Click here to [close]

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Cologne Jazzweek (Day 6)

By Martin Schray

On the sixth evening of Jazzweek, the focus was on Cologne’s Ehrenfeld neighborhood, which is very multicultural and hip. Two concerts were to take place in the Loft, as well as in the Urania Theater. There was also a focus on world music and the festival organized a club night at the CBE, where two concerts had also taken place previously. I decided to go to the first concert at the Loft with Cologne saxophonist Angelika Niescier, Tomeka Reid on cello and Savannah Harris on drums, and later on I wanted to see Arooj Aftab at the Art Theater. 


Niescier/Reid/Harris promised free jazz, and in the broadest sense they lived up to the expectations. However, the music was not freely improvised, they used pre-composed material that Niescier wrote just for this trio. Rhythmically, the music circled around small cells that were mirrored by the musicians again and again, only to break out and improvise. Every now and then, the cells had the character of rock riffs, the Chicago scene seemed to have an influence on the playing attitude of Niescier and Reid. Whenever the music was able to break away from the compositional guidelines and then skillfully turned back to them, those were the strongest and most intense moments of the concert.

Arooj Aftab

The concert I was actually most excited about had nothing to do with free jazz at all. Arooj Aftab, who won the Grammy in the World Music category for her album Vulture Prince last year, for which she transposed verses from ancient Sufi poems into the 21st century, stopped at the Jazzweek Cologne on her European tour. She traveled with a reduced band consisting of herself on vocals, Petros Klampanis on double bass and Gyan Riley on classical guitar. At first the location seemed inappropriate, as the Art Theater is a rock club, but this obviously suited Aftab. She joked that they had played in a church the night before in Winterthur, Switzerland, and the audience had been sitting in the pews (of course), hoping for a spiritual experience. Yet, Aftab said, her songs had hardly anything mystical, they were just about unhappy love and getting drunk. She was always joking between songs about the hotel hairdryers not working and the wrong lighting (green) on stage. The songs of the evening were mainly taken from Vulture Prince like “Saans Lo“, “Suroor“, “Last Night“ and “Mohabbat“. Aftab’s voice was heavily reverberated, which had the effect of making it sound as if she was singing in a Pakistani mountain valley at night and the stone walls were echoing her wails. The audience was very pleasantly disciplined and literally let themselves be enchanted by the music. Helping this was certainly Riley’s extremely virtuosic guitar playing and Klampanis’s smooth bass, with him also doing vocal and whistle parts. The absolute highlight of the festival so far. 

See: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5