Opposites Attract

24. April 2019
Stefano Pocci

JazzKaar’s Monday was a foray into experimental jazz. After the late afternoon concert by German veteran free-jazzist Peter Brötzmann, the evening show featured two radically different performances: the solo voice of Swedish vocal improviser Sofia Jernberg and the trio composed of Maria Faust, Tim Dahl and Walter Weasel.


Walking on stage alone with an instrument requires a good deal of concentration, but when the instrument is the voice alone, then concentration can morph into a deeper state that resembles trance. That is exactly what happened as soon as Sofia Jernberg began her concert. No pedals, no effects, no background music, just her voice.


Sofia’s thirty minutes solo started as a chant in what very likely was Ethiopian, as she was born in Ethiopia, Africa. However, what seemed to be a gentle prayer initially whispered to the audience, quickly developed into a vocal tour-de-force.


Growls, sighs, whistles, buzzes, even the typical scat of jazz – though performed at incredible speed – emerged from her throat, a sort of Pandora’s box where conventional and unconventional singing techniques were summoned at her command almost effortlessly, if the microphone hadn’t revealed her slight panting every now and then.


The journey ended where it started, in a circular fashion, with Sofia offering the same soft, candid words she had pronounced at the beginning, so that the audience could finally rest and find its own peace of mind.


“What is the voice?”, asked Demetrio Stratos, the famous Italian vocal experimenter, in search of an answer. Sofia reminded us with her performance that the voice is a medium capable of triggering some profound, ancestral memories that belong to our long past as humans on this planet.


The second part of the evening concert presented the sax, bass, drums trio, led by local Maria Faust on saxophone. There have been many trios like this in jazz, but rather than looking towards Sonny Rollins or Ornette Coleman’s historical trios, Maria and her companions, Tim Dahl on electric bass and Walter Weasel on drums, seemed to befriend John Zorn’s Painkiller, or Tim Berne’s trios. After all it was an avant garde night.


While the rhythm section of the band seemed to work well from the very start of the concert, Maria sounded a bit off initially, probably due to the volume problems her sax suffered.


However, as the music continued and the issue with the sax mic was solved, the interplay within the whole group got tighter, and worked especially well in those sections where the volcanic Weasel was free to release all his power on the poor drum kit.


It was in fact impossible to resist Weasel’s antics in the background. His characteristic tuft, moving like a wave left and right and completely covering his face at times, did not prevent him from showcasing full control on the instrument, like a sports car suddenly accelerating and quickly stopping with hard braking.


Dahl also pushed his bass to its extremes, so much so that sometimes it didn’t even sound like one, following or anticipating the drums and completing the soundscape concocted for Maria’s solos, which alternated between chaotic and relatively calm moments.


It was a pity that the band stopped playing when its sound got together. Also the audience seemed to have eventually tuned in with the band and applauded more convincingly than at the beginning.


Though distant and diverse, the two shows worked well back to back, like two halves that complete each other. We are thus looking forward to hearing more avant garde evenings like this.


Punane Maja, Monday, April 22, 9pm


Sofia Jernberg: voice


Maria Faust: alto sax

Tim Dahl: electric bass

Weasel Walter: drums


And photos of Sofia here

Check out photos of the trio here