Ljubljana Jazz Festival – Friday 17.6.2022

Ljubljana Jazz Festival – Friday 17.6.2022

63. Ljubljana Jazz Festival, Cankarjev dom Ljubljana, Friday, 17.6.2022

The third festival concert started surprisingly. On the main stage in the Cankarjeva Dom park, the Austrian quintet chuffDRONE, consisting of Lisa Hofmaninger – soprano saxophone, bass clarinet; Robert Schröck – alto, tenor saxophones, clarinet; Jul Dillier – piano; Judith Ferstl – double bass; Judith Schwarz – drums, started the festival. The three ladies and two gentlemen got along very well. Their finely balanced interplay, where the boundaries between composition and improvisation disappeared and where the musicians deftly controlled the occasional bursts of ecstasy, delighted the musically receptive audience. A very enjoyable performance.

Michal Kratochvíl: chuffDRONE is an Austrian quintet presenting original sounding compositions of their own, and of course I was delighted to hear another bass clarinet performance at the festival, this time by Lisa Hofmaninger. The beautiful looking open piano was given a good thrashing by Jul during the concert as he covered the strings with tinfoil, muffled them with his hand or perhaps strummed them with a string. He handled it brilliantly, although the piano was originally supposed to be completely different, so it was a bit difficult for him. In chuffDRONE’s compositions, saxophone and bass clarinet are constantly intertwined, add to that a juicy and well-paced rhythmic underbelly, a nodding piano, and suddenly you get a song that loosens up into improvisation and perhaps falls arbitrarily silent so that the next wave of sonic progression can unfold. Lots of different influences, imaginative playing by all and a beautiful whole holding together are the main virtues of this original band. Another surprise that will certainly be worth following in the future!

Violinist Oskar Longyka and his καλός project performed on a side stage in the park under the old plane tree as part of the Young Researchers concert series, which is aimed at integrating young artists into the professional infrastructure. The youngsters Oskar Longyka – violin; Jure Bergant – piano; Tobias Kochseder – bandoneon; Alberto Mastracci – viola (Slovenia, Austria, Italy) enriched the third festival evening with their own almost contemporary music.

Michal Kratochvíl: Oskar Longyka presented his project on the border between classical music and improvisation in a remarkable line-up. It was an impressively spellbinding music full of tension and tense moments.

On the main stage in the park, we welcomed the young Slovenian trio Birds of Unknown consisting of Patricija Škof – vocals; Tibor Pernarčič – saxophone; Tilen Beigot – guitar, which refuses to limit itself to one genre and creates original compositions, in which various influences are manifested, from jazz and avant-garde through soul and rhythm and blues to world music and classical music.

Michal Kratochvíl: Birds of unknown is a Slovenian trio whose performance I did not find convincing enough. The sometimes-dull songs failed to excite me enough to arouse any deeper interest. Occasionally there was a successful harmony of all 3 instruments that worked well, especially when Patricija did not sing the words but scatted. It was nice that they presented their own music.

The main attraction of the third festival evening was the versatile British saxophonist Chelsea Carmichael with her bandmates Nikos Ziarkas – guitar; Arthur O’Hara – bass; Olly Sarkar – drums. Chelsea began her performance with a mesmerizing duet with the drummer and continued to get even more intense thanks to Nikos, the unbridled guitarist of Greek descent. A joy to listen to as they play current JAZZ in London.

Michal Kratochvíl: I saw Chelsea Carmichael live for the first time only recently in the band of the amazing Theon Cross (reports from concerts in the Czech Republic), together with guitarist Nikos. So it was easy to guess that it was going to be a high-energy performance. A dramatic introduction was provided by Nikos and Chelsea in a duo to get us in the mood for the whirlwind that was soon to come. Played from their debut The River Doesn’t Like Strangers, it was a blast like the one with Theon the other day. This is how it’s playing in London right now, and it’s not for nothing that the scene there is rumoured to be possibly the most exciting in the world at the moment. The band keeps pushing and never lets up for a moment. And that’s how I like it!

The penultimate Friday performance in the Club on the 5th floor of Cankarjev dom brought the highly avant-garde Miha Gantar Quartet consisting of Miha Gantar – piano; Axel Dörner – trumpet: Gerry Hemingway – drums; Christian Lillinger – drums (Slovenia, Germany, USA). In an unusual instrumentation and in a line-up with three great masters of their instruments, Miha presented his highly charged music for quartet, drawing on the traditions of modernism and contemporary sound art. The result was a collective interplay that transcended generational differences and influences.

Michal Kratochvíl: And what we witnessed when we took the elevator up to the top floor of Cankarjev dom to the CD club there is beyond words. The Miha Gantar Quartet was putting on an experimental free jazz show that I will remember for a long time. I was shocked for the first maybe 10 minutes, because after Chelsea it was very incomprehensible music, but then suddenly it started to work and I could go crazy. What Christian Lillinger was doing on drums I haven’t seen in a long time. The incredible feel for even the softest beat and the visually extremely attractive delivery (as if he was painting in the air with his drumsticks) left me speechless. This concert was also intense in terms of volume, as both drummers were able to lean in properly as well. At times they tossed us around like a storm with a gale. Extremely intense experience… We didn’t have enough strength for another free jazz blast after such an intense concert day.

Reports from other days: