After two years of timidly shuffling past each other, it is time to get used to a packed music venue again. The first act in the Large Hall at TivoliVredenburg in Utrecht is the Bill Laurence Trio. The British pianist seems overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of his audience. The energetically playing trio react by going the extra mile. The three musicians are called back twice for an encore.
The escalators to the Hertz Hall are almost like a Stairway to Heaven. Dorian Dumont plays on his own in front of an admiringly silent audience. The pianist pays an acoustic tribute to the electronic music pioneer Aphex Twin. Dumont’s blues-like rhythmic patterns are a cross between the music of Claude Debussy and Brad Mehldau. The silence is interrupted every now and then when a door opens to an adjacent room with completely different music.
In the Pandora, Gino-Cochise has gathered a group of kindred spirits. The contrast with the stillness of the Hertzzaal is huge. The deep tones from the bass amplifier split my diaphragm. Despite the volume of his music, the leader’s communication skills are poor. Moreover, he plays so long that Chelsea Carmichael, programmed after him, hardly has time to prepare for her gig. This is only the second performance of her band, she says. The London saxophonist brings an exciting mix of Jamaican grooves and spiritual jazz. In the meantime the Pandora hall is filling up to an alarmingly high level.
British pianist Chris Illingworth had to cancel his previous Transition-performance due to intestinal problems, but now he gratefully takes revenge. His band GoGo Penguin closes the first evening with compelling contemporary rocking jazz.
The second festival day in Utrecht starts at 2.30 PM. Band leader Jan Garbarek positions himself as a saxophone-playing midfielder. He starts on the bowed soprano saxophone and during his two-hour concert he occasionally takes up his tenor sax. The atmospheric jazz of the Jan Garbarek Group shows influences from Norwegian folk music, Arabic modes and Indian rhythms. Drummer and percussionist Trilok Gurtu plays a variety of percussion instruments, topped off with a bucket of splashing water. Yuri Daniel surprises the audience with a real slapping bass act and keyboardist Rainer Brüninghaus plays fast virtuoso boogie and blues on his own. These light-hearted interludes enhance the moving effect of the lyrical beauty of the music.
On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the BIM (the professional group of improvising musicians in the Netherlands), Iman Spaargaren wrote a triptych about the rise, shine and fall of Europe. Spaargaren performs his composition with improvising musicians who draw from a broad sound spectrum, from classical waltzes to groovy jazz.
In the Large Hall, saxophonist Jasper Blom and a large ensemble pay tribute to the icon of free jazz in the Netherlands, Misha Mengelberg (1935 – 2017). The musicians keep their cool in the chaos because their basis is solid: the group swings like crazy. As soon as sentiment creeps in, they start to grind again. Oscar-Jan Hoogland throws marbles on the strings of the grand piano and runs through the hall using megaphones as loop stations. Han Bennink, who gets more energy out of his cajón than many other drummers who play on an extended percussion set, sings the Mengelberg classic: ‘De sprong, o romantiek der hazen’. Later this evening Bennink and trumpeter Ian Cleaver share the stage again, this time with guitarist Durk Hijma, bassist Jos Machtel and saxophonist Ben van Gelder in the Herz hall.
In a preheated Hertz, the Kika Sprangers Quintet plays a heart-warming set. The sound of the soprano and alto sax of the band leader coincides beautifully with Anna Serierse’s wordless vocals. Sprangers wrote beautiful new material recently: ‘The only thing that kept us going during the pandemic was our imagination.’
Drummer Adam Nussbaum, bassist Hein van de Geyn and guitarist Ed Verhoeff pay a wonderful tribute to guitarist John Abercrombie in Cloud Nine. The name of this venue fits perfectly well with this musical ascension.
Transition Festival, 25 & 26 March 2022, TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht