FESTIVAL: Day Two of 2015 Inntoene (David Murray, Stéphane Belmondo, Sarah Jane Morris, Steve Grossman, Lenny Popkin)

Lenny Popkin, Gilles Naturel, Carol Tristano
Inntoene Festival 2015
Inntoene Jazz Festival 2015
(Diersbach, Austria. Saturday 23rd May. Day Two Review by Alison Bentley)

By the second day the rain had settled in but the audience’s spirits weren’t dampened- they were there for the music.

The line up of trumpeter Franz Hackl’s IDO was surprising- Pete Drungle’s Classically-influenced piano style, Reggie Washington’s electric bass, and Aleksander Petrov’s huge Macedonian tapan drum (it looked like a New Orleans marching band bass drum.) Weather Report’s A Remark You Made had misty flugel and bass in unison, and sensitive brushes. As Drungle’s Chopin-like piano drifted across the oriental groove of Istanbul, with funky bass, and tapan sounding like a giant jembe, the instrumentation made total sense- it pulled at the heart strings. Henderson’s Inner Urge (almost faster than the speed of sound) had loping slap bass, redolent of Washington’s work with Steve Coleman. Taken from Gil Evans’ arrangement, Hendrix’ Little Wing had slow rock energy and jazz subtlety, with Christian Scott-like trumpet stabs. In the land of the Sound Of Music, Do-Re-Mi was played as never before over two dark minor chords, doom-laden but tongue-in-cheek.

UK singer Sarah Jane Morris followed, resplendent in red crinoline, with songs from her African-influenced Blood Rain album. The smoked timbre of her deep voice contrasted with the smooth African rhythms of Tim Cansfield and Cameron Pierre’s guitars, recalling the rootsy albums of Cassandra Wilson. Her own songs centred on Afrobeat themes of social justice: No Beyoncé covered honour killings; Comfort Have They None was dedicated to the ‘stolen Nigerian girls’, and Blood Rain vilified callous governments, sung with anger and raw emotion. Wild Flowers was about her childhood, the flowers a recurring motif of innocence among the dysfunction. The soukous rhythms in this and Cave’s Into My Arms were infectious and uplifting. As the temperature dropped outside, we clapped and sang along to Piece of My Heart, I Shall Be Released and her 80s hit Don’t Leave me This Way - a remarkable feat to keep the groove going with just two acoustic guitars and an eager audience.

In total contrast, US tenor-player Lenny Popkin’s diaphanous tone drew us quietly into his interior monologue by means of Warne Marsh-influenced bop lines- the edges softened by the tone. Drummer Carol Tristano kept the groove, sometime with brushes on ride cymbal, sometimes with sticks on snare. In You Stepped out of a Dream, Popkin’s long sinuous lines started and ended in unexpected places, pausing till he was ready to say the next thing. Gilles Naturel’s strong bass pulse allowed him lots of space to spell out the harmony. In My Old Flame, Popkin crescendoed up to the peak of a phrase then dropped back, the way speech patterns do. Naturel’s All the Thoughts You Have had a complex bowed bass theme over the chords to All the Things You Are; the bass solo was remarkably detailed and controlled. ‘You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To,’ said Popkin appreciatively to the audience- they applauded the powerful drum solo. In the encore Indiana his notes were immensely fast, never skating over the beat, each note articulated and feather light.

French trumpeter Stéphane Belmondo got to know Chet Baker when he was 15, and was encouraged by him. Tonight he was playing music from his recent Love for Chet album, using the same trio format that Baker used in the late 70s/80s. Bassist Thomas Bramerie himself worked with Baker. In Love For Sale, Belmondo’s warm flugel tone, and vivid, melodic way of improvising recalled Paolo Fresu. La Chanson D'Hélène was a plaintive waltz, guitarist Jesse Van Ruller’s excellent guitar full of articulate phrases, recalling Peter Bernstein. Seven Steps to Heaven had exuberant bursts of flugel improvisation, while the gently Latin Daddy and I brought out a more country side to Van Ruller’s playing. Belmondo clustered notes together as if following lyrics in his head.

Hard bop tenorist Steve Grossman was next, playing many of the tunes from the album Take the D Train he’s recorded with pianist Martin Sasse’s trio. The sax tone was tough but vulnerable in This Time the Dream’s On Me. Grossman rolled his eyes back, as if waiting for the next note to come to him. Like Someone in Love had a melodic bass solo from Henning Gailing, which Grossman applauded- he focused carefully on all the rest of the band’s solos, including Mario Gonzi’s drums in Take the D Train. Michel Petrucciani once described Grossman’s playing as that of ‘man announcing the latest news, like the newspaper boy.’ There was something urban and compelling about his playing in Bye Bye Blackbird, sliding up to the notes as if pulling them up by the roots, heartfelt but unsentimental.

On the other side of the farmyard, there were late sessions in the St. Pig’s Pub- a former pigsty; now a rustic bar for those who wanted to stand, chat and warm up a little. It was hard to see saxophonist David Murray (or to hearJose Rivero’s piano or John Betsch’s drums) from the back of the crowd. But you could see the people at the front responding wildly to his multiphonics as if they were heavy metal guitar solos. One piece alternated 7/4 Latin sections with straight swing, Murray veering between a mellow Lester Young drawl and an Albert Ayler squall. He kept the audience absolutely with him while playing freely. In a highlife-tinged Latin piece, Murray half chanted, half sang, ‘Bahia, where I want to be’, before exploding into an altissimo display.

The jam sessions went on till 5am (I was told!)

LINK: 2015 Inntoene Day One Report: Bobby Watson, Kaja Draksler, Daid Helbock

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