And yet another ‘Offene Ohren e.V.’ [The Open Ears Society] line-up at the MUG [Underground at the Einstein, Munich], programmed somewhere between the more experimental side of jazz and freestyle contemporary art music: the Sestetto Internazionale, put together by the Finnish soprano saxophonist Harri Sjöström.
Half of the Sestetto consists of the Trio Internazionale – soprano saxophonists Gianni Mimmo and Sjöström together with the Finnish universal accordionist Veli Kujala, who had already impressed at the Einstein venue 3 years ago.
The instrumentation of the other half is no less exceptional: the English Alison Blunt, violin, Achim Kaufmann from Berlin playing the piano, Ignaz Schick operating the turntables.
It’s no exaggeration to say that this was a magical evening that took you beyond all established musical cathegories. The rapport of the six musicians – their somnambulistic awareness of each other – was obvious from Sjöström’s first delicate sax tones onward. Mimmo leads with a melancholic melody line, transforms it into animated passages, then accents from Kujala’s almost imperceptible quarter-tone accordion. The piano starts, Blunt takes on Mimmo’s melody and expands, followed by the first turntable samples that sound as if they simply can’t help but glisten and twinkle at exactly this moment in time, in exactly this sequence. By then you are trapped, subject to the spell of these six musicians who most of all listen to each other.
No-one plays to be the first, no-one needs to prove their ego, and yet there are six distinct individuals – weaving an acoustic fabric with feeling for detail, an infallible sense of how to develop this group composition, and with much humour.
This first part, some 40 minutes long, gives rise to much anticipation for the duo miniatures promised to follow. The duos! Mimmo and Blunt tenderly swirl around each other unisono, diametric and emotionally charged in a veritable cascade of sound. Then piano and turntables carry us off to intergalactic aural spheres where jollity and drama indulge each other and every sonic development holds new surprises.
The Finnish duo tops: at first microtonal and intricate soundscapes that command utter concentra-tion, only for the soprano sax and accordion to climb into a speedy dervish-like St Vitus’ dance that in the end leaves musicians and audience stunned, breathless and in awe. ‘You never know it before! You never know it before!’ Sjöström celebrates later.
Another sextet piece followed – this time frugal consonant and dissonant expansions of tone and interferences, repetitive sequencing reminiscent of the instruments’ linear moods and intonations that soon resolve into multi-melodious modulations. More than once the listeners are tasked to decide which of the complex and simultaneously evolving sound images to follow.
Needless to say, the applause demands an encore – Sjöström announces ‘Pikku Pala’ (a little piece).
As luck would have it, the public-service radio station Bayerischer Rundfunk recorded this highlight live: BR-Klassik will broadcast the concert on 14th June 2019. This music deserves to be listened to again. Just as much as attention should be paid to the Offene Ohren society’s spirited programming.
Recorded: Offene Ohren - Friday, 18 January 2019, “MUG” - Munich Underground at Einstein Kultur 18th January 2019 in Munich by:
Recorded by Bayerischer Rundfunk for BR-KLASSIK
Sound engineer: Frank Sattler
Sound technicians: Marc Hoffmann, Klaus Mau
Production assistance: Rita Mbeba
Live Producer: Ulrich Habersetzer
Radio Producer: Beate Sampson
Mix: Frank Sattler, Ignaz Schick
Mastering: Grzegorz Piwkowski (Hi-End Studio, Warsaw, Poland)
Text: about the group: Martin Burger (Jazzpodium 3/19, Translation Angelika Michitsch)
Liner note by Ulrich Habersetzter (BR), Martin Burger (Jazzpodium 3/19, Translation Angelika Michitsch)
Cover Photo by Ulrike Eichner
Cover design: Małgorzata Lipińska
Executive Producer: Maciej Karłowski