12 Points jazz festival day three: Hanna Paulsberg Concept, Nikolas Anadolis and Koenigleopold
There’s an awful lot to be said for tradition, and the Hanna Paulsberg Concept (HPC) from Trondheim in Norway make more than a few strong arguments in its favour on day three of the 12 Points jazz festival.
They open their set with Potter’s Lullaby, a lovely, warm track that sets out this band’s old-school stall. From there, drummer Hans Hulbaekmo introduces a sweet solo, drumming on the skins with his fingers and gradually layering up a groove that the band slickly fall in with. Like all the bands at 12 Points, HPC are young, but unlike most of the bands they have a sound and a feel that should be years beyond them.
This is a band of class and distinction built around the Wayne Shorter tones of Paulson’s tenor saxophone. There are no straightahead rock beats to pulse things through, no hip hop breaks or nods to electronica. This is straight-up jazz, delivered with style, from a band not afraid to disappear into a song and look like they are really enjoying themselves. Excellent work all round.
The set ends on Waltz for Lily, another touch of class with a gorgeous central melody on Paulson’s saxophone that everyone in the crowd seems to be humming in the bar afterwards.
Next up is one of the more anticipated sets at 12 Points. Nikolas Anadolis is the first Greek participant at the festival and it’s been worth the wait. Anadolis is technically formidable behind the grand piano, throwing a torrent of notes at every song and barely pausing for breath while the crowd hold theirs.
He is perhaps the most technically gifted musician at the festival. Home tutored by his father, Anadolis won a scholarship to Berklee College and won the Martial Solal Prize in Paris before he turned 19. His set here is much more classical than jazz, though he’s not above throwing in the odd bluesy swagger to show he’s got that area covered too. He throws reams of ideas at each song in a blistering performance, though he never looks out of control or troubled; indeed, the only time he looks slightly uncomfortable is in-between tracks, when he has to handle the copious rounds of applause, which he smiles through the whole time, looking like his itching to start playing again.
Anadolis never lets the pace drop in his pieces; at no point does he allow space to creep into the songs. There’s no doubting his musical intelligence, or his control, power and ability; but a bit more dynamic and a little more room for the tracks to breathe and emote could make this a more rounded and satisfying set. That said, being in the audience for an Anadolis concert in a venue this small certainly seems like a privilege that might never be repeated.
Here endeth the traditional lesson. The last act up tonight is Koenigleopold, a frankly deranged set-up of drums, synths, loops, vocals, piano, sounds, madness, rap, spoken word, terribly clothing, a bag full of tricks and one small stuffed monkey – and did I mention there’s only two of them?
If HPC and Anadolis show an utter respect for the tradition, Koenigleopold seem intent on tearing it down. They open with Lukas Koenig on drums and synths while Leo Riegler raps in several languages and loops effects, stopping and starting to furious effect and attacking each riff and line as if its the last track of the night. Then Riegler stops proceedings to play some beautiful atmospheric lines on the grand piano while Koenig sort of bends over and does some rubbish yoga left of centre stage.
Then its back into the hip-hop inflected madness with Rielger taking time, while looping samples and his vocals and playing saxophone, to toss that stuffed monkey around in a wok, which is the very narrative key that unlocks the meaning of what they’re up to. Maybe.
This sounds like a car crash, but it’s far from it for several reasons. Firstly, the duo have such a great sense of humour and an astute sense of theatrics about what they do, they could probably play a set of Chris de Burgh numbers and the crowd happily go along with it. Secondly, they are very, very good musicians and while the set is chaotic, its controlled, tempered chaos and only gets just as insane as they want it to. At no point are they not dictating the flow of the set. Thirdly, they are wearing crumpled powder blue suits and no shirts. And that, my friends, is a look no man or woman can resist.
This is an anarchic, defiantly brilliant end to the night, before the crowd decamp to the jam sessions across the road in the Sweeney Mongrel for some scorching improv. And now there’s just one more day to go in the most musically creative festival in Ireland.