The Tampere Jazz Happening celebrated its 20th anniversary with a beautifully
coordinated manifestation of how people can listen to each other and create
awareness of new harmonics in human social possibilities. If ever there
was a time for a brilliant gathering of live music from different countries,
it was in these days and nights of world war and threats of retribution.
Apprehension, grief, and rage were like incense fogging the airports,
while ignorance, violence, and letters of disease were spread through
the usual channels of public communication.
On Friday night, November 2nd, Andrew Bemkey's piano began to rumble
through the deep tones of downtown New York's Ash Crisis, picked up by
eager ears in Geoff Mann's drums. Roy Campbell's incandescent
trumpet force set off the eastern cry in leader Ori Kaplan's alto
saxophone. The intense sound of New York right now was being delivered
live and indelibly to an eager international gathering downtown in Tampere.
Then Sam Rivers' Trio with Doug Mathews and Anthony
Cole opened out musical patterns from the leader's highly developed
angles on soprano, tenor, flute and piano. Flowing on through his 70's,
Rivers is just as slim, erect, focused, and fiery as he was through those
intense nights on Bond Street in Studio Rivbea back in 1976 when the music
Witness® Project was just getting underway. Concerts, workshops, and festivals
put on there independently by the Rivers family eventually led many of
the participating musicians (for instance David Murray, Wadada Leo Smith,
Oliver Lake, Andrew Cyrille, Fred Hopkins, Arthur Blythe, . . .) to perform
all over the world including here in Tampere. The situation Sam Rivers
creates with this music and vision remains an open, moving, and lasting
Saturday afternoon, Annie Gosfield kicked off her ball-heeled
wedgies, toed the electronic pedals of her sampling synthesizer, and eased
into the strange tones defining the vast industrial sonic space of EWA7,
the creation she premiered in a factory in Nürnberg two years ago.
Guitarist Roger Kleier, having warmed up his steel on some Mississippi
delta glissandos, slid far out as percussion colormaster Jim Pugliese
moved exuberantly from mallets on gongs, cymbals, and an old, bent hot-water
tank to hammers on iron wheels and gears both on stage and halfway back
into the space, changing its shape.
Les Emboutisseurs, (The Swagers, those who transform and pull metal
into long-tubed, flaring brass instruments), a brass ensemble featuring
three trumpets (Jean Luc Cappozzo, Jean Mereu & Itaru
Oki), two trombones (Patrick Charbonnier & Alain Gibert),
drummer Christian Rollet, and the coiled, sensuous soubassophone
enlivened by the deep breathing of Jean Francois Charbonnier. Ah,
nothing can compare with the ensemble aromatics of French musical civilization
and the refined flavors and harmonies of its inimitable cuisine. Long
may it thrive!
The Necks from Australia looks like a conventional piano trio
(Chris Abrahams-piano, Lloyd Swanton-bass, and Tony Buck-drums).
Actually it is a three-man organism practicing unlicensed mass hypnosis.
Exquisite control of the dynamics of extended cyclic motifs produces an
unwinding ear-trance that transforms listeners into spinning vessels stowed
in the hold of some open boat sailing vast southern seas.
Tony Buck's drums swerve and shift into a whole 'nother gear as
they parry and probe the radical feedback pyrotechnics of Jon Rose's
sizzling violins. The danger zone inhabited by The Exiles' prickly
sparklers and sudden spined rockets might be a shipwreck-prone volcanic
reef near the equator to voyagers from The Necks, but the trio transition
is definitely stimulating.
Fusion welding of two world cultures was achieved live by Nada,
an octet featuring Finnish and South Indian musicians. Composer Eero
Hämeenniemi, founding member of the Korvat Auki! (Ears Open!)
Society, and Karaikudi R. Mani, master of the mridangam
two-headed drum, lead an ensemble in which listening together becomes
truly communicable. Markus Ketola on trap drums is well tuned to
beat cycles of the Karnatic tradition of India. Balasai on wooden
flute and Durgabrasad on gottuvadyam played with a slide
are just as responsive to the beautiful saxophonics of Pentti Lahti.
Brilliant colors of the Indian fabric covering the platform onstage merged
with a kaleidoscope of colors in the interwoven musical sounds of Finland
and India, manifesting joyful demonstration that listening together in
peace is a transcendent social experience.
Rova Saxophone Quartet (Bruce Ackley-soprano, Jon Raskin-baritone,
Steve Adams-alto, Larry Ochs-tenor) came together by the
San Francisco Bay in 1977. Fastidious interplay, adventurous programming,
extensive touring and recording have forged a unique force for saxophone
possibilities in contemporary music.
This listener was drawing at the Tin Palace in New York that same year
when Rova's contemporaries, the World Saxophone Quartet, played their
first concert. Documentation of the WSQ live continued through the intervening
time, especially during the tenure of the late, great creative force,
Julius Hemphill. Music Witness® loves the saxophones. And only now, in
Finland, do we learn that there had once been an unrealized proposal to
bring both Rova and the WSQ together under a rubric to be arranged by
Hemphill. Such a special possibility for expansion is still a pleasure
to contemplate. How fortunate that Rova continues to mesh so beautifully
and bring on the development of its inimitable musical approach.
Nostalgia (accent on the first syllable in Finland) shows the
interacting ensemble composed by bassist John Lindberg featuring
four distinct musical voices: the always alert and authoritative Andrew
Cyrille on drums, Larry Ochs on tenor saxophone with room to
stretch his personal sound, and the unique attack of Wadada Leo Smith's
trumpet. Each is capable of stepping out and seizing the time. A stunning
set was slashed open on this night by brilliant, visionary bursts of spirit-sound
from Wadada's horn. Serious damage was done to any preconceptions about
limitations on musical expression.
Sunday afternoon saw a vast array of percussion instruments spread across
the broad stage. Trap drums, congas, djembes, bongos, timbales, gongs,
and racks of industrial gears, springs, and pierced castings were ready
as the first vocal callings and talking drum tones of Milford Graves
danced into view out of the darkness.
Soon the whole battery was roaring like a giant throbbing multi-colored
plane flying towards the audience, anchored by two bass drums driving
the bottom and the brilliant golden peal of the big ride cymbal forcefully
established and re-established at the top. Retreat was impossible, so
everyone present was drawn into a new level of awakening.
The drummer then transformed himself into a tumbling shaman at the stage
edge. Suddenly he was discovered seated in the audience with everyone
listening together to the mysterious vibrations still emanating from the
Quickly, before there was time to indulge in self-consciousness, four
audience members were drawn up onto the stage, each given a different
percussion instrument and a different personal rhythm. With a little physical
coaching from the Professor, they were soon really leaning into their
parts, a multiple complex rhythm was emerging, and the great patterned
plane was taking off again. This time the audience itself was the engine
roaring Forward (!!!) into a moment of undeniable Healing-Transformation-Happening
The Barry Guy New Orchestra played his recently composed, hour-long
structure "Inscape-Tableaux." With the composer conducting from
his magnificent bass, all-star colleagues from the UK, Sweden, Switzerland,
Germany, and the USA were coordinated, exhorted, challenged, and listened
to. The picture of what this Witness heard shows Marilyn Crispell
on grand piano on the left, Herb Robertson's trumpet attacking
from above, Barry Guy bowing into the extended trombone of Johannes
Bauer, and the frightening dexterity of Evan Parker's saxophones.
Across the back throb the doubled drums of Paul Lytton and Raymond
Strid, together with the tuba of Per Åke Holmlander,
the bass clarinets of Hans Koch and, of course, at the lower right,
Mats Gustafsson's everting baritone saxophone. Intense. Probing.
Jamit (Jam Session): The main stage show was over. The experienced
Happening crew was breaking down the lighting and sound equipment
as the chromatically stained hands of the music Witness® packed up
paints and portfolio. Yet another flavor of live music was still
approaching through the open doors at the reception in the Klubi
just beyond the back of the hall. It was a jam session, heard but
unseen. Last licks of color were thrown down before rinsing the
brushes. Carrying packed bags through the doors and into the party
revealed Tony Buck on stage again playing drums, driving another
improvising vehicle while Happening Director Annamaija Saarela was
moving enthusiastically with those dancing in celebration.
For the twentieth year in a row, the citizens of Tampere have invited
exciting musicians and excited listeners from around the world to
get together early in November at the center of their city. Getting
involved in really listening live to new sound expression, to each
other, among other enthusiastic listeners, fresh possibilities emerge.
Music, that fastest art, is always the first to show the way.
Korvat Auki ! Ears Open!
Rauha, a long weekend of listening to the musical sounds of peace
Kiitos. Thank you, once again, Tampere.
Each original ink and acrylic picture, created during live performances,
measures 70 x 100cm (27 1/2 X 39 1/2")