Who Trio @Festival Jazz Onze+

Who Trio_HemingwayWhen I hear a band like Who Trio, I feel I need to get out from under my rock and listen to a lot more Swiss-based music. Playing together since 1995, they thrilled Lausanne’s Jazz Onze+ Festival last week with highlights such as drummer Gerry Hemingway losing himself in a cave of pounding beats that never hit us like falling rocks but swung with such power and groove we could hardly stay in our seats. But I’m getting ahead of myself – a key to imagining their performance is to know how they looked.

Three toddlers, who are black belts in music improvisation

Who Trio_WintschPut simply, three toddlers. Who are black belts in music improvisation. The way they played, stroked, tweaked, plucked and beat the living daylights out of their instruments, was as creatively done as it could be. Michel Wintsch was often hunched over the piano like Schroeder from Charlie Brown as if to control his delicate touch, or plucking strings under the hood of the piano like a car mechanic. Gerry also used physicality to direct energy into his drum kit, emphasizing beats be they furious or almost inaudible. He’d throw his head back and release vocally, serving us with scraps of a monologue; mutterings of the crazy guy who loiters on a street corner. Inventive sounds and ideas were continually mushrooming from this trio.

animalistic whines, walking bass, scratches…

Who Trio_Oester

Whatever Baenz Oester created with his double bass there was clarity and conviction: animalistic whines, walking bass, scratches, deep twangs and a series of Bach-like notes that I found particularly moving. It was the trio’s emotion and revealing of vulnerability that stood their performance apart and gave it resonance. Michel’s work as a film and theatre composer showed itself in glimmers of exquisite melodies and perfectly imagined chords that were authoritative yet melancholic.

It is a feat to improvise a full set without pausing but I wanted breaks in the music so we, the audience, could express and release our responses and also so the trio had a chance to start a piece, afresh. There was a tendency to build the tension, bring it down, then re-build the sound and this became a little predictable as a landscape. However, the music never was and the view was continually riveting. I can’t wait to hear more.


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