Swiss Jazzed Out: Elina Duni & Colin Vallon

Swiss_Jazzed_Out__Elina_Duni___Colin_Vallon_-_YouTubeMathieu Mastin, concepteur et réalisateur de la série de mini-documentaires Jazzed Out a posé ses valises en Suisse pour y orchestrer des sessions live improvisées.

Swiss Vibes vous propose de (re)découvrir ces quelques minutes de musique hors norme tout au long de l’été. Après le duo lausannois de Stade, le piano suspendu de Malcolm Braff, la balade continue dans les entrailles du club bee-flat de Berne avec la chanteuse Elina Duni et le pianiste Colin Vallon.

The Schaffhausen Jazz Festival 2014

As I walked into the ex-yarn factory, Kulturzentrum Kammgarn, it was clear the organisers put passion and care into their festival. The place was warm and intimate with candlelit tables and there was a relaxed, convivial vibe. Over four evenings the audience was treated to a variety of Swiss improvised music and there was a day of professional talks.

Without doubt, this is an ambitious festival

I missed the compelling Elina Duni Quartet who opened the event, but was there to experience BASH. I’m getting to know Lukas Roos through his outfit, pommelHORSE, but here the clarinetist/saxophonist played with guitarist, Florian Möbes, Domi Chansorn on drums and Samuel Gfeller on graphic novel, literally. A massive screen behind the band showed the story of a prisoner drawn into increasingly twisted events that lead to his end. The style of Gfeller’s drawings, Robert Crumb in feeling, are so powerful that at times, I tuned out their sensitive and minimal music. On speaking to Roos he explained that cutting the set to 40 minutes affected the balance – a point echoed by Andreas Schaerer and Rusconi on appearing at this festival.
Arte Quartett

Schaerer’s vocal noises ran amok

Andreas Schaerer was performing Perpetual Delirium, his composition for the saxophonists, the Arte Quartett with Wolfgang Zwiauer on electric bass. It had the quartet interlacing with a naturalness that was almost child-like in it’s fun and freedom. There were fascinating textures as soprano sax took over from alto, or tenor had a furious and thrilling exchange with the baritone, whilst Schaerer’s vocal noises ran amok adding sparkle, or hiding within their vibrant sound.

For pianist Gabriel Zufferey the time limit was perfect. His music was fluid with notes as sweet as fluttering butterflies yet underpinned by such knowledge and skill that he came across as an eccentric wizard. I liked the echoes of classical music and he incorporated an Eric Satie piece – it might sound tacky, but in his hands it lifted the hearts of the audience who then demanded two encores.

Is Rusconi’s music, jazz, or not?!

I was recently critical of Rusconi‘s gig at the Cully Jazz festival, but at Schaffhausen they were more confident in their ideas and I totally got into the groove of Hits of Sunshine and am warming to the strangeness of Change Part 1. However, on talking to some of the European promotors invited to the festival, questions emerged – is Rusconi’s music, jazz, or not? Is it gimmicky or authentic? I felt some answers were suggested by Gerry Godley of 12 Points who tackled the issue of the future(s) of jazz in his presentation with cartoons from Patrick Sanders, at the festival. But I’ll go into that more in my next Swiss Vibes’ blog, ‘How is Jazz?’

In the meantime I’ll leave you with the Bill Evans‘ quote that Godley used, “Jazz is not a what, it is a how. If it were a what, it would be static, never growing. The how is that the music comes from the moment, it is spontaneous, it exists at the time it is created.” If the Schaffhausen Jazz Festival has its sights set on being a relevant platform for jazz then it needs to continue putting on bands that question our perception of this rich and challenging music, as well as, those that celebrate it.

Cartoon by Patrick Sanders

Colin Vallon speaks about “Le Vent”

Colin Vallon © Petra Cvelbar“Le Vent” is Colin Vallon‘s second album for the prestigious label ECM. Listening to it, or to him speak, you might think he’s a bit soft – a gentle soul. There’s a distinct aesthetic to his playing, it’s mindful and sombre as if remembering a lost love. Interviewing him, I found an assured and fiery spirit; a pianist with a clear intelligence, driven to carving out his own, individual path.

“From the moment I could stand I tried to press down the keys”

Music was always around Vallon – when most families were arguing at Christmas, his was gathering at the ever-present piano, singing hymns and Gospel. “I loved the sound of the instrument, from the moment I could stand I tried to press down the keys”. Despite this, he quit piano at the age of 12 because he could no longer play by ear and reading music frustrated him. Then two things happened: his uncle taught him some blues chords that he could play, “Without paper in front of me” and he saw a solo concert of Keith Jarrett, “It was really amazing to hear that.”

He returned to music lessons at 14 and began composing. By 19 he was at the University of Arts in Bern and had his own trio. Here he found the American theory of copying the standards until you could imitate them too restrictive. “But this was also very good for me,” he says, “because it meant that if I wanted to do something of my own then I had to do it really on my own and to be more didactic in terms of composing. I was really independent.”

“It’s a music that has something very raw about it”

However the composition tutor, Frank Sikora, inspired Colin and for his class he recorded, “A huge fence or gate that was screeching, making harmonics and noises.” By 2002 he developed this interest in strange sounds with prepared piano techniques and had begun an enduring curiosity for Eastern European music. “It has something very raw about it and, like this fence maybe [that he’d recorded], it’s a very different sound and it’s something that caught me immediately.” He joined a band with the saxophonist Sascha Schönhaus playing Balkan music and discovered one of his “desert island records”, Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares.

A journey in Albania

Meeting Elina Duni provided fertile creative soil as Albanian music opened up to him and the Trio’s third album, (their first for ECM) was entitled Rruga, the word for “path” or “journey” in Albanian. It was critically acclaimed, so did this make it hard to follow? “There was a bit of pressure,” admits Colin, “not from the label, but from’s hard to come with a second album…and changing the drummer [from Rohrer to Sartorius], but in the end I’m really happy with the results.”

“There are a few goodbyes, a tribute to Asita Hamidi”

Colin found his material came naturally as he dealt with several deaths and saw a suicide jump from a bridge. “Le Vent was an elegiac album, a lot to do with death…and the passing of time and life. It sounds really dark but it’s not just about that…There are a few goodbyes, a tribute to Asita Hamidi [the harp player] who died…things that are a part of life but I needed to express somehow.” It’s Vallon’s careful listening for, then stating his own truth, that makes him a compelling artist.

Colin Vallon “Le Vent” (ECM)

On tour:

26/04/14 Jazzahead, Bremen DE
27/04/14 A-Trane, Berlin DE
29/04/14 Mokka, Thun CH
30/04/14 Bee-Flat, Bern CH
03/05/14 L’Azimut, Estavayer-Le-Lac, CH
13/05/14 Mokka, Thun CH
17/05/14 AMR Genève, CH
27/05/14 Mokka, Thun CH
01/06/14 Green Hours Festival, Bucarest RO
07/06/14 Paris Jazz Festival, Paris FR

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