Inntöne Tastenfestival/Keyboard Festival (Austria) – London Jazz News

Inntöne Keyboard Festival

(Diersbach, Austria. June 3-5, 2022. Summary by Oliver Weindling)

Paul Zauner, founder and artistic director of the Inntöne Festival, having moved the dates of the main festival to July a few years ago, added a smaller three-day festival dedicated to the keyboard. The combinations ranged from solo to numerous duos, up to, finally, a few quartets. “Keyboard” is used in the broadest sense: mostly piano, but with some accordion, in different combinations, and also, more exceptionally, the clavitone (which we’ll discuss later).

Cynics warned in advance of possible repetitiveness or lack of diversity. In the end, the festival had proven them wrong. Biggest credit to Zauner for his imagination and commitment to having this on his family farm.

Fergus McCreadie. Photo © Patrick Spanko

The weekend was booked by two British acts, starting with the Fergus McCreadie Trio. The trio were making up for having had to pull out of the festival in 2021, due to Covid restrictions, and they have certainly made up for any delays. Echoes of Scottish folk melody, with imaginative use of drums more like impressionistic percussion sounds, had the audience moving and tapping their feet.

Then, the British group that closed the festival on Sunday evening was the lively and extraordinarily capable duo of Liam Noble and Paul Clarivismainly performing a version of West Side Story. As you would expect from such musicians, there was a fascinating interplay (and indeed I had first heard them over 20 years ago) and, unsurprisingly given their pedigrees in groups like Orquestra Mahatma and Pigfoot, lots of smiles and humor.

Otto Lechner, Arnault Methevier. Photo © Patrick Spanko

The accordion was another feature of the festival, certainly a Zauner love since over the years at least one accordionist has featured in the main festival. The first evening we had the great contrast of the two accordions of Arnault Methevier (“Nano”) and Otto Lechner, respectively from France and Austria. Beginning with a beat that sounded like a clock ticking, they started riffing and tearing around him. Most of the time, Lechner was a kind of lead guitar, wildly improvising and bending notes and chords, while Nano was more like rhythm guitar, able to change time signature and rhythm.

Finally on the first night we had the sophisticated melodist Enrico Pieranunzi. Seen only a few times in the UK, he recorded with the late Tina May, for whom he expressed the greatest praise and sadness to me. For his first track, it seemed to be based on a Bartokian folk song, but you could also feel the influence of Scarlatti, on which Pieranunzi worked a lot, and also the supreme melodic hook of the great Italian film composers , like Nino Rota and Enrico Morricone. He made the resort so easy and responsive. Pure elegance.

We had the chance to hear some musicians more than in different formations. The first to do so was almost accidental, as Fergus McCreadie had to replace Allesandro d’Alessandro who had Covid. But we didn’t lose anything at all – the set showed a totally different side of him compared to the trio. It felt much more personal, with him showing immense technique and perhaps echoes of Rachmaninoff and Chopin. McCreadie’s two performances were a great appetizer for the next couple of years when he has big opportunities as a BBC Next Generation artist.

Another British duo to appear was that of Xhosa Cole on the saxophone and Deschanel Gordon at the piano. They are of course the latest winners of the BBC Young Jazz Musician award, but both are making their debut as leaders in Central Europe. And, although almost unknown to the Austrian public, they revealed themselves with great panache, energy and modesty, in a program mainly based on standards, but ending with an original by Gordon. Cole’s version of Midnight Tower particularly stood out. And their engaging personalities have made them many new friends.

Another to appear twice was the pianist Elias Stemeseder, originally from Salzburg but now residing in Berlin notably as a member of Jim Black’s trio. One of his two performances was with Georg Vogel, also from Salzburg and inventor of the clavitone, on two pianos. (Great to see two life-size Bösendorfer pianos in a barn!) With great panache and empathy, they seemed to show the influence of many imaginative 20th-century composers, such as John Cage and Morton Feldman, but without letting go. become too academic.

Stemeseder also performed with a tenor Philip Gropper from Berlin. With tracks built from Gropper’s larger band, Philm, we got to appreciate their dialogue and in-depth knowledge of each other, Gropper’s use of extended techniques, while Stemeseder could use keyboards and samples to add extra color.

Alex Correa and Christoph Schweizer. Photo © Patrick Spanko

The range and diversity of so much of the festival was almost a relief to discover straighter jazz formations, including the Swiss trombonist’s Brazilian quartet Christopher Schweizer and the quartet of Stephane Belmondo and Kirk Lightsey, that I saw recently in Graz. Both, however, showing imagination.

And now for the Clavitone! The Clavitone is a keyboard capable of playing this George Vogel developed by inventing a new scale with 31 notes in the octave. The microtones of his trio allow us to hear harmonics and beats, as well as sounding like instruments such as the clavichord that aren’t “well tempered”. But there was humor behind the serious intent. And it reminded me a bit of the attitude and the joy of going there many weekend performances.

The concept of this specialized festival was a plus for us, and an experience for Paul Zauner. By keeping the audience lower, it meant we could properly focus on the music inside, which was difficult in the past. His infectious personality and commitment have shown like never before, and let’s see if he’s happy enough to keep it that way. In the meantime, we can look forward to its festival at the end of July, which this year includes the tastes of Hermeto Pascoal and Manhattan transfer.

The first two days of the keyboard festival will be broadcast over the next few months on Austrian radio.

LINK: Inntoene website

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