Poetic inspiration and free speech at Jazz à Luz

Concerts 20.07.2022

Four red threads have been woven into the 31st edition of the Jazz à Luz festival from July 13 to 16. Focus on the young improvised music scene in Barcelona, a reunion with singer and violinist Iva Bittova, the discovery of young talent, and support for regional creation through a creative residency. As a cultural actor, Jazz à Luz also wanted to contribute to more equality between men and women in jazz and improvised music.

Honor to women from the first day of the festival with "Tôle Story", the street show of the Compagnie d'Elles, then the tribute of a French-Catalan trio to the Mexican singer Chavela Vargas.

Trio of Nuria Andorra, Jordina Milla, Sonia Sanchez
Big top, July 13

Magnificent discovery that this Catalan trio from Barcelona, placed under the sign of the color and the play on the stamps.
In terms of color, the eye is immediately drawn to the red shoes of the dancer in the foreground, dressed in black. Sonia Sanchez evolves on wooden floors, one "à cour", the other "à jardin". One could say of her dance that it is stylized, if one compares it to the flamenco from which it comes. The movements of the body are sober and very sparing, except for those of the feet, which are equipped with flamboyant red heels. If there is any expressiveness in the angular body of the dancer, with a closed face, it is to be found in the hands. Sonia Sanchez has studied Butoh dance and combines it marvelously with her already rich palette, a subtle alliance between contemporary dance and flamenco. Her body, in turn dancer or puppet, draws in the space broken lines, and takes willingly a jerky aspect.

Sonia Sanchez interacts with the pianist Jordina Milla and the percussionist Nuria Andorra not through her gaze (she seems walled up inside herself) but through the sound of her steps, the pounding of her red heels. There is a form of violence in her dance.
The musicians do not look at the dancer. The clacking of her steps is their score. Under these steps, they unroll a sound carpet, made of rubbing, blowing, rustling wings and textures in permanent evolution.
The atmosphere is twilight.
At times, a mimicry seems to link the pianist's playing to Sonia Sanchez's heels, at other times it is Nuria Andorra's percussion that strikes in unison with the dancer's heels, whose body is sometimes drawn into a gallop, and becomes animal!
At half-time of the concert, Sonia Sanchez leaves the two wooden floors and evolves in the middle of the stage; she leans forward and brings her hand to her mouth: very beautiful moment of purified poetry, almost a painting! Then she draws in the space the evolutions of a bird, before being carried away by the sound storm. The storm rumbles. The volcano is in eruption. We perceive a flight of bells.
After the storm, the dancer comes to curl up in the piano, like a wounded bird.

The next day, a few kilometers from Luz, near Gèdres (Bergerie du hameau d'Ayrues), we find the percussionist Nuria Andorra, in a duo this time with the trombonist Christiane Bopp. In the thick and almost suffocating heat of the stable (straw bales), the musicians gradually "find each other" and sculpt together the saturated space. They share moments of playing with two percussions on creations of the farmer, who is also a ceramist. The trombonist blows and hits at the same time! The public, who had come in great numbers - too many in such a narrow space - held their breath so as not to lose anything of this delicate duo, which the acoustics did not help, but which moved forward, carried by the love of sounds.
Going down from the hamlet, we arrive in Gèdre, a small town with a swimming pool and an ice rink. The Barcelona percussionist Vasco Trilla is waiting for us. We know the adaptability of the Jazz à Luz audience. A concert in an ice rink? Never seen that before! However, very quickly the public, confident and amused at the same time, settles in crown around the oval track of the skating rink, and opens the hatches!

Vasco Trilla, solo
Skating rink of Gèdre, July 14

Vasco Trilla enters the ice ring like a bullfighter in the arena, through a small door. His percussion set is placed in the middle of the ice. It is an alloy of skins (tom and snare drum), metals (golden plates hanging from a gantry, cymbals, gongs), and lots of objects (small colored cups, tubes, sticks, large sanza ...)
The musician deploys with calmness and assurance several layers of sound and superimposes sounds and textures. He manages to make us forget his solitude.
The improvisation unfolds as if "on the edge of the ice". Vasco Trilla's solo happily escapes the catalog of sounds that sometimes characterizes certain improvisation solos. The ear is drawn into a journey, a dramaturgy.
Vasco Trilla alternates with subtlety the held sounds and the micro-events, the resonances and the dry sounds. A forest of metronomes placed on the floor all around the musician forms a sound carpet, a continuum on which the percussionist improvises. At times, one has the feeling of being immersed in the heart of an improvised "gamelan".
It is as if the ice (as opposed to the straw bales of the sheepfold) "led" the sounds, allowed them to blossom, offered them the ideal space.
We come out of this solo refreshed and invigorated by so much finesse!

Jazz à Luz 2022 creation: Tust, with the duo Cocanha and the duo Sec
Chapiteau, July 14

Jazz à Luz has put young musicians in the spotlight during this 31st edition and has welcomed two groups in residence : Cocanha and Sec. The result of this carte blanche is Tust, and Tust "is the strike, the blow, the soft collision of Cocanha and Sec".
Tust's residency allowed the birth of a new repertoire that seals the alliance of two sound approaches: traditional Occitan music (polyphonic songs "to dance") and alternative rock.
Tust mixes the sounds of four voices, three string tambourines, two basses, a drum kit and "hearts beating in unison".

With their radiant and timbred voices, the two singers Lila Fraysse and Caroline Dufau succeed in drawing the two boys of Sec, Jules Ribis and Xavier Tabard, into their territory; that of the song in Occitan language. Beautiful testimony of feminine persuasion from these two singers, who have also succeeded in another tour de force, since they work in the repertoire of Occitan polyphony, that of stripping the texts of the songs of their misogynistic connotation.
The quartet varies the pleasures and the colors, passes from the song a cappella to the accompanied song. The melodies are simple and direct, the carrures well affirmed. The sound is beautiful, full. We go from "You and us" by Brigitte Fontaine to a Reunionese song in Creole language, to the song of the Pillards, to that of the Donzelles...
Tust has a promising future and a solar energy!

Tubi Nebulosi : Giulio Tosti meets No Noise, No Reduction (bass sax trio from Toulouse)
Church of the Templars, July 15

Jazz à Luz concerts at the Templar church are rare. The one of July 15 marked the memories and won the adhesion of the public come numerous. It was undoubtedly the magic moment of this edition!
On the menu of this morning concert, a one-breath improvisation (and what a breath!) offered by a quartet gathered by the Toulouse company Freddy Morezon. The three saxophonists of " No Noise, no reduction " - Marc Démereau, Marc Maffiolo and Florian Nastorg - were joined by the young Italian organist Giulio Tosti.
The very first meeting had taken place in September 2021 at the initiative of the festival "Toulouse Les Orgues". More precisely, it was the Italian organist who, as an improvisation enthusiast, had expressed the wish to meet Toulouse improvisers for a series of impromptus.
A year later, the quartet found itself in the Templar church of Luz, with its frescoes and its painted dome, its small mechanical organ nestled in a white wooden case. The organ has the dimensions of a baroque organ: barely twenty stops. One can see very well the light wooden drawers and the two keyboards.

The three blowers are standing on the left of the organist and under the priest's pulpit. Each of us can see the organist in action: we are sitting very close to the organ case! A festival-goer even leans against the organ case to feel the vibrations...
What is striking about Giulio Tosti's playing is the way he "holds back" the drawbars, making the organ "cry" or moan. The musician deploys a number of non-academic playing modes: clusters, micro-intervals, chords with the flat of the hand, "à la Monk"! It is a very raw and organic playing. He often uses the keyboard as if he were playing a percussion instrument: abundant tremolos on the keyboard, with the flat of the hand.
The improvisation plays with the opposition between low and high notes, between held and rhythmic sounds, lyrical flights and a stripped down universe. The sounds that come out of the pipes (those of the low saxophones, baritone and bass, and those of the organ) give the feeling of being those produced by animals. One could be at the bottom of the ocean, in the presence of a kraken or a whale, so organic is the music.
What you feel vibrating deep inside is the pulsation of a big animal... The improvisation has a powerful breath, it unfolds according to the response games between the musicians. Sometimes, we think we hear cries or bird calls.
The musicians conclude their improvisation with a surge of sound, an almost Dionysian tumult! After this long dive in the low register of the instruments, the musicians choose the high register to make their cries burst.
The very last sound is played by the organist in the high register of the instrument: a heart-rending sound, held for a very long time. On the dome, an artist painted a long time ago a Christ with two fingers raised, surrounded by angels. I am sure that his brushes would have quivered at this music!

Duo Krci (Emilie Skrijelj, Loris Binot) and Lê Quan Ninh
Valley House, July 15

On the stage of the Maison de la Vallée in Luz, here are three generations of musicians, who share the same passion for sound research and everything that is played between the birth of a sound and silence. The accordionist Emilie Skrijelj had carte blanche for two concerts on this 31st edition, the first one with the quartet Nuits, that we had discovered at the Météo festival two years ago, and this concert in trio with a long time accomplice the pianist Loris Binot (together they gave birth to the duo Krci), and the percussionist Lê Quan Ninh.
Throughout their improvisation, we are won over by the feeling that it is the percussionist who often initiates things, provokes the breaks, brings the music elsewhere. Lê Quan Ninh is a musician of great refinement, gifted with a unique form of concentration.
Over the years (some forty years on the contemporary and improvised music scene), he has developed a whole vocabulary of gestures and sounds, with, among other things, this ability to play on the resonance of his device, thanks to the cymbals and objects that turn on the bass drum's skin. His vocabulary is constantly informed and modified by the context and his playing partners. Nothing seems to be left to chance. The gestures are sure, full, untied. Lê Quan Ninh has a sense of space, a sensitivity accentuated by his numerous collaborations with dance.
The sound material that he deploys with the accordionist and the pianist is striking in its homogeneity; it is almost the same from beginning to end, but with minute variations, shimmering effects. The three musicians act as sculptors of sound and space.
Emilie Skrijelj's accordion cultivates the play of textures (vibrated or static). Some objects come to strike the body of the instrument to bring other sonorities. During this concert, Loris Binot's prepared piano seemed to me not very intrusive and rather colorist, in the background most of the time, except at the end of the improvisation, when it sketches an almost "Cagian" melody in its stripped and simple character. One thinks of John Cage's "Sonatas and Interludes". Lê Quan Ninh accompanies this melody with a gentle swing.
Poetry has the last word!

L'Oiseau Ravage by Charlène Moura and Marek Kastelnik
Forum de Luz Saint Sauveur, July 16 

Another poetic moment of the festival, the musical theater duo formed by Charlène Moura and Marek Kastelnik: L'Oiseau Ravage. The declension of the bird's theme impregnates the songs as much as the scenography, very pure. The device is simple, almost symbolic. Black feathers cover Charlène's bust. She arrives on stage flying, then she imitates the bird with her voice.
The elements of the set also suggest the bird: a cage placed on the ground, with feathers, a mechanical bird that flies away from the hands of the saxophonist-singer-percussionist, a tribute to the "dodos".
L'Oiseau Ravage is a good dose of humor, another of poetry, heightened by a touch of impertinence. Thus, the pianist makes an allusion to Eva Joly, to the 14th of July parade, which should be forbidden... The musicians take the floor and install from the start a complicity with the public. The tenderness is palpable in the gestures, the voice, the harmonies of a jazz often mixed with classical music. One thinks of the duo of Elise Caron and Denis Chouillet. We are not far from Satie at times...
We are charmed by the poetic fluidity with which Charlène Moura moves from one instrument to another. Marek Kastelnik announces a "pocket symphony" in 5 movements... The duo plays with words, forms and with our memory. Charlène's voice is unpretentious, without detours: she tries at times to reproduce the inflections of opera singers, or the great voices of jazz. "L'oiseau Ravage" is an inventive duet, in the sweetness.
The concert ends as it began: Charlène becomes a bird again and flies away from the stage. Her playing partner continues to play, but he feels her absence, can't stand it anymore and gradually leaves the piano. I saw in this a nice wink to the fragile poetry of a Buster Keaton! Marek in his turn ends up escaping to the back of the stage, leaving the Jazz à Luz audience under the spell.

Liquid Trio : Albert Cirera, saxophone - Agusti Fernandez, piano - Ramon Pratz, drums
Big top, July 16

With the Liquid Trio initiated by the Catalan pianist Agusti Fernandez, a familiar figure in the Jazz à Luz festival, this 31st edition closes on Saturday July 16th with an authentic free jazz concert. Perhaps influenced by the name of the trio, I associate the music that gushes out that evening with the water of a fountain or a waterfall: three basins that, through a continuous trickle, become one. The density of sound is immediate, and of great beauty.
Faithful to the absence of hierarchy which is the rule in free improvisation, the musicians dialogue, share: none occupies the foreground; solos are very rare. The discussion is tight, dense. The energy is omnipresent, and with it the breath. The trio's improvisation flows in successive waves. It surges and rolls, with moments of lull, like "between dog and wolf". The climates are changing, as if the waves of this liquid trio were changing color according to the lighting
To conclude this long-breathed improvisation, the pianist Agusti Fernandez deploys a pretty melody of chords "à la Bartok" (I think of the "Night Music" of his "Suite en plein air"). The tensions are resolved in the low resonances of the piano...

It is on this concert in apotheosis - the apotheosis of a free jazz well alive - that closed for me this 31st edition of the festival Jazz in Luz, placed under the sign of the Catalan scene and the equality between women and men in the jazz and the improvised musics. For the record, there were on this edition 2022 a little more than thirty percent of female musicians programmed (31%). Of course, this is not yet the case, but Jazz à Luz is progressing, and offered festival-goers three round tables on the subject, broadcast live on the associative radio Fréquence Luz!

Anne Montaron

Photos © Alain Pelletier
Photos L'oiseau Ravage© Studio H
Photos © Y Francois AE Médias
Photos © Pierre Meyer AE Médias
Photos © Sarah Recla