|L-R: Pablo Held, Robert Landfermann, Jonas Burgwinkel|
The quality, confidence and musicality of the three bass-players were what stood out in all three performances that I attended today at the 2016 Jazzahead German showcase. There is definitely something special going on in German jazz bass playing. Is there a particular teacher or some other eminence hovering over them? The answer is not obvious – maybe a reader knows.
The known quantity here was Robert Landfermann. He was heard today in his most familiar role, in Pablo Held's trio with Jonas Burgwinkel on drums. This trio is currently celebrating its tenth season with unchanged pesonnel, a feat in itself. Their aim is clearly to aspire to the flexibility and the flow of the best groups on the planet, and they are well on their way. There is not a note of music on the bandstand. They know their forty-odd tunes so well, their live performances segue from one to another through completely improvised sections. They have recently allowed their processes to be documented by an academic project in which they account to interviewers both separately and together what their processes as they improvise. And Landfermann? He clearly leads some of the transitions, his is a solid authoritative voice, but this is perhaps the ultimate in collaborative work too.
|Rebecca Trescher Ensemble 11|
In the first show of the showcase, Rebecca Trescher Ensemble 11, effectively an 11-piece jazz chamber orchestra, played compositions by Rebecca Trescher, a young clarinettist/ composer from Nuremberg. These were lively pieces, and Trescher is also interested in - and adept at - exploring the textures available in this extended group. The group’s final number had one of those joyous fast melodies which sat intriguingly between Philip Glass (if it had been cycled a few more times) and Hermeto Pascoal (if had been taken up a tempo notch or two). Bavarian radio have given this band a good opportunity to develop, and there are several examples of their work on video. This was a big occasion for them, but their platform manner still suggests caution, as if the shadow of the conservatoire rehearsal room has not yet fully lifted, as it must. The players in this band who caught the ear for playing out and strong were pianist Andreas Feith with a combination of vivid imagination and ferocious technique, and bassist Max Leiβ who just about stole the set with a highly eloquent solo.
|L-R: Robert Luciaciu and Matthias Lindermayr|
The third group I heard was The Matthias Lindermayr Quartet, playing ethereal-cerebral compositions by the trumpeter-leader. The bassist Robert Lucaciu - who comes from a town in East Germany just a few miles from the Czech border - had the unenviable task of making every one of endless repeats of an ostinato figure sound characterful and different. He did it with impeccable tuning, style, subtlety and musicality.