REVIEW: Jochen Rückert/ Orlando Le Fleming/ Lage Lund/Mark Turner plus Viner/ Engel/ Herzog/Black at the Loft in Cologne

L-R: Jeremy Viner, Jonas Engel, Florian Herzig, Jim Black

Jeremy Viner/Jonas Engel/Florian Herzog/Jim Black plus
Jochen Rückert/Orlando Le Fleming/Lage Lund/Mark Turner
(Loft Cologne, 21 May 2018. „jungesloft“ Monday Meeting. Review by Oliver Weindling)

The Loft in Cologne is smaller in size than the Vortex, with a capacity of around 60. On the fourth floor of a building in Ehrenfeld, about two miles from the centre of Cologne, it is renowned for its empathy with the musical community and doubles as a recording studio with a top quality Steinway D.

Usually at the forefront of the programming is the imagination of the musicians and, frequently, they are playing just to their colleagues and a few friends, as it is pretty uncompromising – and all the better for that?

While much attention nowadays is on the scene in Berlin, that in Cologne is vibrant. Not really a surprise, particularly as there is a strong conservatoire (where John Taylor himself taught for many years), a superb venue with the Stadtgarten and a supportive radio station, WDR. (And indeed much has been documented through this web site.) Many Mondays are currently being organised by a local collective called „jungesloft“, a group of nine musicians who invite a variety of performers, not just musicians but also dancers and visual artists to join them.

This Monday, though, was purely music oriented: the ‘Sold Out’ sign went up on the door and around double the usual audience was squeezed in. As the founder, Hans Martin Müller, told me, that has been the case only 20 times over the past 30 years. The reason? The chance to hear two stellar groups playing in the intimate and sympathetic surroundings.

The first band was led by one of the collective’s members, Florian Herzog on bass. It included another member, Jonas Engel on alto, but the highlights of the line-up were drummer Jim Black, and tenor saxophonist and clarinettist Jeremy Viner. The openness of having a two saxophone front line, with just a rhythm section behind, reminded me of the early line-up of Polar Bear (before the arrival of Leafcutter John) and Outhouse. It allows the bass and drums to be in focus without overpowering. Black gives space and a variety which is wholly unique and relishes the various ways that he can strike his kit, even as far as using towels to replace the sticks at one point. Starting with Dylan’s All Along The Watch Tower, Vogel’s own writing was the foundation of the band But also intriguing was how the two saxes interplayed. A few times they played in unison, at others it was the impetuousness of Engel that led them on. But that’s not to underestimate Viner’s contributions which, by the end were mesmerising.

This band was a curtain raiser to the main band of the night – that of Jochen Rückert, a drummer originally from Cologne, but now resident in New York. His band was an ‘A’ list of the downtown scene there – Orlando Le Fleming (who moved from London a while back), Lage Lund on guitar and the focus of the band, saxophonist Mark Turner. Rückert himself is quite a busy drummer. But over that, he allows the band to develop sinuous lines, while Lage Lund can vary between a contrapuntal sparring partner, or providing a harmonic filling. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, most attention was on Turner. Of course, he is in his element, with a particular unique sound and patterns which he seems to be able to develop ad infinitum.


The welcoming sign outside the Loft
iPhone snap by Sebastian Scotney

We were all disappointed when the evening came to an end. And, when the room emptied, one discovered that many of those left there were actually musicians too. Not just some of the locals, like Jonas Burgwinkel and Robert Landfermann, whom we know as members of Pablo Held’s trio, or pianist Simon Nabatov, who is a stalwart nowadays of the Leo label. But even some visitors from elsewhere, such as Dutch guitarist Rainier Baas, and our own Kit Downes, who were due to play the following night, at another newish venue in Cologne, Salon de Jazz.

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