REPORTS: Third and fouth nights of the 2016 WDR3 Jazzfest at Theater Münster

Mike Gibbs (right) thanking the NDR big band as they
acknowledge the applause from a full house


Third and fourth nights of the 2016 WDR 3 Jazzfest 2016
(Theater Münster, 30th and 31st January 2016. Reports by Sebastian Scotney, Oliver Weindling - late Saturday, and Tobias Richtsteig - Sunday)




SATURDAY (Jazzmeia Horn, Nils Landgren, NDR Big Band/ Gibbs, Sternal/Manderscheid duo / Chris Speed Trio)

This, our third report from Münster, is a three-way collaborative effort. For the Saturday night of the WDR3 Jazz Festival, the main theatre was completely sold out for a two part programme.

First Nils Landgren and Viktoria Tolstoy performed Some Other Time, a new Bernstein project with specially commissioned arrangements from Vince Mendoza. Landgren is a hugely popular figure throughout Germany, and the full house gave him a hero's welcome.

Viktoria Tolstoy, Joerg Achim Keller, Nils Landgren
with winds and brass of the Bochumer Symphoniker


There is a full explanation – in English – to the background to the project in this beautifully produced Youtube EPK . A key constituent of the project is that top dog among German jazz bass players Dieter Ilg, whose less-is-more approach completely fits with these arrangements.

The second half was a set from the NDR Big Band directed by Mike Gibbs, and playing almost exclusively arrangements by him. The NDR Big Band's programme was yet another demonstration of what a consummate arranger for big band Mike Gibbs is. He took the trouble to explain where some of the devices in particular pieces has been – to use his word - “nicked” from. In the first piece, he set out his stall as an admirer of Kenny Wheeler, in the second a bass progression from Messian's L'Ascension, elsewhere there was a piece in memory of Paco De Lucia – and in honour of the country where he now makes his home. There was also a slightly re-worked version of Gibbs' arrangement of Eberhard Weber's Maurizius. It felt like a masterpiece when I first heard it in Stuttgart a year ago, and on the record, and even more so in this second live performance. It has a completely natural pace and development from the quiet piano opening (Wladislaw Sendecki) and shimmeringly quiet guitar arpeggios (Sandra Hempel) onwards and upwards and bigger and ever more heartfelt, through an episode which John Adams would have been pleased to write, and on to the full-band blaze.

This concert was just part of a very full night, with one concert before the main show, and two after it. It was also the “long night of jazz” on WDR3 and Oesterreich 1, which involves the broadcasters radio programming flitting into and out of the live concerts.

Jazzmeia Horn performed an early evening set. She won the 2013 Sarah Vaughan Competition in 2013, the Thelonious Monk competition in 2015. I thought she was getting more powerful and connecting better and better as the set progressed, and just hold in my mind what the second set which never was might have been like. Her Concord Records debut scheduled for later this year will be something worth waiting for.

The Saturday ended (Oliver Weindling writes) with two late night sets in the small hall. First a duo of Sebastian Sternal, a former WDR prize winner and pupil of John Taylor, with Dieter Manderscheid on bass. The classical inspiration for the music was asserted by Manderscheid’s extensive use of the bow. The core music on which they improvised was, on the face of it, a disparate bunch which didn’t seem to work: mixture of originals, classical composers such as Vivaldi, Scriabin and Mompou with purer jazz such as Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Bill Evans. Part of the rationale is that they clearly love the originals, but also that they actually have common strands: The care with which they have developed the duo is shown by how they were able to fuse two compositions that when introduced might induce a few eyebrows to be raised but achieve it seamlessly, such as the Scriabin with Duke Ellington or Bill Evans’ Time Remembered with a composition by Thomas Heberer.

The final set of the night from the trio of Chris Speed with Chris Tordini and Dave King showed quite a contrast in approach to the duo but not necessarily in sound level! Relatively melodic and rhythmic, it was anchored by King who managed to deliver Bad Plus drumming and intensity at the quietest of levels which allowed Speed and Tordini to open up terms of their lines with relative ease. It was reminiscent of a Sonny Rollins trio in approach but certainly anchored in the scene of 2016

Sunday 31st (Annette Maye with Gianluigi Trovesi, Sidsel Endresen)


Julia Hülsmann


First onto the main stage for the second half of Sunday night (writes Tobias Richtsteig) was Julia Hülsmann, but - for once - not to play piano. She introduced a solo performance by Sidsel Endresen. The Norwegian singer had been awarded the European Prize of the FrauenKulturbüro NRW at the prize concert on Friday, in honour her major career as improviser, educator, and as an impressive role model for generations of young musicians.

Hülsmann, an academic educator in her own right, had chaired the jury which awarded the prize and told the audience in Münster that she would often play Endresen's recordings to her pupils, as an inspirational example of an artist, constantly exploring ways to find a unique and individual expressiveness in Music. What followed was one of the most breathtaking performances of the whole four day WDR 3 Jazzfest.

One chair and one microphone were all Sidsel Endresen, her singing, whispering and breathing. needed to capture the attention of the well-filled theatre. She began her performance singing a kind of Folksong, although it was hard to tell if the words were Norwegian, or in some kind of improvised dialect.

Such doubts were cast aside in her following piece, which turned the simple acts of inhaling and exhaling into highly effective audio art, presumably telling the story of a magnetic tape editing process, rewinding and scratching, and so on. This was followed by a Gertrude-Stein-like poem, linking Endresen's "abstract" storytelling to the "absurd" DaDa-Performances a hundred years ago in Zürich.

That might give the impression that Sidsel Endresen is just an artsy and other-worldly performer. She proved the contrary in the encore which the audience had been begging for, concluding with some real-world advice: "ears listen. lips kiss. feet walk... and these are some basic techniques of survival."

This mind-opening final concert of the WDR 3 Jazzfest had been preceded by a set from clarinettist Annette Maye, who had been presented the "Förderpreis" of the FrauenKulturBüro NRW. Maye in turn presented her band "Vinograd Express", which co-leads with trumpet player Udo Moll. This quartet, together with the guest (and longtime musical friend) Gianluigi Trovesi played a bunch of pieces of the"masada"-series of John Zorn. They have an unusual take on it, treating Zorn's "radical jewish music" as a sort of "folklore imaginaire".

These young musicians and Trovesi (a kind of 'Umberto Eco of the Clarinet' being north-italian and a universal genius at ease with pre-renaissance music as well as with non-European traditions and free improv avantgarde) presented the wisest form of musicianship: their music - and pieces of Maye and Moll made that point more than clear - is not about showing off virtuosic skills (although they handled some tough odd-meter-tasks very deftly).

Instead they took time, invested musical personality in their playing an created a moment of communion - something, every festival should be happy to aim for. Especially Udo Moll's piece Rubidium stayed long in the heart and ears of the listeners: basically a ten-minute drum solo (Max Andrzejewski) with some carefully added chords by the wind instruments - the Jazzfest-audience loved it!

(Sebastian again). This festival gave continuing and potent reminders of the commitment of WDR and of the region of NRW to promoting and supporting jazz is not just substantial, it is also targeted and built around the model of sustainability.

The story is to be continued, in 2017, on February 2nd to 5th in Gütersloh.....and then, as ever, broadcast on the German radio station which does more for jazz than just about any other in Europe.

LINKS: Review Martial Solal Trio
REPORT: Nights 1 and 2 of the 2016 WDR3 Jazzfest

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