Monday, 16 July 2012

After a Great Concert in a Strange Place for Jazz

This review is written just after the concert on the way back home. The drummer of Esbjörn Svensson Trio, Magnus Öström and his new band played the 2011 release album "Thread of Life" last night in Sakıp Sabancı Museum in İstanbul four years later than Esbjörn Svensson passed away leaving a great emptiness in the jazz world. "Strange Place For Jazz" is an event that has been started last year in İstanbul Jazz Festival and having also joined by Dan Berglund, the bassist of the Esbjörn Svensson Trio. This year, following the performance of Magnus Öström and his band consisted of great musicians Thobias Gabrielson, Andreas Hourdakis and Daniel Karlsson (instead of Gustaf Karlöf), first we have listened to Ninety Miles project of Nicholas Payton, David Sanchez and Stefon Harris. Then we have experienced Bugge'n Friends performance which is created by Bugge Wesseltoft with İlhan Erşahin and Erik Truffaz as the last concert of the night. Ninety Miles can be thought as having the nearest genre to the mainstream jazz among the concerts. Swedish Magnus Öström and his band created a nordic jazz improved by electronics and affected by fusion whereas Bugge Wesseltoft and his friends performed nu jazz whose club music level is a bit increased. As you have understood from my entrance words, since my heart and mind was at the concert of Magnus Öström and his band, I will mainly write about them but I will also give some details about the other concerts.

I have arrived at the concert area too early. My aim was to analyse the sound check and to chat with Magnus Öström if possible who has sent his opinions previously on my posts about Esbjörn Svensson Trio on my blog. I walked towards the sound after the entrance to the place then I caught up with the rehearsal just at the beginning. The set-up was just being prepared on the terrace of the Sakıp Sabancı Museum having a great view of the sea. Magnus Öström, who is born in 1965, is chosen as the best drummer of 2012 by ECHO and there is a lot of critics around the world accepting him as the best brush using drummer. I should also add that Esbjörn Svensson Trio is accepted as one of the best trio in contemporary jazz scene. Since I have a deep love about Esbjörn Svensson Trio and like the album Thread of Life very much, I had been just right there for one and an half hour standing on my feet watching the sound check. Why does one want to watch the sound check? He wants to watch because he wants to learn how a great performance is prepared. He wants to learn the difference between the well-prepared and the poor-prepared. Magnus Öström has worked on just the mechanical details on his drum set for about 45 minutes. Since the album contains lots of electronic effects such as reverberation and delay and many electronic equipment such as hammond, electro guitar and bass guitar, an intense work on placing microphones, setting the levels of delays and reverberation is performed. As I have seen this, I understood that the band would perform all the electronic partitions lively. Our Turkish sound guys are exhausted. However during the chat after the sound-check, I have learned that they have gained lots of experience from the musicians who are passionate about what they do and musicians were satisfied with the work done by the crew. Most of the pieces are played from beginning to end during the rehearsal. Magnus Öström is really a great musician. His concentration is extraordinary. I sometimes even see his eyes closed while rehearsing. Let me write about the band members. The concert band is the same with the album band except the pianist Gustaf Karlöf. Daniel Karlsson was with us in the concert. I exclude also Pat Metheny and Dan Berglund, guest appearance in the album for Ballad for E performance. I have known very well about Thobias Gabrielson, an importan bass guitarist of Swedish jazz scene. He also plays trumpet and keyboard very well. Andreas  Hourdakis was on electric guitar and Daniel Karlsson was on piano and keyboard. They all are talented musicians and more important than that they are kind and modest and love to play music. Although they have worked under the sun for hours they have talked with me and answered my questions. I am so impressed that Thobias Gabrielson gave his sextet's 2010 release album to me and Magnus Öström went to his room just to find an autograph pen instead of mine stopped working because of the hot weather and thanked to me several times for my posts about E.S.T. I have risen the level of sincerity and helped them to carry the equipment after the concert.

Magnus Öström has a profound effect on E.S.T's sound after 1999, which is supported by electronics. Having ignoring this, one can say that the sound of Thread of Life is a follower of Esbjörn Svensson. However, I should also mention that Magnus Öström and Esbjörn Svensson have a common sound being childhood friends and Dan Berglund is certainly  within them on this common sound. Since we are talking about E.S.T, let me mention that Strange Place for Jazz concept is inspired from the Strange Place for Snow album of E.S.T released in 2002 and the performance of Magnus Öström in Behind The Yashmak piece of this album should be listened. I have told Magnus Öström that he carries that piece to a strange place for jazz, I have responded by a meaningful smile. Considering again the album “Thread of Life”, the album has a similar spirit and composition structure except the guitar and electric bass addition. On the other hand, it is well affected by fusion and rock music. We might explain this by rock affected teenage period of Magnus Öström. There are songs in the album that are directly dedicated to Esbjörn Svensson. When I told Magnus Öström that I feel all the pieces are like dedicated to him, he verified me that all the album is a tribute during the short chat after the concert. I think, Daniel Karlsson's Svensson-like tone from time to time has a contribution to my feeling. "Longing" and "Ballad for E" performances in the album belonging to Gustaf Karlöf may cause you shed some tears.

The audience may think that the first touches of Magnus Öström to the gong-like cymbal series is a part of rehearsal at first sight. However when we see the shotgun microphone in his hand trying to input the sounds to the loop machine and building the piece step by step we understood that this is Prelude. Since the preparation is perfect the first sound from the musicians was the first note of the first piece. There is a magnificent sound texture in the area.  The performance was great for an open-air concert. On talking with some audience after the concert I have learned that the band, the music genre and the pieces are not much known. Thus, the entrance was a real shaking for them. However, the atonal partitions that are longer than the album's version may frightened a bit the mainstream listeners. However, the tension of the audience got higher on each piece. Just before "Longing" Magnus Öström start to talk then stopped for an instant while telling the name of Esbjörn. I gulped down at that time and when the second time he tell his name I shouted as "Rest in Peace Esbjörn Svensson, Rest in Peace!". Magnus responded my shouting and some audience, knowing the situation applauded. When I apologize to Magnus Öström for this after the concert, I have learned that he was happy with that. We have listened almost all pieces in the album; Prelude, Afilia Mi, Longing, Ballad for E, The Haunted Thoughts and The Endless Fall, Weight of Death, Piano Break Song. I think, the last performance Piano Break and partitions of Magnus Öström especially using brushes were the unforgettable memories from the performance. As a general manner of nordic musicians, spontaneous rests, interesting tension changes and control of the drummer on all of this... They were all perfect. “Afilia Mi” performance whose vocal partitions are performed by all members was lyrical and impressive. Magnus Öström explained the songs sometimes by giving the meaning of the names. For instance we have learned that he wrote "Afilia Mi" for his daughter and it means "My Daughter" in Latin.  The performance of guitarist Andreas Hourdakis in Ballad for E, lyrical piano of Daniel Karlsson and organic bass of Thobias Gabrielson were the remembered ones. Since the night would continue with two more concerts there was no encore.

Nicholas Payton is one of the most important trumpeter of new generation. They were very different than the previous band with a cool hat and glasses of Payton and their old school like style. Generally, the solo performances of vibraphonist Stefon Harris and energetic saxophone of David Danchez are the most liked ones. Nicholas Payton may be heard from the other side of the Bosphorus by his high-fret and incredibly controlled trumpet. Another different and undesired thing in this concert was the sound system that can not be set for about 30 minutes. Even after it is set, the sound coming from the stage is not satisfactory. This was annoying actually for Nicholas Payton I think. The staff behind the sound board at least should know that the kicks of the drums should not be this much dominant especially in mainstream jazz concerts. Considering that the double bass' volume is low this was a real problem indeed. Moreover, the feedback noise happened at least once a piece when the trumpet and saxophone is raising together. Despite all these obstacles, thanks to the devoted musicians and interested audience we have experienced a perfect musical performance. My advice is to give different concerts in different stages on which the sound system is set previously. The good conditions on the following concert of Bugge Wesseltoft in another hall in the museum called The Seed supported my proposal.

Bugge’n Friends concert was in Sabancı Museum's The Seed hall, which is converted into a free space by removing the seats on the ground and lightened very well. The concert took place with a 45 minutes delay. I have known Bugge Wesseltoft from ACT albums and I know what is waiting for me on the stage. However I was also thinking of the music would become more electronic in accord with the midnight. Because the audience became younger and the alcohol  rate was higher as time passes. Bugge Wesseltoft, pushed the club music to the limits of underground music with his progressive style by means of blowings of İlhan Erşahin and Erik Truffaz, beats of great duo Erik Holm and Andreas Bye, the electronic rhythms of Joaquın “Joe” Claussell and bass of Marius Reksjo.  Minimal and atonal entrances are continued with slowly building-up melody and the rhythm which control the tension of the audience as a whole. There is another important note from the concert: The musician, kind of, created small duos in the band. Truffaz was with Erşahin, Claussell was wtih Bugge and Reksjo was with Holm. They were really passing each other during the performance. The lonely guy the bassist became a duo when Turkish bassist Alp Ersönmez came to scene. Especially the last one started by solo of Alp Ersönmez and ended by improvisational solo of every musician was the most important performance of this concert I think. İlhan Erşahin and Alp Ersönmez are really very important musicians. Instantaneous and high tension improvisations of İlhan Erşahin and unique and characteristic sound of Alp Ersönmez are making me to say like that. 

As a result, there is no serious problem in the night that makes me not to say that the Strange Place for Jazz was a festival like event full of music and jazz. Considering the last week's Tünel Festival, hoping that audience will become more silent and the sound systems are installed properly for each individual concert, I wish we can see more festivals such as this not only for a day but also consisting of a weekend. 

The Last Word: “Rest in Peace Esbjörn Svensson”  

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