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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: May 8, 2011 @ 4:06 pm

    12 Points Festival: Day Four – final review

    Laurence Mackin

    On the final day of the 12 Points festival, it fell to RedivideR to fly the Irish flag (and follow the jazz-band-name trend for odd typography). Band leader Matt Jacobson (who is a divil for the anagrams apparently) drives operations from the back, building big swaggery beats lent style and intricate melody by Derek Whyte on bass, while Colm O’Hara on trombone and Nick Roth on saxophone harry the top lines with bursts of colour and flowing lines of notes. There is stacks of groove at play here, the band making songs that wouldn’t sound out of place on a 1970s cop show, Lalo Schifrin-esque grooves snapping and strutting their way downtown amid the open horn improvisation. It’s a different texture to what we’ve seen during the rest of the week, with soul and funk in unlikely places. Perhaps the band could pursue their rhythmic explorations a little further and dig those grooves a little deeper, but this is a fine, fly set with a solid sense of style and direction.

    The band pretended to be politely amused by another one of Jacobson’s anagrams

    Once again, it’s the middle act that takes the most risks on the 12 Points paper, but are also in danger of delivering the most explosive set. Slovenian pianist Kaja Draksler leads a truly international cast of characters and influences in her Acropolis quintet, with musicians from Romania, Italy and Turkey bringing their own sounds to bear on the music.

    There is no way this music should work; Draksler brings austerity, subtlety and poignancy with her fluid piano playing, and rings through in bright, rich textures. Drummer Kristijan Krajncan lays down muscular beats that are supple and intense; guitarist George Dumitriu introduces bursts of electronic colour that contrast with the excellent organic, brooding basslines of Mattia Magatelli, and Turkish singer Sanem Kalfa threatens to steal a show with her melancholic, dramatic vocal that haunts the instrumentation and holds the whole proposal together.

    Acropolis quintet – jazz Tetris champions 2011

    If it sounds complicated, it is – but this is a carefully considered, well marshalled intricacy. It would be all to easy for this band to stumble over each othe’s lines and introduce too many elements to the palette, but the control and restraint they show around the central themes makes for an epic, elegant set that demands to be listened to, and there is a joy on stage and in the music making that make it a privilege to be in the room with. The songs are built up into a tower of sound that references all the glittering influences at play before collapsing down with exquisite musical drama. Perhaps the best set of the week then, and a band that are ready to establish themselves on bigger stages than this.

    So how do you follow that, and put a coda on what has been one of the most inventive, creative and expressive festivals in Ireland in quite some time? Simple – strip it back to a Finnish trio, let them plant some pop seeds that germinate into jazzy green shoots and fill a room with bursts of sound and colour.

    Helsinki outfit Elifantree use saxophone, voice and drums in a way that is anything but traditional. Pauli Lyytinen builds most of the melody, which drops and pops intricate lines that Anni Elif Egecioglu attacks with her vocal, skipping up and down the registers with style and skill. Inbetween these spaces Tatu Rönkkö slots in funky, artful grooves and the set shimmers and shakes with style. A pop sensibility with an ear for a solid riff is allowed to run riot with all the quality jazz craftsmanship that this band can draw on.

    Pauli Lyytinen kills all his own clothes, you know

    At times, the sound is filled out with glockenspiel or small looped delay effects, and this is when the songs really hit the height. That little bit of extra texture boosts the substance of the music and gives Lyytinen, a spectacularly inventive saxophone player that you could happily listen to all evening, and Egecioglu more room to work with. The poignancy that they hint at is allowed to come into full play, and makes music that is greater than the sum of its valuable parts. There is a strength and depth of character to this band – this was a fine, satisfying way to cap an extraordinary festival.

    However, this was a little like the last song before the encore for 12 Points. All week musicians and punters have been making the trek across the Liffey after the final set of the night to listen to improv sets in the Foam festival club. Many of the 12 Points artists have taken the time to hang around the city and spend some time jamming, chatting and enjoying each others’ company, and in a way this facet of the festival is just as important as putting on shows. Last night, the open jam session threatened to lift the roof off Foam, when Pauli Lyytinen and Nick Roth went toe to toe on horns, while Isabel Sorling, reluctant to leave after playing here on Friday, scorched her way through some extraordinary, almost pre-verbal vocal lines, and Derek Whyte lead the local contingent that drove the whole, wild party on.

    Roll on next year.

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