3 October 2012

Dolphy died in Berlin

I met a man at a U-Bahn station with four Eric Dolphy vinyl LPs that he’d just bought. That’s relevant, because Eric Dolphy died here in Berlin, probably from a diabetic fit. My man suggested Bb was his favourite local jazz club. I was planning on going that night anyway. The band was a touring Norwegian piano trio.

The Scandinavians have quite a reputation and this band was touring internationally (even if “international” in Europe means less than it does in Australia). The band was the Bodvar Tornes Trio. Leader Bodvar was nicely strong and well formed as a cool, considered pianist. His was not a performance of sprayed bop lines, but of calm and carefully selected notes, even if he released some faster runs at times. This is a popular approach and a preference for many, but I tend to like it hotter. He also wrote most of the music. He volunteered an influence of Monk in the first tune and the one non-original in the first set was Monk’s dream, although I didn’t quite hear Monk’s bizarre obtuseness in his playing. Bodvar was more lyrical than this despite intervals and some dissonance. Bassist Egil was also lyrical and conversational in his solos and I thought that he listened well but I felt he may have been playing at his limits. Certainly his facial expressions suggested it. I know from my own experience that I play best when I’m well within my limits, and for me, grimacing is a giveaway that I’ve reached my limits. (It’s been on my mind recently because I’ve noticed several singers grimacing and that’s not pretty; it’s a common but poor musical habit). Drummer Ole was busy and bustling and committed and popular with audience and the passers-by but I felt he was too urgent for a pianist oozing cool. It all felt a bit unbalanced and unsettling to my ears. These are decent young musicians and I expect time will mellow the interaction, but just for now I felt uncomfortable. I wondered if the band’s PA balance was as factor: the piano was a bit quiet where I sat. I also felt neither of the tones of bass or drums were particularly sharp and the drums seemed tuned loose for a deep and blunt tone. In all, there was some capable and considered playing and nothing that time and experience and a touch of the blues wouldn’t pull together, but it just didn’t click for me on the night after hearing lots of (perhaps too much?) impressive music over recent weeks. Bodvar Tornes (piano) played with Egil Kalman (bass) and Ole Mofjell (drums) at the Bb jazz club in Berlin.

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