Cully Jazz festival 2016 – Switzerland gets down to bizniz (day 3)

AKKU Quintet – Chapiteau, Cully, 10/4/16

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Supporting a very traditional jazz vocalist, (Dianne Reeves), the Akku Quintet played as a very untraditional ‘jazz’ quintet – holding their weight very well as the alternative, slightly dark option on the Cully musical menu. A year ago the band were described as a work in progress, today the quintet comes across as a well-oiled machine full of maturity and articulation.

Underpinned by a definite focus on rhythmic and repetitive elements laid down essentially by the drums and keyboards, this quintet is not in a hurry. Their spacious, unhurried approach leaves plenty of room for interplay between all members who get to shine in totally different ways at very different times.

 

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The most attention-grabbing sound is Markus Ischer’s electric guitar which verges towards the psychedelic and is played out to full effect, fuelling the terms ‘jazz rock’ and ‘jazz fusion’ that the band is often labelled with.

Some of the sound particles in the Akku atmosphere are made of of bleeps, hallucinogenic wails, squeaky outbursts. Music to immerse yourself in like a rich, pulsating heart-beat which occasionally slows down, skips and jerks. As Jonas Fehr’s live visuals suggest, the molecules are in gradual full expansion. Expect a new LP from Akku Quintet in spring 2017.

Some questions and answers with AKKU Quintet drummer and bandleader, Manuel Pasquinelli:
Describe the musical dynamics within the quintet
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Manuel Pasquinelli: We are a quintet with saxophone, but the the sax is not the only leading instrument. The focus on an instrument changes all the time. We are all leading at different times, each member influences the whole thing. Groove and mood are as important as the solos. A solo is always part of the composition and leads from one part to the other. We try to create a piece of music as a journey. We leave space and don’t always play everything we could. We don’t tell a prefabricated story to the listener, so that the listener can derive their own story or mood.

Do you think you fit easily into the ‘jazz’ genre?

Manuel Pasquinelli: People often say to me “I don’t usually like jazz, but I really like what you do”,  so I think that ‘jazz’ is maybe not the right word to describe our music. It’s minimal, ambient, rock with the playfulness of jazz, influenced by different kinds of music (from Nik Bärtsch to Steve Reich, Yann Tiersen, Pink Floyd and beyond).

Akku Quintet “Molecules”

Band members:

Manuel Pasquinelli – drums & composition
Michael Gilsenan – sax
Markus Ischer – guitar
Maja Nydegger – keys
Andi Schnellmann – bass
Jonas Fehr – live visuals

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Cully Jazz festival 2016 – Switzerland gets down to bizniz (day 2)

‘Levitation’ by Tobias Preisig & Stefan Rusconi – Le Temple, Cully, 9/4/16

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Tobias Preisig and Stefan Rusconi are Swiss pillars of the Cully Jazz musical institution. Their Saturday night performance at Le Temple church marked a return to sacred ground that the duo had already trodden a few years ago. This is the venue that inspired and housed their Levitation project that tonight is played out to an eager audience, most of whom are already familiar with the powerful, intimate exchange between violinist and pianist.

The key feature of the Levitation project is the sensitive, gradually drawn out soundscape created in great part by Rusconi on the church organ which is then supported and teased out by the strings. In practical terms this means having the two musicians play upstairs in the church gallery, heard but not seen from the audience down below. Deciding that this year’s jazz audience needed something to look at, the entire concert was projected on screen at ground level, which, ironically – because of the very bright projector light that was aimed right at the audience – meant that many of us listened with eyes tightly shut, (it was a bit like staring at the solar eclipse without eye protection). Possibly the best way to appreciate the moody, almost Gothic sounds raining down from above.

Some questions and answers with violinist Tobias Preisig:
What’s your relationship to the Cully Jazz festival?

Tobias Preisig: I have a special attachment to Cully Jazz. I’ve been playing here for the last 6 years, I started off in a small caveau as part of the ‘OFF’ programme, then they offered me residency, then larger stages as part of the main programme. There’s a extremely open-minded attitude here and strong commitment to push the next generation. Young and unestablished musicians find a stage here, right next to the superstars. Playing at Cully is definitely the highlight of the year for me. It’s become almost a family gathering with musical professionalism.

Was the material for ‘Levitation’ tailor-made for Cully?

Tobias Preisig: We played as a duo here at Le Temple in Cully a few years ago, performing for the first time with the church organ. Again, it was an opportunity that the festival gave to us. We fell in love with the sound and came back one summer to record at Le Temple for 5 nights. This music is now released as an LP called ‘Levitation’ and yes, it’s definetely tailor-made. So what’s nicer than to celebrate a recording that was actually made in this enviroment?!

Will there be more live gigs with the ‘Levitation’ project?

Tobias Preisig: This is a special side project for both Rusconi and I whose friendship and collaborations go back a long time. So far we’ve only played the material from Levitation live twice! There are a lot of underplayed organs and oversized churches, so we are looking forward to exploring them and awakening them with new music.

Preisig & Rusconi Levitation bandcamp

 

 

Cully Jazz festival 2016 – Switzerland gets down to bizniz (day 1)

Kaleidoscope String Quartet – Le Temple, Cully, 8/4/16
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Two violins, one viola and a cello make up the unconventional Kaleidoscope String Quartet who kicked off the first night of Swiss musical contributions at the prestigious Cully Jazz festival. Performing material from their second LP, ‘Curiosity’, their strictly acoustic set up was a perfect fit to the meditative church setting of Le Temple.

I was lucky to bump into violinist Tobias Preisig just before the band came on, he tipped me off with a few insights into the quartet: « I used to play with them in the early days. What they do is technically very hard, you have to be really connected as musicians. Their forte is how they swerve tradition, always looking for new ways to play their instruments ».

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These words proved a useful interpretation tool. A string quartet inevitably conjures up very rigid ideas of genre, hence what makes this group interesting is how a variety of styles, rhythms and tones are woven into the classical string infrastructure. There’s a feeling of the experimental and the improvised even though they’re clearly a tightly rehearsed unit. Seamlessly the ball is passed from one member to the other as the violin is bent and shaped in all directions. Closing my eyes I could have sworn someone had sneaked in some Japanese pipes during track 3. Quasi pop refrains and folkloric riffs creep up when least expected to add colour and vibrancy.

@J-C Arav

@J-C Arav

Admittedly, there were moments when some the barren plucking overstayed its welcome, (at a critical point in the musical tension I overheard someone muttering «sounds a bit like a swarm of mosquitoes » ), the bass tones of the cello proving a welcome contrast to the higher pitches of the violins. Possibly too many sparsely clad moments where the rowdy festival crowd outside the venue added more rhythmic movement to the music than the quartet itself.

 

@J-C Arav

@J-C Arav

The higlights for me were the warm, swirling melodies that sprang suddenly out of the languid tones. Nothing gives the feeling of lift off and transportation quite like a set of strings, so to hear them setting off into fourth gear with dynamic, frenetic synchronisation was a delight – one track culminating with a joyful vocal shout! Amazing that a string didn’t break in the process.

Some questions and answers with KSQ bandleader and composer, Simon Heggendorn:
Is it important for KSQ to be seen as more than just a classical outfit?
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Simon Heggendorn: In many ways, yes. From our point of view, a ‘classical’ string quartet mostly interpretes music, whereas we create the music ourselves – rather like a band – and are completely free in the style of interpretation. This gives us the possibility to have a unique ensemble sound defined by the music we write for it.

Did the fact you were playing in a church impact your choice of what material to play?

Simon Heggendorn: Not primarily, maybe the fact we played in a church had an influence on ‘how’ we played (tempi, improvisations, dynamics). We like to play completely acoustic, so Le Temple was a perfect set-up for us.

What’s your relationship to Cully Jazz?

Simon Heggendorn: We played at Cully Jazz in 2012 for the first time. Spots are limited so it’s always very special to be chosen. Since it’s a big festival, you get more press attention than with standard gigs. It’s important to get known on the scene and be exposed to a wider audience, maybe even internationally. Not to mention the unique atmosphere in the village during the festival and the effort of everybody working here – just amazing!

Band members:

Simon Heggendorn – violin & composition
Ronny Spiegel – violin
David Schnee – viola & composition
Solme Hong – cello

 

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