The second day of the Intakt Records Festival offers the first of many fantastic double bills. Trevor Watts & Dieter Ulrich begin, followed by Lucas Niggli, Jan Galega Brönnimann & Aly Keïta
Trevor Watts (saxophone), Dieter Ulrich (drums)
As a founding member of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, Trevor Watts was already helping to shape the course of jazz history back in the late 1960’s. The world of jazz has gradually taken note of quite how impressive an instrumentalist and improviser he is. He is known as well as the composer of ensemble pieces built on complex overlaid rhythms, which have been toured extensively under the banner of Moiré Music. In addition, Watts makes an impression and is thoroughly convincing in the context of smaller-scale free improvisation. Among his hallmarks are the long and intricate lines he plays, and his sense of phrasing is completely ‘sui generis’ and inimitable. In the mid-eighties, the Scottish-born bassist Lindsay L. Cooper (1940–2001) brought Watts and the Swiss drummer Dieter Ulrich together to form a trio which did two short tours of Switzerland. The Swiss Tagesanzeiger newspaper, in an ecstatic review, characterized the sound of this trio as “absolute music.” Unfortunately, the sad and premature death of Cooper was to bring this project to a sudden end. For Dieter Ulrich – who performed in bands with Urs Blöchlinger, Werner Lüdi, Omri Ziegele and Co (Cornelia) Streiff, and also toured with Michael J. Stevens, Oliver Lake and William Parker- the collaboration with Trevor Watts remains firmly in his memory as one of the most intense, formative and successful collaborations of his entire musical career. In the planning phase of this Intakt Records Festival, Ulrich was given the opportunity to assemble a group of British musicians to play a set with him. He made his mind up very quickly, and so this concert by Watts and Ulrich will also be a poignant and distant reminder of their one-time friend, colleague and a magnificent bassist, the late Lindsay L. Cooper.
Lucas Niggli (drums), Jan Galega Brönnimann (bass clarinet), Aly Keïta (balafon)
Aly Keïta is a pre-eminent exponent of the balafon, the West African xylophone. The musician, originally from Côte d’Ivoire, introduced the sound of the balafon into the music of Joe Zawinul, Omar Sosa and Jan Garbarek. Together with the Swiss clarinettist and saxophonist Jan Galega Brönniman, and Swiss drummer Lucas Niggli, he blends traditional African repertoire and rhythms with jazz and improv.
This trio has another dimension, that of a specific human and emotional connection which has its origins in a place very distant from Switzerland, and which goes decades back into the musicians’ pasts. Both Niggli and Brönnimann were in fact born in Cameroon, they have been friends ever since babyhood, and grew up with the sounds and rhythms of West Africa all around them. The repertoire they play, and the fluency with which they can interact with each other knows no limits. The French jazz critic Thierry Quénum wrote in the liner notes for their album “Kalo-Yele” (moonlight): “Each of these musicians can handle the melody as well as the rhythm, the musical territory they inhabit is close to the edges of jazz and world music. Is it jazz? The answer has to be yes, because to expect the unexpected could well be the motto they live by.”
A festival celebrating one of the most imaginative record labels in Europe today. The artists on the label range from Barry Guy (who will be celebrating his 70th birthday in 2017), the best of NY Downtown, such as Ingrid Laubrock and Mary Halvorson, through the cream of European improvisation, including Irene Schweizer and Alexander von Schlippenbach, to the best of Swiss jazz, such as Lucas Niggli, Sarah Buechi and Andreas Schaerer.