2012 Tampere Jazz Happening: Tampere, Finland, November 1-4, 2012
Drummer Gerry Hemingway's Quintet had Mark Helias replacing an indisposed Kermit Driscoll on bass, but the lineup was otherwise comprised of this version's steady members. The saxophone front line of Ellery Eskelin and Oscar Noriega seemed to be more inclined towards introversion than usual, but Hemingway himself drove each piece forward with his clattery excavations. Terrence McManus was a valuable addition on electric guitar, although he, too, was less caustic than expected. As an opening set, this was a fine way of establishing an enquiring mood, a diligent reading of Hemingway's compositions.
Over at Telakka, Jorma Tapio was proving to be the ultimate multi-instrumentalist. Every tune began with him switching from saxophone to bass clarinet or flute, crafting a broad range of textures, but also interrupting the set's linear flow. Tapio was an old colleague of the departed drummer Edward Vesala, but his music wasn't all roiling storm clouds. There was also a frequent lyrical touch, supported by the sensitive playing of the Kaski trio's other members, bassist Tero Siitonen and drummer Simo Laihonen.
Pianist Vijay Iyer has become so revered on the scene that surely it's time for the backlash. Although his trio always delivers sets of masterful control, Iyer's all-consuming appeal to folks from all areas of the jazz sphere tends to alert some to a possible blandness in the delivery of his message. Drummer Tyshawn Sorey is found at his most conventional within this band. Oddly, when bassist Stephan Crump is replaced by Steve Lehman for the Fieldwork trio, the conceptual results suddenly become markedly more asymmetrical, pointillist and generally captivating. The atmosphere was becoming too calm, but the next two acts were set to muddy the waters considerably.
Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf presented his Diagnostic band, setting out to pummel the mood in a radically different direction. Even since catching them in New York City last spring, there has been a considerable toughening of the set into a road-tested, festival-hardened entertainment machine. This was good news in terms of energy and momentum, but slightly unfortunate in terms of having gathered a few too many stadium rawk-style crowd hectoring techniques. French denizen Maalouf's tunes, personality and playing can't be faulted, though, and for every commercialized lick there were compensatory moments of gutsy rocking out and head-banging in an Arabic stylee. Maalouf is just as much into Led Zeppelin as he is Fairouz, as likely to dig Weather Report as he is Goran Bregovic. The highlights of his set, as anticipated, were the bewitching "Will Soon Be A Woman" and "Beirut," which began with the subtlest possible gradual growing, then ending up as a storming metal behemoth. Maalouf's microtonal trumpet was perfect for imparting an Arabic bending of notes, along with the jazz and rock flecks. Flautist Youenn Le Cam provided second trumpet, allowing Maalouf more freedom to roam. He also stepped in with some bagpipes, for some strategic squalling.
Now in the mood for gypsy escapades, the real thing was literally just around the corner. The late night Klubi 1am set was just about to set the dance floor ablaze. More trumpets, too, from the father and son leaders of the Boban and Marko Marcovic Orchestra. Arriving straight outta Serbia, almost half this crew played tenor horns, lined up in a mighty huffing battalion. There were also three other trumpet/flugelhorn players, as if the leaders weren't already letting off ample solo fire. Yes, this was dancing music, but the paradox was that the more a person quaffed, the less likely they were to handle the complex time signatures; but the less they quaffed, and they more likely they were to try. Either way led to unavoidably exuberant fun, with heads, stomachs and pedal extremities swapping confused roles with abandon.