Comes fall, comes the Jazz Festival season and in Madrid the festival this year started on November 2nd … but just before the festival got under way I went to the concert of the Norwegian World Orchestra, which did perform for 2 days in town. Lead by Javid Afsari Rad this 10 piece orchestra is a reflection of our world: 10 musicians from 4 continents; 8 countries and their cultures mixed into one sound, one idea of expression. Here music shows what politics is missing: communication on a human level, common expression for the love of life and compromise and understanding. The orchestra on the night I saw featured beside Rad, who plays the santur, saxophonist Trygve Seim, violinists Harpreet Bansal and Sara Ovinge, Andres Maurette O’Brien on viola, Adrian Fiskum Myhr on double bass, Solo Cissokho on cora and vocals, Aissa Tobi on sinter, rabab and vocals, Jai Shankhar on tablas and Habib Meftah Boushehri on percussion. Each musician and instrument contributed to the universal sound and beauty of the music, which had a flow and lightness to it that is difficult to achieve. From duos to the full orchestra playing, the music never stopped to cross borders and engage the listener – global expressions of the highest kind. A flicker of humanity in a crazy world.
Gilad Hekselman is one of the leading young guitarist around today and his trio with Rick Rosato on bass and Jonathan Pinson on drums, a great band to hear live. Add to that the amazing saxophone of Mark Turner and you are in for a night of great jazz. Hekselman’s compositions are beautiful and clear, as is his playing and his understanding with Turner, who adds some deepness to an already great band. The communication between the sax and the guitar is truly special, as is the support the bass and drums are providing. The musicians seemed to have fun on stage and the audience was enjoying the show as well, as a standing ovation highlighted. Clap Clap was not only the name of one of Gilad’s great compositions performed that night, but as well the sound of the audience after each song.
I have kind of a soft spot for Becca Stevens: her song writing is simply amazing and her vocal performance in a league of her own. Her show in Madrid, featuring Alicyn Yaffee on bass and backing vocals and Jordan Perlson on drums, featured songs from her album ‘Perfect Animal’ and of course of her latest release ‘Regina’ and again showed what an excellent singer she is – her songs are not easy pop songs, but compositions of fine art and touching and with excellent lyrics. And even when she is performing someone else’s songs (like Stevie Wonder’s Always) it sounds like it is one of hers, she makes in completely her own with her phrasing and arrangement. The audience had a great time listening, sometimes singing along and in the end asking for 2 encores! Becca Stevens is an artist on the rise and deservedly so.
Kasia Pietrzko / Forthright Stories – still in her early 20s, this young Polish pianist and composer has a lot to offer – cool ideas in her songs and fantastic playing with her trio, as well a beautiful song with added cello (Zielone Oczy Grafitowe). One to keep an eye on!
Swiss singer Yael Miller released a self-titled 5 song EP, which is definitely worth checking out. Simple and modern in the arrangements, this music doesn’t fit into any genre, but nevertheless is great: well written music with great lyrics and perfectly performed. Check her out. Can’t wait for the first full album of her!
In 1995 Wolfgang Puschnig released the acclaimed album Mixed Metaphors, which just was re-issued. The recording features a singer, a poet and a rapper to perform their vocal skills over groovy and touching jazz composition by the Austrian sax player and features Jamaaladeen Tacuma on bass, Questlove on drums, Rick Iannacone and the Andy Manndorff on guitars and Milton Cardona on percussion. The vocal parts are performed by Linda Sharrock, rapper Antoine ‘Bun’ Green and poet Ernst Jandl. A unique album then, the re-issue just shows how timeless this music is.