REVIEW: Like A Jazz Machine Festival in Dudelange, Luxembourg

Joce Mienniel of Tilt at the Like A Jazz Machine Festival
Photo credit: © Bernd Zimmermann

Like A Jazz Machine Festival
(Cultural Centre, Dudelange, Luxembourg, 25-28 May 2017. Review by Tony Dudley-Evans)

The Like A Jazz Machine festival takes place in Dudelange, an attractive town outside Luxembourg City that spends 10% of its budget on culture. The four-day jazz festival is a one of its major events and brings a range of established European artists plus young artists from Luxembourg to a very well equipped and comfortable venue. The pattern of the day is that the bands play an hour’s set: four bands over the evening beginning at 6.30pm with a 30 min break between each one. The final night on the Sunday featured just three bands.

We arrived on Day 2 just in time to hear the last two numbers of the Finnish piano trio led by Aki Rissanen on piano; this gave us enough to grasp that this is a fine trio playing very much in the Nordic style with the influence of the EST trio apparent. They were followed by the Carla Bley Trio with Steve Swallow on bass and Andy Sheppard on tenor and soprano saxophones. The set was devoted to tunes of Carla’s, and the music was delightful. Each tune had a particular, often quirky and humorous character, and the playing was outstanding from the three members of the trio. Steve Swallow, in particular, was on great form playing always stimulating and thoughtful solos on the electric bass.

Pol Belardi’s Force led by Pol Belardi on bass was the first group from Luxembourg that we heard.  They played an extended composition based on an idea of an evolution of a planet in all its different stages. It was all very well played by the quintet, but it all felt a bit stiff and lacking in dynamism.  Just the opposite was the final set of the evening with the French group Supersonic led by saxophonist Thomas de Pourquery; this was a high energy set full of fun and madness. They started with their tribute to Sun Ra, We Travel The Spaceways, but moved on to what was for me new material combining great ensemble playing, trips into free solos, some more Sun Ra like songs and an extended bit of audience participation.  The audience loved it and demanded an encore.

Day 3 started with another young group from Luxembourg: Dock in Absolute, a piano trio launching their new CD. Initially I found the trio quite exciting as they played short, dynamic pieces, but the set became quite repetitive. Each number built up to a climax in a way that reminded me of the early Neil Cowley Trio. Some variety came from a feature for solo piano, but then it was back in to the short sharp bursts of the trio. Quite different was the set with the Joachim Kühn New Trio with Chris Jennings on bass and Gary Husband on drums. There was lots of great improvisation from Kühn, strongly supported by the two rhythm players. They were joined half way through the set by Enrico Rava on flugelhorn, who complemented Kühn’s playing beautifully .

Nik Bärtsch’s Mobile Extended divided opinion with many loving the extremely minimalist material, others finding it rather flat. I really enjoyed the added textures that came from the addition of six string players to the basic quartet on the final extended number. The final set with the Erik Truffaz Quartet was enjoyable without reaching any particular heights; it certainly provided no surprises.

Day 4 was shorter. Pianist Michel Reis from Luxembourg led a fine quartet with three young players from Japan, flautist Joce Mienniel led a strongly rock-oriented quartet Tilt and the night was rounded off by a quintet co-led by pianist Yvan Paduart and guitarist Quentin Dujardin; a well played if rather uneventful set.

The festival works well and is clearly established as an important European event. It draws good, knowledgeable audiences with a good gender balance and the majority in their 40s and 50s. The venue is excellent with top class facilities; it works well for the majority of the bands, but is not really right for the more rock-oriented bands that might attract a younger audience in more of a club environment. The Comet Is Coming played the opening night which we missed; it would have been interesting to observe how that worked.

LINK: Like A Jazz Machine Festival website

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