötzmann ADA trio at Cafe Oto, February 2012
Bushman’s Revenge: A Little Bit of Big Bonanza
SynKoke – The Ideologist