Rollins And Stanko At Bath Festival

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

On a wet Saturday the group Sâlt began a day of jazz at the Bath Music Festival with a children’s show, the group's cheerful theatricality belied a fraught journey from Amsterdam that saw the musicians hot tailing it to the bandstand before charming children and adults alike with their sousaphone-flavoured antics.

Nils Økland followed with a rather austere but nonetheless haunting evocation of the western Norwegian folk tradition as channelled via Økland's Hardanger fiddle and violin. Singer Åsne Valland Nordli’s breath control and instinctive group telepathy, especially as the music gave way to its drone-like instincts, with Økland and pump organist Sigbjorn Apelan, was apparent. Only a short time later, over at the Pavilion, Dennis Rollins' Badbone & Co sprinted down the centuries to made a giant leap of volume, approach and engagement with the audience. Touring new album Big Night Out his band featuring a new super fast drummer Vidal Juba who powered the band through a set that saw Dennis excel on his solo spot on Tracy Chapman's 'Fast Car' after initially quoting from Nat Adderley's 'Work Song' and 'Summertime' at the start of the set. The evening programme saw multi-instrumentalist John Surman duo with his partner Norwegian singer Karin Krog. After a slightly ramshackle start Surman got into his stride later. Krog seemed most at home when she tackled 'In a Sentimental Mood', her honeyed vocals rich and diction alive with expressiveness. Later as the pair explored electronic textures, particularly effective in the polyphonic episodes, the set produced new pleasures. Surman's "arranger's piano" worked well as the pair performed 'God Bless The Child' and then Krog sang some charming Norwegian language songs. The Tomasz Stanko quartet followed playing music from Lontano, the third album in the series the group has made together, due for release in September. Opening with Slawomir Kurkiewicz quoting from 'All Blues', pianist Marcin Wasilewski transformed the material harmonically while the trio adjusted the music's direction rhythmically and then melodically. Lontano means "as heard from a distance" and the allusion to the word has several connotations metaphorically as well. The distance of years seems fitting somehow, towards the end the quartet played 'Kattorna', the tune initially written for a film by Krzysztof Komeda and then performed on the record Astigmatic. Most of the other music was either written by Stanko himself or by the band, as on the album. However, there was a certain alchemical dimension at work on this occasion. It was subtly different to the set the band played in London last November. As ever Marcin Wasilewski played superbly but the group is world class. Stanko was on form: beguilingly fragile, knowing, aesthetic and resourceful. A wonderful end to a top quality day of improvised music and jazz.

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