12 Points Jazz Festival day one: Mopo, Olivia Trummer and Ozma
Mopo are exactly the kind of band that those cynical of jazz love to hate. The Helsinki trio walk on stage to open the 12 Points festival, banging pieces of chunky metal together, hammering lids of tin, and generally making an unholy and unmusical racket, before launching into some energetic bebop that is colourful and creative. Why blow one saxophone, for example, when you can blow two? (And, in fairness, the track is called Heavy Metal, so it does exactly what it says on the tin.)
From there, the band move into the more composed More Ducks, a terrific track that spirals down into a rich soundscape that sounds like a film-noir quay-side scene: the kit and cowbells of Eeti Nieminen rattle like tin cans on a cobbled street; the sax of Linda Fredriksson honks softly like ships shifting in the night; and the double bass of Eero Tikkannen rattles with low thuds like rope and rigging.
Mopo double down on the sax. Photographs: John Cronin
Towards the end of the set, things get animalistic, with duck lures, squeaky pigs and rubber ducks all playing their part. There’s no doubting the band’s creativity and their sense of humour, but often these sections spill into self-indulgence. Rattling wood pieces together on stage is all well and good, but do you really need to nail them together? When they lock it in, though, the music is a joy to listen to, full of energy and ambition, and a great way to kick off a festival of fresh, challenging music.
It would be hard to find a larger contrast between Mopo and the second act of the evening, the Olivia Trummer Trio. The band call Berlin home, but their sound is pure pedigree New York (the group met and studied there). Trummer is a gifted pianist, with a vocal that’s crystal clear, and the band open with a series of classy standards. There’s a stylish take on Pure Imagination and a reworking of a Mozart sonata that gives plenty of scope for drummer Bodek Janke to built a classy foundation of lush Latin grooves.
This is a band rehearsed to a fine sheen who execute their tracks with confidence and style. They have a way to travel before they have a sound that’s distinctly their own, and while Trummer’s solos are expertly worked, it would be intriguing to hear the group go on the attack and take a few more musical risks. That said, the set is a welcome, elegant touch of class.
And anyway, if it’s risks you wanted, Ozma are more than happy to oblige. The Strasbourgian band end Friday’s night’s offering with a furious, formidable set. They have the look and feel of a group who have spent a terrifying amount of time in the rehearsal room, and it’s little surprise to learn they’ve been together for the best part of 10 years.
Guitarist Adreien Dennefeld punches through with staccato riffs or builds shimmering pools of music that saxophonist David Florsch runs his powerful lines over, while bassist Edouard Séro-Guillaume locks in an irresistible groove and drummer Stéphane Scharlé creates unpredictable, frenetic lines on the kit. From there, they ratchet up the tension, pushing the tracks towards a rock aesthetic before unleashing the taut dynamics altogether. The set is organic and exciting, with enough raw energy to power a small city, and sets the bar for the rest of the festival to follow.