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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: March 7, 2012 @ 6:44 pm

    12 Points videos: jazz on film

    Laurence Mackin

    Here are the second batch of videos from this year’s 12 Points Festival. These videos were shot by Cormac Larkin, who reviews jazz for The Ticket and is the man behind Hatch 21 Productions, and the sound quality is excellent. The words below are mine. For full reviews of the bands check the earlier blog posts from 12 Points.

    Maciej Obara Quartet
    Maciej Obara exemplifies many of the best characteristics of Polish jazz. The playing of Obara and his band is polished to a pristine degree, full of elegance and well structured chromatic developments.

    The band build big dramatic landscapes of introspective sound that occasionally find themselves in unsettling territory, the sax haunting the off-kilter piano of Dominik Wania above scraps of scraped cymbals with the bass of Maciej Garbowski solid and relentless in the background while Krzysztof Gradziuk’s kit skitters nervously and
    Obara drops rolling bursts of colour low on the song’s horizon.

    Divanhana are an eight-piece band come from Sarajevo and play rich folk music from the sevdalinka tradition, tracks full of melancholy and lament, hearts broken and loves lost and won.

    The band build large swirling tones of mystery before turning slyly romantic and hurling the track down a rockier flight of stairs, the Sephardic clarinet lines of Ismar Poric harassing the riffs all the way. Other times they lay on the melancholy and the melodrama in much thicker strokes, and force the emotion of the songs across a little without trusting the melody to carry its own emotional weight. A few tracks sound like a Balkan wedding has suddenly stumbled into the room, bleary and boisterous with plenty of rootsy charm thanks to its big choruses and frenetic jigs.

    Oddly there is a sense throughout that the band are playing well within their own limits, so while it has sweep and drama there is no roughness, no risk taking and the band are never in danger of running wild and rampant. Usually it is this fire in the belly that brings this sort of folk music up to another level, but here it never breaks out into a sweat.

    French band Actuum rarely break into anything other than a riot, and for many people this was the 12 Points highlight. The band set out their stall early, big sudden muscular jazz, Ronan Courty abusing his double bass from the get go, barely breaking for a groove that lasts more than a few bars while Louis Laurain on trumpet and Benjamin Dousteyssier on saxophone snarl and snap their way above the furious kit of Julien Loutelier, that reels and jabs in space he somehow manages to carve out of the musical madness. They play the entire set at the absolute limits of your abilities. It’s a set of extraordinary power and attack, with leaps into the unknown that teeters on the edge of total chaos and instability without ever slipping. Very challenging musical violence.

    Schneeweiss und Rosenrot
    Berlin-based group Schneeweiss und Rosenrot use a slightly unusual set up of voice, piano, double bass and drums, but one that has plenty of scope for colour and drama. The band like to stop and start proceedings to keep things interesting, but the grooves here are more straightahead, with a definite hip hop feel to some of the tracks. Johanna Borchert builds a wide, warm platform on the piano, with clever repetitive figures that take occasional diversions. This allows the almost-funk and subtle shuffles of Mark Lohr on drums and Petter Eldh on bass to take the audience on a satisfying musical journey, with diversions down darker more abstract alleyways.

    Machine Birds
    Machine Birds sit somewhat uneasily in this festival context. This is pretty, melodic music, made up of synths, keyboards and vocals from Marte Eberson and Maria Skranes, with the odd bit of looping and sampling thrown in for good measure. In places it builds to something more than the sum of its parts, with the purity of Skranes’s vocal charming a packed Casa da Musica. If there was a full live band with some jazz chops behind this music, it could develop into something really interesting. As it stands it seems too mainstream to be sharing a bill with the more ambitious pedigree at 12 Points.

    Girls in Airports
    Girls In Airports closed things off for 12 Points 2012 and gave a robust and suitably groove-filled end to the evening, before the freejams of the festival club produced one last. The Danish band are not the most technically accomplished outfit at 12 Points, but they hone their rhythm section and Rhodes to build substantial and intricate post-rock platforms that allow the saxophones of Lars Greve and Martin Sender to take things into more improvised territory. African influences make their presence felt, particularly through the drums and bass of Victor Dybbroe and Mads Forsby respectively, beguiling a crowd with their irresistible syncopated rhythms and lending a bit of style, warmth and feel good atmosphere to the punch jazzy lies of Mathias Holms on the Rhodes, and the more Scandinavian sound of the brass

    A very satisfying, stylish and sublime end to the festival.

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