Click here to [close]

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Cologne Jazzweek (Day 7)

By Martin Schray

On Friday, the penultimate day of the Jazzweek, as the festival entered the home stretch, a total of nine concerts took place. 4000 spectators have come to the concerts so far, the festival is a success even before its end. I decided to attend the last two events in the Stadtgarten, since they presented Isaiah Collier & The Chosen Few, one of the shooting stars of the last two years. In 2021 Collier’s second leader album Cosmic Transitions was released, which was recorded on John Coltrane’s birthday in 2020 at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio using the same equipment used for A Love Supreme, which proved the guts Collier has had. Our colleague Nick Metzger wrote about the album: “Though most true believers would shake in their boots at the thought of having to deliver anything substantial on such a day and in such a hallowed setting, Collier, pianist Mike King, drummer Michael Shekwoaga Ode, and bassist Jeremiah Hunt didn’t make the trip to kneel at the altar, they came to take up the torch and start new fires. The spiritual language of free jazz’s old guard is their native tongue. Not from, but of. This is ancestral music made manifest by a group of sonic shamans.“ In Cologne the band was the same with the exception of Jordan Williams on piano, who replaced Mike King.

Isaiah Collier & The Chosen Few

Already the start was terrific: Collier and Shekwoaga Ode stormed off like Trane and Rashied Ali on Interstellar Space, it was a firework including overblown riffs, vibrato-heavy, distorted, heavily reverberated, wild and unbridled. At that early moment I liked to watch irritated looks of some festival-goers. What was even more, after ten minutes in the duo it went on in the same way, only in the quartet. Of course Coltrane was the blueprint here too, but not A Love Supreme, let’s say rather Meditations. For over thirty minutes - until the bass solo - there was no energetic pause, the band offered a spiritual tour de force ride, enduring, mercilessly driven by the drums, without taking a breath. When Collier dropped out, he cheered on his fellow musicians, even dancing during his time-outs. What was particularly outstanding was how light-footedly the band returned, after long improvisations, to the harmonic and melodic starting points around which everything revolved. Only at the end of the set there was something like an echo of A Love Supreme, of the evocative, the sublime. In the end, it was like the sun coming out after a violent thunderstorm. A natural event, turned into music. However, I was wondering about some people in the audience: Already after five (!) minutes a couple literally ran away, of all people the two who had taken a selfie in front of the stage. The two next to me couldn’t take it anymore after 25 minutes, another one left shortly after. Sometimes I wonder what these people expect. Do they listen to the music, which can be accessed on the internet, beforehand? Or are they just expecting a fancy cultural event where you can have a nice glass of white wine? No matter what, they missed something, because apart from the somewhat too loud drums, which almost drowned out the the rest of the band here and there, Isaiah Collier & The Chosen Few were definitely sensational.

Jim Black

After that, Jim Black & The Shrimps had a hard time, of course. The last concert in the basement club Jaki had all the more something of a punk concert, because the three seated rows that usually had put up in the first concerts had also been cleared away. People were skiing on the floor, I felt like I was back in 1983. Black, an established musician in the improv scene, likes to look for new, musical challenges and decided to start a “Jugend forscht“ (Youth Research) project with Asger Nissen (alto saxophone), Julius Gawlik (tenor saxophone) and Felix Henkelhausen (bass). The gig from the jazz festival in Peitz, available on the internet, is promising, because with these young Berlin musicians Black tries to create a stylistically open, rhythmically explosive and energetic music, inspired by the music of Ornette Coleman, Thelonious Monk, Paul Motian and Joe Henderson. At the Jaki, however, it was also clear that the musicians are talented but still have a long way to go to reach the top league. Here they sounded like a band trying to follow The Thing or Dave Rempis’s bands. But the audience, consisting almost exclusively of young people, celebrated them anyway, which was absolutely okay.

The Shrimps


ArtS. said...

While I appreciated the energy of Isaiah Collier's band, I was rather disappointed with their sound on that evening. For me, the drums were far too loud, playing over other instruments and drowning them out. When the whole quartet was in full force, I could hear maybe 1/3 of what the pianist was doing, and even less of the bassist's performance (good thing they gave him a solo and a part designed to showcase his playing, because these were the only times where what I saw him doing corresponded to the notes that I could hear).

So even though I really like this type of jazz, at times I also contemplated leaving the concert, because I felt really frustrated by this. The band's performance certainly had its moments, but overall it left me with mixed feelings.

Martin Schray said...

I see your point, ArtS. Interestingly, I had the fact that the drummer was drowning the others by his sheer loudness in my notes as well but decided to leave it out. I could hear the piano and the bass okay, maybe it depended where you were sitting. Highly energetic band like these tend to have very loud drummer (think of Bennink in his trio with Brötzmann and Van Hove). I would have loved a more subtler drummer as well.