Daily jazz blog, Marlbank

Josh Meader, Roxana Amed and Amaro Freitas sparkle at Jazzahead!

Matt Thomson and Josh Meader from the Josh Meader Trio who played Hall 7.1 at Jazzahead on Friday. Review Stephen Graham First of two reports from Jazzahead 2023: The thing that is most obvious at Jazzahead is the sheer internationalism of the …

Published: 29 Apr 2023. Updated: 14 months.

IMG_3262 Matt Thomson and Josh Meader from the Josh Meader Trio who played Hall 7.1 at Jazzahead on Friday.

  • Review Stephen Graham

First of two reports from Jazzahead 2023: The thing that is most obvious at Jazzahead is the sheer internationalism of the annual gathering in the northern Hanseatic city of Bremen in Germany. Walking among the dozens of stands in Hall 6 of the large Messe building where booths of every description presented national jazz scenes and record companies of every stripe at the beginning of the day when things were quieter the scene by lunchtime was utterly transformed as the place began to buzz and gain energy and the crowds just kept on coming and coming.

It was good to catch up with industry colleagues in full lig and blag mode and part of the point of the whole affair as networking is key and to see in one place a pretty panoramic snapshot of what is going on currently in terms of jazzer releases and activity not only in Europe but mixing in from across continents.

IMG_3257 Liun + The Science Fiction Orchestra playing the Schlachthof on Friday afternoon

The first artist we heard among several bands during the day - none of whom we had seen before - was the Brazilian pianist Amaro Freitas who delivered a solo set in the early afternoon - not the easiest of slots. The crowd appreciated his elaborate and non-standard version of John Coltrane's 'Giant Steps' most of all and certainly the sheer power and imagistic imagination of this dazzling pianist invited you in to his own world.

IMG_3252 Pianist Amaro Freitas playing Hall 7.1 at Jazzahead

Also from far flung places - in his case Sydney, Australia - very long haired Converse wearing Australian guitarist Josh Meader and his trio of keyboardist Matt Thomson and drummer Alex Hirlian took a different approach. Serious noodling from this guitar wiz was the order of the day and you had to lean forward to cop a whole lotta that. Less prog than Allan Holdsworth, almost as Buddha poised as Derek Trucks who he vaguely looks like, probably 'Eclipse' impressed most. Thomson on a rack of keys with a Nord 3 as his main focus (not so good when he switched to the grand piano) gained momentum as he went through the set. Meader certainly has ''guitar hero'' written all over him but the set blew hot and cold, the middle part lost its way a bit. But certainly we'll be hoping to see Meader again pronto as you'd imagine the Brit promoters will be clamouring for him.

IMG_3221 The exterior of the Schlachthof in Bremen

While sometimes the crowd of sounds bled into your consciousness too much the most stimulating of the Friday shows was the German Liun and Science Fiction Orchestra. Singer Lucia Cadotsch - brilliant on the upcoming AKI with Kit Downes, Phil Donkin & James Maddren - was a very cool, calm and collected deep toned presence playing music she and the lively multi-tasking keys/saxist/flautist Wanja Slavin wrote for Lily of the Nile out last year on Heartcore.

'Medusa's Champagne' was the pick but the powerful band maxed up the raw ingredients and responded to Slavin's direction especially the horns. Trombonist Shannon Barnett among the soloists really soared. Dark and brooding certainly there was an edge to this that other bands today lacked.

Some acts didn't work as well and we couldn't catch everything that was on for sanity's sake - but we didn't warm to the fairly preposterous Karja/Renard/Wandinger - pianist Kirke Karja would have been better on her own - and the Norwegian band Lav Sol had their moments but couldn't keep their momentum up especially when the electronics sucked all energy out of their essential instrumental swagger.

IMG_3265 Argentine American singer Roxana Amed playing the Schlachthof at Jazzahead

More of a day for instrumentalists but singer of the day in terms of sheer stage presence and rapport with the audience was without a shadow of a doubt the hugely gifted Roxana Amed from Argentina who lives in the States in a masterful latin-jazz performance that included a good deal of material from 2019's Ontology touching on words set to Wayne Shorter's 'Virgo' and Bill Evans' Miles Davis classic 'Blue in Green' that made good use of a strong band. Pianist Martin Bejerano made his presence felt more as the performance continued and the tender touches by tenorist Mark Small mattered a good deal.

Tuba player Heiða Karine Jóhannesdóttir photo top beamed on to an outside screen that relayed Lav Sol's performance from inside Hall 7.2 at Jazzahead in Bremen

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April's best jazz albums

ALBUM OF THE MONTH - APRIL 1 That Old Feeling 2 AKI 3 Vagabond 4 Return To Casual 5 All One 6 Everything Is Going To Be OK 7 Open House 8 Music For Betty 9 Day 10 Loyal Returns Jef Neve, photo: That Old Feeling art

Published: 28 Apr 2023. Updated: 13 months.

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ALBUM OF THE MONTH - APRIL

1 That Old Feeling

2 AKI

3 Vagabond

4 Return To Casual

5 All One

6 Everything Is Going To Be OK

7 Open House

8 Music For Betty

9 Day

10 Loyal Returns

Jef Neve, photo: That Old Feeling art