REVIEW: Suedtirol Jazz Festival Alto Adige 2018 Part 2.(Simone Graziano Frontal + Reinier Baas, Nils Berg, Euregio Collective)

Simone Graziano Frontal (piano) and group
Photo credit: Mick Destino 

Suedtirol Jazz Festival Alto Adige 2018 Part 2. 
(Bolzano and Bressanone. 2 and 3 July. Review by Alison Bentley)

Simone Graziano Frontal + Reinier Baas, Palais Toggenburg - Bozen / Bolzano, Tues 3 Jul.
Nils Berg Cinemascope, Parco Semirurali Park, Bozen/Bolzano, Mon 2 Jul.
Euregio Collective feat. International Guests, Maria-Hueber-Square - Brixen / Bressanone, Tues. 3 July.

This is the second of Alison Bentley's Round-Ups from Suedtirol Jazz Festival Alto Adige 2018

Working together- that’s something the Suedtirol Jazz Festival Alto Adige likes to emphasise. Musicians from different countries are invited to play together to develop new projects. Frontal, led by Florentine pianist Simone Graziano, are Italian, though sax player Dan Kinzelman is originally from America. They were joined for this gig in the garden of the Palais Toggenburg by inventive Dutch guitarist Reinier Baas, surrounded by morning birdsong and cicadas.

Graziano’s introductory piece veered brilliantly from pastoral to urban and back in a range of moods. The classically-influenced dreamy piano seemed to emerge from the birdsong, like Messiaen. A little drum and bass from mysteriously-hooded drummer Stefano Tamborrino; a serene sax theme, then from nowhere, an urgent driving groove; broken glass edginess from Kinzelman led to Brecker-ish climaxes. Graziano’s Killcoal , ‘inspired by African music’, had swirling guitar trills like a kalimba, and Steve Reichian cross rhythms. At one point, the groove seemed to slow down to meld with the cicadas and church bells. There was a gently funky piece in 10, with a romantic piano solo over a grungy beat. Graziano’s blues-edged solo pulled excitingly against Tamborrino’s wild rimshots. Kinzelman pushed the groove as far as it would go before it broke like a thunderstorm. Sax and guitar lines jumped, as if from branch to branch, among the ancient trees. One piece had breathy folky tenor phrases, dappled with piano notes- drums fluttering like birds’ wings- and powerful bass from Gabriele Evangelista. Baas’ solo moved between deadened strings and legato sounds; headlong funk fell into arpeggios like sun through leaves. In another, strummed guitar and trickling piano notes were like tributaries, coming together to a grand theme. An intriguing mix of European, American and African-influenced jazz.

Nils Berg
Photo credit: Mick Destino


Swedish trio Nils Berg Cinemascope collaborates with musicians from all over the world- by composing and improvising with film clips they’ve found on YouTube, as well as their own spontaneous films. Rather than accompany films in a dark cinema, they brought a huge screen out into Bolzano’s Parco Semirurali, with its extraordinary mountain backdrop. One slow, ambient piece featured a Hungarian cimbalom player from Stockholm- ‘If you’re lucky, you will meet him in the subway, or the streets,’ said saxophonist Berg.

Nils Berg's Cinemascope
Photo credit: Mick Destino

A piece from Chennai, Orissa (In the Hands of the Lord) featured an Indian dance rehearsal in the trio’s hotel, which Berg had caught on film. Drummer Christopher Cantillo created a loose groove, while Berg’s laid back tenor improvised around the vocals and harmonium. The trio had travelled to the Punjab to hunt for a Sufi singer, whose YouTube clip had inspired them. ‘He draws words from the sky and throws them out into the world,’ said Berg. They found him on the last day of their trip. He was happy with their treatment of his song- they gave it a rhythmic and harmonic context, with sensitivity, beauty and a touch of funk from Josef Kallerdah’s bass. Other clips juxtaposed a Bulgarian folk singer with an alpenhorn, a young singer from Bhutan, and a snow-covered park. The music took on an elemental quality as lightning lit up the mountains- the performance was sadly cut down in its prime as hailstones hurtled down.

Euregio Collective
Photo by Alison Bentley

The 15-piece Euregio Collective filled the stage in the small square in the picturesque town of Brixen/Bressanone. Young musicians from Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Great Britain, Germany and Chile had written compositions for the ensemble. The evening was warming up after a storm, as the audience filled up the wooden benches- locals as well as jazz fans who’d travelled there specially. The Collective opened with a mix of relaxed tautness that recalled Loose Tubes- heightened by Matthias Schriefl’s stirring trumpet solo, played from a balcony across the square. Some instruments were doubled: 2 vibes, 2 drummers, 2 basses (electric and acoustic,) 2 guitars, plus horns. Anna Widauer’s breathy, then impassioned vocals stood out in a couple of pieces, especially the slow-burning Animali Notturni (by bassist Marco Stagni.) Deep bass clarinet (Siegmar Brecher) and trombone (Simon Kintopp) lines lit the fuse, and the music burst into the flames of free jazz. Bassist Ruth Goller’s piece (Sketch) received especially appreciative applause- although resident in London, she grew up near Brixen/Bressanone. Her bass was the driving force behind a compelling, angular theme. Sax-player Marc Stucki’s composition brought together reggae, klezmer and Caribbean grooves, revealing the skills of drummers Andrea Polato and Valentin Schuster. Guitarist Stefano Giordani’s piece drew on rock and blues, while the encore seemed to reference Motown, with its pulsing bass and sweet vibes (Mirko Pedrotti and Matthias Legner.) But it dissolved into collective free improv as Schriefl poured water into the bell of his trumpet. It seemed to represent the musical discipline and freedom they all had- individual styles at the service of the whole band.

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