Tampere Jazz Happening 2009
Of the four US bands, three played Old Customs Hall and had strong showings. The exploratory Trio M - Myra Melford (piano), Mark Dresser (bass) and Matt Wilson (drums)performing now four years from their first live gig together and in midst of a European tourcontinues to turn out one mesmerizing set after another, revealing their deep empathy while equally balancing composition with improvisation. Each member is readily equipped to do anything at any given moment, from soloing to laying out to changing tempo, the three moving as one, always. Their performancesmusic primarily from their 2007 debut Big Picture (Cryptogramophone) including two dedications: the bassist's "For Bradford" (composed for friend and previous employer cornetist Bobby Bradford) and the drummer's "Naïve Art" (for mentor Paul Motian)enthralled the sold-out audience with nary a dull moment, marking a definite apex in this year's programming (or any programming for that matter that incorporates this group).
Drummer Mike Reed, in his first-ever visit to Finland, brought his People, Places & Things band (with Tim Haldeman-tenor, Greg Ward-alto, Jason Roebke-bass), playing mostly swinging '50s-'60s period Chicago- themed dedications, each hovering around a respectable six minutes including "Status Quo" (from the group's Proliferation but found originally on another interlocking saxophone occasion, the classic John Gilmore/Clifford Jordan Blowing in from Chicago session) and Sun Ra's "Saturn" (featuring Reed at his most colorful while maintaining a wrist-busting tempo). On "Is It," the leader worked demanding swing rhythms around his solid right-hand ride cymbal. Solos here, as was common through most pieces, moved from tenor to alto, each saxman allowed to play as in or out, together or separate, as they pleased and unlike Innanen's ensemblewithout sheet music to anchor their flights of fancy.
Dave Douglas' acoustic quintet (with saxophonist Donny McCaslin, pianist Uri Caine, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Clarence Penn) performed original compositions such as the trumpeter's "Rain on My Parade" encore dedication to Misha Mengelberg with its inherent "On The Sunny Side of the Street" feel good vibe and a false ending that fooled half the crowd into premature applause (something Misha would have taken enjoyment in).
And Dr. Lonnie Smith's exquisite blues- and groove-drenched late-night organ trio set (with guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg and the drummer graced with blurring mechanical wrists - Jamire Williams) brought the roof down, energizing an ecstatic Tulliklubi crowd with renditions of "Backtrack," Eddie Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance," "Willow Weep For Me" and the Beatles' "Come Together," unquestionably a festival highlight. It was mid-set, as a matter of fact, this correspondent suddenly realized the significance of the complementing extravagant (if not over the top) aforementioned smoke and light stage shows, and only locals or those initiated would make the following connection. The day before my departure I was taken to experience my first-ever true Finnish sauna, including a dip in one of the literally freezing lakes right after withstanding 8- 10 minutes of sheer sauna heat (repeat 3-5 times depending on your endurance and will power!). If you can imagine the steam that rises from your (mind and) body when traveling between the two extremes, you're now getting a good idea of what I've observed and am speaking of!
The Finns sure know how to appreciate good music, andspeaking from personal experience - Tampere saunas on and off the stage are a great place to start.
Photos by Laurence Donohue-Greene (except Juhani Aaltonen/Reiska Laine by Maarit Kytöharju)