|Wet to the bone, but warm at heart at Stockholm Jazz Fest|
|Skrivet av Rikard Rehnbergh|
Yes we can – what? – count to three: Urbanlife counted to three trends on this year's edition of Stockholm Jazz Fest. The first one being latino rhythms, especially cuban salsa rhythms coming from the pianists; the second one quotations, phrases or pure covers of the late Michael Jackson tunes; and the third, raised fists in the air, Smith & Carlos-like, power to the people, or à la amandla, hommage à Madiba Mandela and the first soccer World Cup in Africa ever.
And what looks like something more than a coincidence, going from the TV-sofa watching the historic opening game between South Africa and México (1-1) and the ear-splitting tornado of thousands of vuvuzelas (or lepata in Setswana, a plastic horn) to one of the two main stages of the festival where the UK club jazz pioneer Courtney Pine is blowing his horn, his vuvuzela: the soprano saxophone!
But Pine is wider than that, he plays the tenor sax, bass clarinet and flute too. And he – normally known to be very moody on stage – is extremely entertaining in his long dreadlocks under the hood and, actually, a Swedish national soccer team shirt under the big shirt-jacket. Throughout the concert – called Transition in tradition, an hommage to Sidney Bechet – he is jumping, jiving, dancing and entertaining big time.
As said, Pine was once the pioneer of the dub, club and drum’n’bass jazz, id est, jazz with beats and samples, and released some real classics like Modern Day Jazz Stories (1995) and Underground (1997). On the last mentioned record he made a real fine musical interpretation of the beautiful poem by Langston Hughes – the innovator of jazz poetry, one of the forefathers of the Harlem Renaissance and Black Panther movements – called The Negro (sic!) Speaks of Rivers.
Pine’s music of today is very multifaceted, the sextet (with the in the jazz world unusual instrument violin and a female member: the pianist) is mixing salsa, romani, klezmer, big band and free jazz, but at the same time a bit too polite, too kind, too soft, and one is lacking a sense of edge, some crudeness, and sharpness. And to illustrate that, at the end, there is another Stockholm sing-along to accompany the Duke Ellington-tune, a distorted version he’s ending the concert with, and he actually manages to get the whole crowd on its feet (a task a very few has succeeded with, jazz artists in particular).
One just had to glance to the other side, where the other twin-stage was located and where the bassist Avishai Cohen together with his all Israeli quintet started his concert – called Aurora – straight after Pine (it should have been the other way around, by the way). Cohen’s concert is very low-voiced, finely-tuned, nearly the very opposite to Pines pandering to the public, and sometimes too New Age-oriented, soundtrack-inspired, muddled breed of jazz. And he has added an oud player, whom definitely brings an even more oriental flavour to Cohen’s own style of jazz.
And so does the singing in Ladino, or Judaeo-Spanish, the Sephardic Jewish language. Cohen’s mother is a Sephardic Jew who grew up in Turkey, and it shines through the music. But he actually ends the concert with a version of the late Argentine heroine Mercedes Sosa, a.k.a. La Négra, with a song about being one with the water, united with all the marine animals.
And talking to Avishai Cohen after the gig, he tells Urbanlife that moving back to Tel Aviv from NYC, and being close to the beach and the sea again, has had an important impact on both his life and in his music. Furthermore, that he would like to kick out the whole present government from Knesset, and install a new, younger one that will strive towards peace, or as the title goes in one of his most applauded tunes at the festival gig: Angels of Peace.
The main name in the jazz line-up of this year’s festival is, undoubtedly, the 76 years old master Wayne Shorter (main picture), and he, and his quartet, sure lives up to the great expectations from the deeply concentrated audience. And not to forget, Shorter has played here in Stockholm on a number of occasions. Many a jazz connoisseur, yours truly included, remembers the gig, or maybe one should say the mass, at Konserthuset a few years ago, with something close to tears in their eyes.
Shorter enters the outdoor festival stage in the same manner as inside the classical hall, that is appreciable humble, timid, reverent, like an old and wise Zen Buddhist master, without a single grey hair though. The quartet gets down to business straight away, without further a due, and is working up a crescendo that doesn’t end until the set is over, they are building it up slowly but steady, adhering piece to piece, block to block, until they, and the audience, finally stand there with the whole set, the whole piece, in a holistic sense.
And one can tell that these fellows like to play together, the bassist (John Patitucci) and the drummer (Brian Blade) are hitting it hard, heavy metal-like, but very playful, they are commenting the musical development with a lot of “oh”, “yeah”, and “yo”; whereas the pianist (Danilo Pérez) and Shorter have a more classical approach to the music. And that is the mix: wild, whimsical improvisations within one strict, straight chamber-orchestrated number, or suite. And comparing the way Wayne Shorter & Quartet deals with the indoor public (sitting comfortably in upholstered seats) and the outdoor ditto (standing in the rain and a mere 10 degrees Celsius) there is no difference, and that is as near musical perfection one can come, and it leaves this listener and many a festival spectator to say: Yes, master!
Foto: Xulio Gonzalez