Jazzkaar 2011: Tallinn, Estonia, Days 4-6
April 25: UMA & Andi Pupato
While the Kadriorg Palace became the first Art Museum of Estonia, in 1921, its history has been nearly as checkered as the country in which it resides. Closed in 1991, due to severe deterioration, it was reopened as a museum in 2000, but instead of being the primary site, it became subsidiary to what is now five active branches of the Art Museum of Estonia. The newest, KUMU, is just up the road from Kadriorg Palace; built in 2004, its modern design may seem at odds with the centuries old structures nearby, but somehow it avoids feeling out of placea characteristic endemic to many European cities, like Bergen, Norway, where a thousand year-old structure can coexist harmoniously with a contemporary structure.
KUMU Art Museum
In addition to exhibits, KUMU has a tremendous performance space, constructed with fine acoustics in mind, and capable of being used for music, theatre, film and other multimedia presentations. UMA, the collaborative duo of guitarist Robert Jürjendalwho appeared earlier in the festival with Weekend Guitar Trioand trumpeter Aleksei Saks. The duo's most recent release, Hymn to Undiscovered Land (Burning Shed, 2010), is an atmospheric masterpiece of guitar soundscapery and hauntingly lyrical, also-processed horn, produced by Andi Pupato, best-known for his work with Swiss pianist Nik Bartsch and his group Ronin, who have three releases to date on ECM, the most recent being Llyrìa (ECM, 2010). The Swiss percussionist was also on hand for UMA's Jazzkaar performance at KUMU, and while the trio only performed one piece from Hymn, it was clear that the simpatico developed between the duo and Pupato has only become stronger, as the group continued its exploration of exotic colors, but in a more fervently and decidedly urban rhythmic context.
The performance also represented a second meeting with Danish visual artist Casper Øbro, who came together with Saks, Jürjendal and Pupato in 2010, at the Tallinn ECM Festival. But while their previous collaboration was a more atmospheric affair, the KUMU performance was marked by near-constant forward motion, as Pupato triggered and built a series of propulsive grooves with industrial textures, combined with live percussion coming from a series of cymbals, a programmable drum pad, and a rack of found objects.
UMA's Alexei Saks. Visual art by Casper Øbro
Saks spend a good chunk of the concert blowing into one of two large metal constructs, which altered the tonality of the instrument by providing different sized spaces in which the sound could resonate, picked up and fed through a rack of processing devices. While his emphasis was on streamlined melody and warm texture, there were occasional bursts that provided a window into the clear virtuosity and instrumental command resting underneath. Jürjendal leans towards acoustic guitars but, with piezo and hex pickups providing access to effects processors and guitar synth technology, he employs a significant sonic palette to create a combination of snaking melodies (often using an E-Bow), delay-driven pulses, and broader ambient landscapes. He also used a "real" electric guitar on the date, an old Gretsch model, that expanded his sonic possibilities even further. A student of Robert Fripp's Guitar Craft (he attended three of them in the 1990s), the influence was occasionally clear, but most often subsumed in his own interpretation.
Each piece was driven from a simple sketcha melody line or fragment providing a foundation for the trio to explore, with Øbro creating computer-generating imagery on a large rear screen, improvised in real-time just like the musicians; but even more defined form emerged when the group brought out singer/pianist/actor Siiri Sisaskbest-known internationally, perhaps, as a guest singer with Britain's Cinematic Orchestrafor a few songs towards the end of a set that, with encore, lasted about 100 minutes. Sisask's songs were often driven by a near-relentless pulse, her body rocking back and forth at the piano as she sang in a deep, resonant voice. It would, no doubt, have helped to understand her words, as her active political work would suggest a lyrical focus of some importance; nevertheless, while the earlier part of UMA's set was, perhaps, the better, this collaboration with a singer/songwriter does present the possibility of future collaboration that would be well worth pursuing.
From left: Siiri Sisaski, Robert Jürjendal, Aleksei Saks, Andi Pupato
Visual art by Casper Øbro
Structurally, Sisask's songs were simpletwo-chord songs, mostly; the last based around a descending pattern of four chords. The quintet worked best in the encore, a largely improvised piece where Sisask's voice was better integrated in the aural landscape, with only the sparest accompaniment on piano. It was a fine way to end a concert heavy on texture, groove and abstract imagery.
Visit Gourmet Duo, Rebecca Kontus, UMA, Andi Pupato, Casper Øbro, Siri Sisask and Jazzkaar on the web.
All Photos: John Kelman
Days 1-3 | Days 4-6 | Days 7-8