Courvoisier / Halvorson
Like so many working partnerships in jazz, pianist Sylvie Courvoisier and guitarist Mary Halvorson improvised together before they decided to formalize their innate rapport with a working duo. Relishing the ineffable bond they experienced the pair quickly visited a recording studio to make the 2017 album “Crop Circles”, where their alert, sympathetic interplay continued to blossom on compositions they had already written for other contexts. When they set about making a follow-up they began to write music specifically for the duo, elevating the quicksilver interplay of their previous work on the 2021 album “Searching for the Disappeared”, where their lines converge, tangle, and dance in profound skeins of melody and oblique harmony.
Courvoisier, a Swiss native who’s been a key fixture on the New York scene for decades, and Halvorson, a MacArthur Foundation fellow who’s one of the most distinctive guitarists of her generation, are at the top of their collective games these days, and in this duo they almost seem to proceed unconsciously, responding to one another’s spontaneous phrases as if finishing a sentence. Whether traversing composed material or improvising freely, they construct a fascinating world where each musician can pull in disparate references as naturally as drawing breath, unspooling lyric tendrils that creep like commingled vines. There is tension and dissonance in the music, as the pianist’s classical grounding collides with the guitarist’s rock-influenced concision, but no matter how multivalent and thorny their duets are, the air of conviviality is always apparent.
- Sylvie Courvoisier – piano
- Mary Halvorson – guitar
(FR, DE, IT)
The French quartet Novembre presents something special for this year’s Jazzfest Berlin, enlisting some of the most talented children’s choir in the city. The group presents a unique iteration of its programme “Apparitions”, where the band is joined by a cello trio and a second jazz ensemble called Les Bribes, magnifying the effect of the head-snapping modus operandi of the recent album “Encore” with separate ensembles, spatial movement and powerful lighting effects that underline the action. Thanks to an inspired exchange between the composers, Antonin Tri-Hoang and Romain Clerc-Renaud, and the German choir directors, Gudrun Luise Gierszal and Eva Spaeth, as well as to intense joint rehearsals in Berlin, the kids from the girls' choir of Sing-Akademie zu Berlin and the boys' choir of Universität der Künste Berlin are integral parts of the performance, joining the fray, singing and adding small percussion in response to visual cues from the stage.
It took Novembre a decade to release a follow-up recording to its 2013 debut, but the music on “Encore” proves the wait was worth it, offering ump-cut but strangely logical transitions between the bebop of Lennie Tristano and free jazz. The band’s repertoire was co-written by reedist Antonin Tri Hoang and pianist Romain Clerc-Renaud, and when executing the material their minds seem wired to one another, tracing out the knotty themes in unison. The flurry of discrete episodes in “Miniatures”, for example, feels a bit like a child was controlling a multi-CD changer, but instead this a live combo – rounded out by bassist Thibault Cellier and for the Berlin show, drummer Sylvain Darrifourcq – not only stops on a dime and picks up where it left off several sequences earlier, but the actual content begins to harmonize even in the most abrupt cuts. The band improvises in ultra-concentrated, meticulously plotted passages, toggling between composed and free material with a mix of precision and fizzy joyfulness.
- Romain Clerc-Renaud – piano, composition, keys
- Antonin-Tri Hoang – saxophone, composition
- Thibault Cellier – double bass
- Sylvain Darrifourcq – drums
- Linda Olah – vocals
- Geoffroy Gesser – saxophone
- Francesco Pastacaldi – drums
- Gulrim Choi – cello
- Adèle Viret – cello
- Myrtille Hetzel – cello
- Mädchenchor der Sing-Akademie zu Berlin
- Kapellknaben des Staats- und Domchor Berlin
- Gudrun Luise Gierszal, Eva Spaeth – Direction
- Sitali Dewan – Assistance
Arrangement and collaboration / workshop with children’s choirs from Berlin on the initiative of Berliner Festspiele / Jazzfest Berlin in cooperation with Universität der Künste Berlin
Takase / von Schlippenbach: “Four Hands Piano Pieces”
Pianists Aki Takase and Alexander von Schlippenbach are Berlin jazz royalty, collaborators in life and the stage, where vast decades of experience playing together and in contexts of their own come tumbling together. There is a sublime melding of sensibilities on the recordings they’ve made together since the early 90s – both as four-handed duo and in the context of a homage to Eric Dolphy with a full band – with Takase’s more traditionalist streak colliding with her husband’s often stormy, new music-inflected improvisations. Earlier this year the pair released what may be its strongest offering, “Four Hands Piano Pieces”, capturing both musicians seated at the same instrument. In his liner notes Schlippenbach explains that the duo has learned the necessity of having lose conceptual strategies in advance – intervallic leaps, which propel the titular motion of “Jumping Jack,” a focused back-and-forth on “Dialogue,” and “the shared idea of a grotesque dance number” on “N. Dance.” It’s less important to know the background information than to simply marvel at the execution, where the pianists engage in powerful negotiation of space in real-time, their jagged lines intercut with watchmaker precision despite the fact that most of the enterprise is unknown. Of course, playing together for more than four decades has its benefits, and there’s a telepathic quality to these duo performances, which allows one musician to finish the musical sentence of the other, or to race ahead, anticipating what the other will do.
Aki Takase – piano
Alexander von Schlippenbach – piano