ROUND-UP: Jazzrausch + Random/Control + Maja Osojnik at the 2016 Suedtirol Jazz Festival Alto Adige

Jazzrausch at Ritten


- Jazzrausch, Earth Pyramids, Renon/Ritten
- Random/Control, Parklaurin Hotel
- Maja Osojnik, Batzen Sudwerk/Ca'de Bezzi, both in Bolzano/Bozen


(Suedtirol Jazz Festival Alto Adige, Tues. 28th June 2016. Review by Alison Bentley)


In Bolzano (Bozen) old and new co-exist. There are small modern sculptures along the shopping streets. In the town’s Museum of Archaeology you can see iceman Ötzi, born before 3000BC and discovered in the mountains. And in the mountains you can hear modern jazz.

Munich band Jazzrausch played on the mountain train. Little kids were dancing on the platform. Bari sax and tuba thundered up through the floor; they were brassy and funky, with a techno beat from snare with tiny cymbals, and bass marching drum. There were some Weill-like moments in the written parts, along with Ibiza grooves- and jazz solos (notably Angela Avetisyan’s trumpet.) They play regularly in a larger configuration in a Munich nightclub.

Most of their gig was on precarious-looking platforms overhanging the naturally formed Earth Pyramids, which looked as if they’d landed from another galaxy. It seemed appropriate to play a piece based on the Star Trek theme. They were highly skilled- and anarchic. ‘I wanna be a banana,’ chanted Olga Dudkova, her vocals slightly distorted by her megaphone. They could have been upstaged by the crags behind, but their strong dance sound was irresistible.

Earth Pyramids at Ritten


Random/Control, a trio led by pianist David Helbock, were on a stage balanced over a swimming pool, in the hotel’s balmy grounds. Their 2014 CD Think of Two featured music by and for Hermeto Pascoal and Thelonious Monk, and these two were there in spirit for the gig. Helbock lives in Berlin but comes from Austria, and they opened with his arrangement of an Austrian folk song. The ‘control’ element was evident from the start in their careful arrangements and multi-instrumental ability. Whilst playing sousaphone, Johannes Bär kept perfect time with a tambourine attached to his knee. Andreas Broger played soprano and tenor sax at the same time (between them they play 30 instruments onstage.) The ‘random’ parts are playfully free: Broger changed to flugel to create bird cries; Helbock’s watery trills blended with Bär’s alpenhorn drone; Helbock strummed the piano’s insides and used electronic wizardry to make the notes waver. In one piece he played a toy piano in call and response with the grand, with a childlike sense of play.

A Brazilian folk song arranged by Pascoal (Music of the Clouds and the Earth) created a world of virtual forest sounds among the real trees. Bär’s breathy trumpet against the zip of strummed piano strings was emotive- then they burst into a Corea-esque Latin groove in 7. Helbock’s Dream Catcher had a bitter sweet melody shaded by whirling electronic overtones.

Pascoal’s Nas Quebradas (‘hard rhythms’ Helbock told us) was put together with Monk’s Raise Four. (‘The easiest piece Monk wrote. I arranged both so you wouldn’t recognise which is the easy one!) Helbock’s melodica sounded like a bandoneon while he simultaneously played piano. The others kept several instruments close for quick changeovers, but what could have been just circus tricks enhanced the sound brilliantly.

Round Midnight was slow but not melancholy; reharmonised chords emerged from the spacey mood of the temple bells, bass clarinet and plaintive trumpet. Helbock’s Para Hermeto had a Monkish feel with powerful, thick piano chords and a melody as delightfully convoluted as Hermeto’s own writing.

In their first encore they used only their voices, in a comic rhythmic disagreement about which syllables to sing, as if the Marx Brothers had taken up Indian vocal improv. The audience loved them, and demanded a second encore: a vivid Brazilian-edged piece.

Maja Osojnik. Photo credit Heinz Bayer


Slovenian (Vienna resident) Maja Osojnik’s late night set was underground in an old, atmospheric cellar. She focused on her panoply of electronic pedals like a scientist conducting an experiment, as the subterranean frequencies pulsated, swooped and buzzed, like Stockhausen’s Musique Concrète. She spoke lines of lost love. ‘I cannot find myself,’ she intoned, as if looking for herself in the sounds. She whispered into a large wooden box, looping and layering. I wondered if she could have kept the audience focusing so intently with less volume- at times it was uncomfortably loud, which seemed part of the plan. Her singing voice was deep- a little PJ Harvey and Diamanda Galas, lovely in a multi-layered song about falling snow. I wanted to hear more of the voice. Her set felt truly improvised, part of the Festival’s ‘New Sounds- Fresh Perspectives.’

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