|Petter Eldh, Ulli Jennessen, Wanja Slavin|
Jazzdor Strassbourg 2013. Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski
Strasbourg Jazzdor Festival.
Second Day Round-Up. Various venues in Strasbourg, 9th November 2013. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
The show must go on, and so it did. Drummer Christian Lillinger's is the face which looks out from every brochure and every poster for the Jazzdor Festival, all over the city and all over the net. But the man himself was stuck at Moscow airport and never made it for yesterday afternoon's concert by his two-year-old Berlin-based trio with Swedish bassist Petter Eldh and German saxophonist Wanja Slavin.
Another Berlin drummer Ulli Jennesssen stepped in at no notice, and produced a definite highlight of the weekend. The trio was playing completely acoustically in a venue which the festival was using for the first time, the contemporary art centre CEAAC, which is extensively visited by school groups during the week. It has a tall double-floor interior, and the sound was superb.
The trio billed itself provocatively, angrily for the occasion for this one-off appearance as the 'Edward Snowden Trio'. Eldh is known to British audiences as the irrepressibly lively foil for Django Bates in his Belovèd Bird Trio. Wanja Slavin plays soft-toned alto but with astonishing directness of expression and confidence of language. His stance with the instrument, often like a distance runner at the start of a race with left foot forward, is like a visual demonstration of his sense of urgency and purpose as he plays. Substitute drummer Ulli Jennessen performed a remarkable feat just stepping in. Highlights were the two movements of Petter Eldh's composition Gullmaj, named after the ferry which plies between Stockholm and Saint Petersburg, and partcularly Hatred. Slavin let off an inexorable series of slowly delivered, defiant, piercing, repeated top altissimo 'A's which will stay in my mind's ear for a long time.
|Émilie Lesbros. Jazzdor Strasbourg 2013|
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski
There was also defiance and protest towards the end of a solo set lasting nearly an hour by experimental vocalist Émilie Lesbros. She picked up a guitar towards the end and sang a Joan Baez-ish song: “Speak up, talk more, talk louder / I need more people to kill the system.” But earlier she had by turns been both skittish and lyrical. It was varied and an endlessly imaginative set. Lesbros sounds as if she is probably plugged into the New York experimental vocal scene, but also brings a definite French je ne sais quoi.
The evening two-part concert in the stifling, airless out-of-town venue Pôle Sud brought a Berlin-based band which likes to deal in irony, starting with its title “Die Enttäuschung”. It is a vehicle for genial, musical clarinettist Rudi Mahall.
|Stephane Kerecki,Antoine Berjeaut, Mike Ladd|
Jazzdor Strasbourg 2013. Photo Credit: Ralf Dombrowski
The second part brought trumpeter/ bandleader Antoine Berjeaut and American slam poet Mike Ladd. The music is every bit as strong as I remember it from having heard it (and reviewed) at Jazzdor Berlin in June.
The presentation gives space for band members (in fact band-leaders in their own right) like bassist Stephane Kerecki and trumpeter Antoine Berjeaut to be seen to best advantage, to take extensive solo features. It also brought a new addition, saxophonist Julien Loureau, who was also honoured with substantial space to stretch out.
So, on the level of a concert, Wasteland has much to recommend it. Berjeaut is a compositional talent of real substance. But there is another ambition here, which is to tell a story. And that is where the problems begin: it's all very confusing, as was neatly summed up in Mike Ladd's words from the stage: “It isn't serious if you can't follow the story.” The project definitely has appeal and potential, but probably needs some more conscious and high-quality thought as to how it can balance its abundant musical strengths with the desire to deliver a coherent narrative.
The festival here is just beginning, but London and its festival now beckon.