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Thursday, August 18, 2022

Cologne Jazzweek (Day 4)

By Martin Schray

Half-time at the Cologne Jazzweek and what has run like a thread through the week so far is the discrepancy between inconveniences during the time apart from the events on the one hand and the concerts themselves on the other hand. Initially, it was the heat and the noise that almost killed me, and then it was the loss of items. The most serious one was certainly the fact that my bank card was missing, which is why I have to rely on the help of my Cologne friends for cash. In addition, I’ve used a rented bicycle to commute between the various venues. Unfortunately, I lost the key for my bike lock and had to have it replaced (not for free, as you might imagine). Finally, after the first evening I left my pencil case in the Stadtgarten (I take my notes by hand), it hasn’t turned up again. I’d say I'm not on a roll right now. That’s why the concerts are the only consolation so far, and which is why I’m really looking forward to them.
Savannah Harris Trio

As a continuation of Monday’s concerts, I wanted to see the Savannah Harris Trio at the Loft the following night. She was already the secret star of the evening in Petter Eldh’s Projekt Drums, so I was curious to see what she could get up to with her own trio. The interesting thing about Harris is that she has a wide range of interests. Since she played with Peter Evans in his band Being and Becoming during the festival last year, I was interested whether she would choose a bit more ambitious path with her trio featuring Or Bareket (bass) and Mike King (piano) compared to the day before. However, to cut a long story short, the trio was also rather conventional modern jazz which oscillated between improvisation and tonal fixation, between shimmering pulse and concrete beat. The band’s music thrives much on dynamics and is based on the famous trios of jazz history - from Bill Evans to Ahmad Jamal to Keith Jarrett and especially Herbie Hancock’s trio with Ron Carter and Tony Williams (whose piece “This Night This Song“ they also covered). The music was not a simple reference though, the playing is expanded by tiny extended techniques here and there (especially by Harris). Mike King’s style is rich with arpeggios, trills and minor chords. Harris counters this with cascades on the cymbals and with her hard hits on the snare. Yet, her playing is characterized by great lightness. She also cleverly sprinkles in small hip-hop beats or drum’n’bass figures. The melodies of her original compositions are simple and folk-song-like, they become more interesting when the whole thing is thrown overboard and the band improvises intensely. However, this could have happened more often. I am curious how she will present herself in the trio with Tomeka Reid and Angelica Niescier.
Sons of Kemet

I left the show a bit early to get to see Sons of Kemet in time, who were playing at the CBE, a large tunnel-like vault. The concert was completely sold out, between 600 and 800 people crowded reminded me of pre-pandemic times. The audience was that of a rock concert, rather male, and they enthusiastically celebrated Shabaka Hutchins and his combo. All that distinguishes him as an instrumentalist, as a composer and bandleader, culminates in his his most successful project with Theon Cross on tuba, Tom Skinner and Edward Wakili-Hick on drums. The two drummers weave a polyrhythmic web reminiscent of John Lurie’s National Orchestra (does anybody remember them?). On top of this, Hutchings sets his wild agitprop sound, which is also interrupted by hard free jazz passages. Stylistically, the music oscillates between Afro funk, reggae and hard techno. Theon Cross’s tuba sounded like an extremely low bass and the whole thing presented itself as a trance-like happening that was enthusiastically received by the crowd.

Unfortunately, after 10 years together the band is going to split up when they complete their 2022 tour. This is particularly sad, for their vision of jazz was one that pointed to a possible successful future for this music.
See: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5