It started with a warm greeting in 7 different languages – an evening with Criss Cross Project in Kumu proved to be a spiritual experience and an eclectic sophisticated journey rather than a concert which seemed to serve only as a frame for a wider realization and expression. The concert featured pieces composed by all members of the band, often performed as a smoothly bound continuum or a suite.
Starting off with a piece resembling a prelude “New Prayer” composed by Marilyn Mazur was a kind of a controlled chaos of improvisation or a cheeky frenzy, developing and growing but still remaining strictly punctual in its complex rhythmic structure. The performers’ synergy was especially tangible in the unison rhythmic exclamations, intermittent with skillful solos or a sensual duo of vocals and trumpet.
In the following compositions, multiple times the John Cage inspired prepared piano was featured either solo or as a kind of perpetuum mobile, especially in “Bolero” composed by pianist Soren Gemmer, yielding a fresh waft to the sound of the ensemble and adding a hint of mysteriousness.
The group seemed to draw inspiration from everywhere, be it a Northern Finnish village, a poem, the snow in February or something as eternal as time and the ticking of the clock, as it revealed itself in different forms of musical, vocal and physical expression, sometimes even intertwined with choreographical elements, making it visually pleasurable and solid while still seeming naturally spontaneous in its core.
But not only bold, avant-garde, lively spirited pieces were performed – just as the audience’s blood pressure started to reach its limits, the players took care of it with either a melancholic meditation filled with sounds of nature imitated on instruments, or a light Latin American influenced tune stirred up with tasteful grotesque at times.
As the revitalized audience wished to hear more of the bands works which seemed to open up a kind of new dimension of a jazzy wonderland, they played two extra pieces, the first one inspired by the rhythms and drums of Congo and the other one being a mashup of a folk melody from Kuramaa, Estonia, and the well-known birthday song, in hommage to the 100th anniversary of Estonia.
The Criss Cross Project surprised positively with their ability to tie together different influences, thus creating their own specific sound and style peculiar only to themselves. They managed to navigate freely on the borders of tonality and atonality, classical and avant-garde, free improvisation and strict verification, all of it wrapped within a playfully light manner of playing and the charm of the moment.
Criss Cross Project:
1st of March 2018 at 19:00 in Kumu auditorium
Marilyn Mazur – percussions
Peedu Kass – double bass
Sarah Klenes – vocals
Koen Smits – trumpet
Leon Phal – saxophone
Soren Gemmer – piano, electronics
Niels Engel – drums
Check the photos here.