Bremen’s jazzahead has truly become the most important international jazz meeting of the year, together with Jazz Connect in New York. This year’s edition moved into a bigger hall, therefore giving more space to more exhibitors and guests to meet and talk and listen …. and they came – 929 exhibiting companies and over 3000 industry attendees from 55 countries registered this year. And it worked perfectly – having 2 great venues to showcase talents, the other venue where gigs are played in a 2 minutes walking distance … just great. If they can move the venues for the panel discussion out of the exhibition hall and as well into the hall where the showcases are, that would make sense as well, as the main room is too noisy if you want to hold a panel discussion there …. Just a thought to improve things a bit!
I arrived on Friday early afternoon and basically ran from one meeting to the other, which was cool in a way, as it is always only a few steps to the next place, but even then you will run into someone unexpectedly and your schedule for the day is messed up pretty quickly …. After dinner I went to see my first live act of jazzahead 2015 – Canadian singer Kellylee Evans, who I had the pleasure to meet (but not hear) at Jazz Connect earlier in the year and I did enjoy her show – Kelleylee mixes her jazz with a big portion of Soul and HipHop and is not afraid to improvise or scat over an Eminem song and make that her own. The band she played with didn’t knock me out, but was good enough in this showcase to let her talent and individuality shine – one to watch out for! A beer at the bar with some old friends, chatting and then off to the SACEM Night, which was part of the French focus of jazzahead this year, to see trumpet player Airelle Besson, whose project Prelude, a duo with guitarist Nelson Veras, I adore. Here she premiered her new project: the Airelle Besson Quartet, featuring Isabel Sorling (voc), Benjamin Moussay (p, keyb) and Fabrice Moreau (dr) and it was as impressive in terms of song writing and performance as the first album is. Airelle has a beautiful sound on her instrument and wrote some cool tracks for this bass-less band to perform – great as well singer Isabel Sorling, whose voice mainly adds wordless colours to the music, intensifying the emotions and supporting the overall sound … at one point the group sounded like the Pat Metheny group when he still used a vocalist … impressive!!! The album of this group is expected to be released in the fall of this year – watch this spot – I am sure I will report about it.
Saturday: meetings and running into Sten Nilsen, my friend from Jazzland Recordings in Oslo, which was a great surprise, as I didn’t know he was coming as well and we both then talked to our ex-colleague Christian Kellersmann, who now runs edel:kultur and through that the MPS label. Fun! First music of the day: Franz von Chossy Quintet, led by the pianist himself and featuring the slightly unusual line-up of clarinet, violin, bass and drums. A few people lately mentioned Franz to me and I can understand why – his music is an eclectic mix of jazz, classical and European folk music, often wandering into Balkan grooves and sounds. I did enjoy the set and will check him out a bit more in the coming months. Next: Come Shine, the Norwegian band fronted by the amazing singer Live Maria Roggen with Erlend Skomsvioll on piano, Sondre Meisfjord on bass and Hakon Mjaset Johansen on drums – a true band with a unique sound and a captivating way of playing with the American Songbook. The opener, a strangely grooving, but slow Caravan was sublime, later their version of Dock of the Bay was so cool and the song the band took their name from, Come Rain Or Come Shine was the icing on the cake with sublime vocals and overall improvisations. The audience loved it and I hope they can get a break in Germany after this – they deserve it!!! As a tip to check them out – most of the repertoire they were playing in Bremen you can find on their latest release RED AND GOLD.
Later I checked a bit of the Arkady Shilkloper & Vadim Neselovskyi duo – dreamlike sounds and beautiful playing by french and flugel horn player Shilkloper and young pianist Neselovskyi .. and beside a great music statement this was as well a political one: a Russian and a Ukrainian creating beauty together – no problems when it comes to music! Then I was hanging with above mentioned friends, plus a few others and missed the ECM night, which I heard was spectacular and singer Kenny Wesley, who I actually wanted to see, but didn’t know that the venue he was on, was about a 40 minutes cab ride away …..
Good meetings, interesting new people and lots of new talent to check out. See you at jazzahead 2016.