10 October 2016

Still processing / 2

A break at JazzClub Tonne then the main act, Nils Petter Molvaer. The intro was four players on stage, a yearning trumpet against a heartbeat groove, open, spacious, slowly growing. Again, no standard swing set. The bass was electric and bowed; the drums were ever insistent; the keys were not keys but pedal steel (what a gloriously gleaming instrument and too little used). All spacious with time to develop. Slow, steady, unrelenting. The sounds and little call response melodies scream country in style and despair in temperament. Think Bagdad Cafe and Paris TX; I am calling you and Jeff Buckley. The bass is soft, at least sometimes played with thumb. The pedal steel switches to a choppy guitar, perhaps a Tele, and the feel is choppy and rollicking. The guitar solos are interpolated rather featured and I hear rock and pentatonics rather than jazz. I wonder about the background of his band; no doubt chosen for their aptness. And they were apt. The tunes just flowed into and through each other for 90 minutes, all melded and insinuating and unstoppable. I loved the shimmering pedal steel and he got back to that, but also the firm but softly spoken driving passages and the surprising refrains from tuned percussion, glockenspiel or whatever, and ringing, incisive church-like bells. And all that processing. No way all this could happen acoustically. There was mega-processing here. NPM had a laptop beside him and a range of pedals for harmonies and effects and controls the rest. There was another array of pedals at the feet of bassist who used two basses, a four string semi-acoustic and a six-string (Fender VI?) and more pedals for the guitar/pedal steel. Tons of gear, numerous amps and foldbacks and a travelling sound man. A hugely prominent kick drum that was sub-woofer punch-in-gut involving but also perhaps too house/dance. I heard it as particularly unbalanced in a passage of just drums/trumpet. And what else? Vibrato, snakey feels, wonderfully restrained playing that allowed the quizzical country air to breathe, again few chords, feeling like rock fours but I also counted 7 and 5. Even an Australian reference with didj tones from mouthing into the trumpet bell. And Miles-like modal interrogations. And stage lights: lots of lighting, spinning, colours, contrasts, darkness and brilliance. Ninety minutes of engrossing presence, choppy or shimmering or chunky or improvised; richly present and visually clamourous. I’m still wondering if I’m in a jazz club with these processed tones and a standing audience and dancing lights, but the ceiling looks right and it is a basement and what is jazz these days anyway? Both band and me, still processing.

Nils Petter Molvaer (trumpet) led a quartet with Geir Sundstøl (guitars), Jo Berger Myhre (bass) and Erland Dahlen (drums) at JazzClub Tonne in Dresden.

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