Saturday, 9 February 2019

RYMDEN, Reflections and Odysseys, 2019

Expectations are potential disappointments. The higher you fly in advance, the deeper you fall if you cannot get what you were looking for. Yet, how can you tame your inner monsters if you hear about an album from the collaboration of Bugge Wesseltoft, Dan Berglund and Magnus Öström. I could not. A trio composed of top notch Scandinavian musicians with a lot of historical milestones in their own careers... Add a subliminal Esbjörn Svensson effect to your perceptions. How can you stop thinking about Esbjörn when you listen to Dan and Magnus, while they are connecting this world’s rhythm to the heaven’s riffs. I could not. It was very far away from being difficult to give up thinking about my all expectations when I started to listen to Rymden's first album. 

Reflections & Odysseys is one of the most exciting albums I have listened to in recent years. It was already clear from the first seconds of the intro-track Reflections that I am listening to something really new and fresh. The way how the mysterious feelings given by double-bass in Reflection is connected to Odysseys’s clear phrases is verifying one of the most important KPIs in a trio format: Organic sound. The Peacemaker is a double-bass solo - a peaceful island - between Odyssey and electrical keys dominated Pitter-Patter. With this electrical feeling merged with Scandinavian dignified wording, I am swinging between Jazz Pa Svenska and Bitches Brew back and forth. 

The Luguburious Youth of Lucky Luke and The Celestial Dog and the Funeral Ship are the melancholic centre points of the album, with all instruments are set to their minimal contribution mode. The middle part of the “LYOLL” where the bass leads the main theme in the best possible way, the following rise in the tension triggered by piano and the incredible drum performance underneath everything are all priceless. I felt speechless and could not help myself thinking about old E.S.T. days. The backbone of “CDATP” is funeral drums. Dry and arrogant... The bass softens it. With naive actions from the piano added on top, the drum-set decides to leave this feeling for a while, for an incredible end to the piece. Bergen is obviously from Norwegian part of the band. It is like mountains in Bergen; lively, peaceful and cold... With its catchy main theme lead successfully by Bugge and improvisational parts, this piece looks like the locomotive piece of the album. Rak-The Abyss carries very familiar patterns for the followers of Magnus Öström. He connects his amazing solo -reminding the great stuff from Leucocyte- to the introduction of Rak. Rak starts with some tense feelings with a progressive rock influence and switches back and forth between this and a more jazzy electrical texture. Orbiting sounds like the piano-riff introduction of last piece Homegrown. That last bit is a very good final. It shows us once more that the music we are exposed to are played by musicians, who are among the bests on this planet. Homegrown flows very naturally and as the title implies, the main theme carries very warm home-like feelings.

Overall, you can expect a lot from Reflections & Odysseys if you have not listened to it yet. We all can expect more from Rymden as one of the current best bands of Nordic Jazz.  

Monday, 23 April 2018

Jazzahead 2018!

Three years have been passed with the blink of an eye. I can still remember the “younger” passionate man entering to Messe Bremen for the first time in 2015. Jazzahead was a mysterious event for me at that time. It was both like a professional meeting hub for stakeholders in jazz department of music industry and a jazz festival for those who are interested in rising stars in Europe. It was one of a kind event and to be very honest, my profile was not that much common either. I was just a freelance blogger trying to decide on what I can do to support jazz business and could manage to meet a lot of professionals from various sides, which made me return to my home with satisfactory answers.

During this long blink of an eye, actually, things have been changed a lot for me. I needed to focus on my engineering career and had to decide on where to live for the rest of my life. With the help of familiarity I gained during my jazz trips to Rotterdam for North Sea Jazz Festival, the expat city of these cute country became my new home. I moved to Eindhoven with my family in the beginning of 2017. Although these two years between 2015 and 2017 were musically too silent for me mostly because of the time I invested in my professional life and my new born baby girl Melody, this new location made it easier for me to reach at jazz events with short driving distances and triggered me to create a more international jazz circle around me. The blogger became an insider for European jazz from then on, instead of the direct and stubborn Turkish reviewer of the foreign scenes.

By means of all these experiences, the ideas are settled, the pink glasses coming from enthusiasm are taken off and a more objective point of view has been gained before jazzahead! 2018 opened its doors for the fair on April 19th. Thus I found myself once more in Bremen with no flying wings or a solid purpose this time. The only thing I was looking for may be a new excitement for a fresh feeling for jazz or any new idea that can push me to do something about this music. I believe that I came back to my home with some ideas that I should work on to decide what can be done better to keep communication channel in networking between jazz professionals more efficient and reliable.

This year was Polish year of jazzahead with the motto “We’re from Poland” and I really liked their performances in the first day. Marcin Wasilewski Trio was -not surprisingly- very good, playing a short set started with their nice album Spark of Life. Joanna Duda Trio was a new name for me and I really liked the new innovative approach there, creating an energetic and full-of-tension music. Atom String Quartet was a band that I have been trying to catch somewhere for a while and to be honest the performance was among best showcases there at jazzahead. 

The second day started very powerfully with the unique Greek influenced - a little bit oriental - Sokratis Sinopoulos Quartet and the successful performance dominated by an amazing lyra sound swirling around groovy improvisations, gave an idea why ECM released their album in 2018. Emilia Martensson was like a silky vocal touch in between challenging trials of other showcases. Einar Scheving Quartet was as Icelandic as possible with the dignified and catchy compositions. Oskar Gudjonsson from ADHD was detected immediately with his unique touch on sax. Horse Orchestra were the crazy guys of the event and their performance proved that they are not just made of their weird images but really good at what they are playing. Adam Baldych and Helge Lien Trio was top notch as expected from my side and it looks like as time passed the band started to create a real organic collaboration also thanks to two albums now released from ACT.  

German jazz expo started with en excitement on Simon Nabatov with Fearless Trio but it was a deep disappointment that I could not listen to him since he has been replaced by another pianist. Daniel Erdmann's Velvet Revolution was very promising with their album which is awarded by German Critics choice of the year and their performance was aligned with what is expected. Markus Stockhausen's Quadrivium was again presenting state-of-art contemporary jazz music. Among the overseas night performers, Petros Klampanis Group was interestingly familiar with an oriental touch on double bass supported by string accompaniment and jazzy compositions. Gregory Privat Trio added interesting compositions on an ordinary piano trio configuration and Martinique roots of the pianist gave the unique pattern in their jazz interpretation.

Frankly, the line up for showcases and jazzclub night was not that much impressive in general. ECM was presenting their new releases with some performances but there wasn’t an individual ECM night. ACT was there with management and they were presenting some musicians with some showcases but the dominance of the label was not that much visible as it was before.  The performance halls in Messe was spacious and comfortable. Although I found the near field listening experience satisfactory I have heard several remarks from the audience considering poor sound quality especially at the back side. Kulturzentrum Schlachthof was better equipped also with an outdoor stage supported by live stream on a big screen. The showcases were 45 minutes only for overseas night. The rest was just half an hour which - I suppose - makes it a little bit stressful for musicians to present themselves in a way that they feel satisfied.

The meetings were focused and qualitatively presented with good equipment. Professionals look really like too busy with their meetings and the way the stands and all the other locations are designed and built were more structured than what I saw three years ago. I have heard from some of my manager friends that they could not see real decision makers and leaders of European jazz around. Jazzahead is a very necessary and to the point event considering the mission it carries on. However this does not mean that it is sufficient to help all the new jazz professionals who have dived into a really tough business of making themselves visible and audible. It is obvious that sharing what is gained is not enough in this cruel finance-based era. Something needs to be done to attract money from other parties towards the jazz industry. Somethings need to be done to gain the attraction of music listeners to pay money for good music and this money spent should be directly reachable by real labour owners. In other words, trade fair in jazz should be applied by its real meaning instead of keeping it as a hype motto.    

Monday, 25 December 2017

10 Best Jazz Albums of 2017

1. Blue Maqams - Anouar Brahem, ECM

2. Cirklar - Tingvall Trio, Skip Records

3. Jersey - Mark Guiliana JazzQuartet, Motema

4. Provanance - Bjorn Meyer, ECM

5. Danse - Colin Vallon Trio, ECM

6. 6 - ADHD

7. She Moves On - Youn Sun Nah, ACT

8. Cross My Palm with Silver - Avishai Cohen, ECM

9. An Ancient Observer - Tigran Hamasyan, Nonesuch Records

10. Guzuguzu - Helge Lien Trio, Ozella

Friday, 17 November 2017

ECM Online?

I have heard that ECM is online. Though, the first thing I did after this news is to pull another ECM album from the shelf and I immediately went back to some weeks ago when Bobo Stenson Trio played in Rotterdam. I still remember that moment... It was around the first 30 minutes I guess, right after another amazing piece and Anders Jormin opened his eyes with a deep look over the audience in dark, asking "any questions?" He was really like one of my professors at the university - you know also the hair style etc... Bobo, for instance, was like the modest instructor at physics course, whereas Anders was the smart-stubborn high voltage guy. I mean, that's what they are doing for a living. That's what they have been educated for. That's what they have invested in. That's what they are challenged for. That's what they struggled to create the best out of it. That's what they have done for a long time not only for joy and satisfying their inspired souls but also for a well-deserved decent life. Musicians play music for several reasons and earning their life is one of them. Earning life is essential and the best way to do that is to do what you can do and sell well. I care about musicians who play the music I like listening to. So I keep on pulling albums from the shelf... 

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

So What's Next? 3-5 November 2017, Eindhoven

I feel honored to be able to write about a jazz festival from the city that I currently live in. So What's Next is the young festival - 5 years old - of southern Netherlands and having North Sea Jazz organization behind the production, it looks like it is really aiming to be a prominent jazz festival of the country. This year Eindhoven had chosen to allocate first weekend of November. I could only join the Saturday and Sunday part but there was also an opening night on Friday with the name Kovacs Curates. The center of gravity for the festival was on Saturday with so many impressive names such as Jacob Collier, Kamasi Washington, Donny McCaslin, Avishai Cohen (trumpet), Mark Guiliana, Ambrose Akinmusire, Steve Lehman, Shabaka & Ancestor... The festival was basically using Muziekgebouw Eindhoven as the headquarter and all the concerts in Saturday had been performed in 6 stages (2 concert halls, 1 jazz club and 3 stages) in this important music place of Eindhoven. 

For me, the best performance of the festival was from Mark Guiliana Quartet with Shai Maestro on piano, Chris Morrisey on bass and Shabaka Hutchings on saxophone. Especially the first trio part of this performance was one of the best I have seen recently. I have listened to these musicians with different settings several times earlier but the organic vibes that the trio reached at that day was really something special. I am totally impressed by Shai Maestro's solo and Mark Guiliana's precise timings and groovy hits on really nice compositions. Shabaka's soft touch - which is not like I got used to from his ancestor project - to the trio was a nice accompaniment to the organic sound of the band. Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet with Justin Brown on drums and Avishai Cohen Quartet were other impressive performances on Saturday night.

Sunday was basically a down-town festival where mostly young and new musicians were performing in several stages around the city. Aruán Ortiz Solo performance in the stage Meneer Frits and Motion Complex Trio in Fifth NRE were among the prominent performances.

I am really looking forward to seeing the next year's line up of this modest but amazing jazz festival for which I just need to bike some kilometers.   

Sunday, 25 June 2017

My Schedule for North Sea Jazz 2017 - A Crazy Friday, A Calm Saturday and A Hectic Sunday

It's time! North Sea Jazz Festival 2017 is loading! The great and unique jazz festival of Netherlands will be held between July 7th and July 9th this year. This will be my third time in Ahoy, Rotterdam and I decided to share my draft schedule in advance as a pre-guide to my followers. Please click on each picture to see the complete program as well as my selections with coloured circles ranging from red (do not miss) to pink (have a look). You can find my general review for 2013 here, which also includes some advice and tips: Please do not hesitate to add any of your advice in the comments...