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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: February 18, 2013 @ 10:11 pm

    12 Points jazz festival day four review: Enrico Zanisi Trio, Cactus Truck and Beats and Pieces

    Laurence Mackin

    If pianist Nikolas Anadolis is the Oscar Wilde of the 12 Points festival, than the Enrico Zanisi Trio (EZT) are its Samuel Beckett. The band open their set with a sparse track of rare beauty and delicacy in which every note is paying rent, before rolling into more straightforward territory. During that first track, the intensity in the room is such that it feels as if the audience is holding its collective breath, but from there on in, everyone breathes a little easier.

    This is a set of sparse, austere music shot through with classical influences. Italian jazz has a tendency for the romantic, and so it is with EZT – their songs are lyrical and refined, built around the melodic lines of Zanisi on the piano, with smooth, tailored drumwork by Alessandro Paternesi, and Joseph Rehmer giving everything a soft landing on the double bass.

    The band show terrific control and restraint but for all the slickness of the approach, EZT need more blood and bite, more fire in the belly. Austere, evocative and cinematic they may be, but the set rarely moves itself beyond a gentle jog or takes a wander down an unfamiliar path. This set needs a jolt of dynamic to really snap it to life.

    The 12 Points festival is curated in such a way as to give the listener a variety of musical tastes on each night – but few shocks to the heart could have been more violent than what came after the bucolic EZT.

    Cactus Truck play a kind of music that appeals to a narrow field of jazz fans. The trio of John Dikeman on saxophone, Onno Govaert on drums and Jasper Stadhouders on bass arrive on stage with a cacophonous wall of noise, with shape and form barely discernible beneath the sound and the fury. From there it descends to a sleazy groove on just sax and drums before Stadhouers swaps his bass for guitar and whips the chaos up to a frenzy all over again.

    This is volatile, explosive music that exists on the limits of most people’s perception of music and many (myself included) find if difficult to compete with. There is no doubting the seriousness with which they set about their music, nor that there is a complex and deliberate structure put in place. The energy is off the scale on stage; this is a free wave, no wave ambush that you’ll either love or hate.

    If it was groove and melody in a slickly marshaled package you were looking for, it arrived in the form of festival closers Beats and Pieces.

    The Manchester crew brought their big band brassy ensemble to Dublin and a set that mixed a healthy respect for tradition with some welcome youthful aggression. Led by Ben Cottrell, the band perform mostly original material and here mixed a rock approach with a relatively straightahead take on the brass arrangements; the outcome is a rather cinematic musical nous that has more than a touch of Lalo Schifrin about it. The set has groove and soul aplenty, shot through with some excellent solos, particularly from Sam Healey on saxophone and Finlay Panter on drums, but there is a sense that, for a band this young, they could take a few more musical risks. If you’re going to deploy the heavy artillery of a big brass band you have to blow an audience away and leave no dissenters, and here that’s not always the case.

    The set, though, is made up of intricately crafted tunes, running from the upbeat room shaking groove of Jazzwalk and the more reflective Yafw to the measured melancholy of Broken. There are enough of moments of beauty, colour and full-throated tone here to close this festival of glittering diversity in fine style.

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