Cross the moat. Climb the spiral staircase. Then enter the Knights’ Hall, with blackened swords fixed to the wall and tapestries hanging from high ceilings. On 30 April, this medieval space hosted two performances reflecting the past and future of jazz. “My music is influenced by many factors,” Kari Ikonen said before the gig. “My mood, the audience . . . or an incredible venue.”
The Finnish pianist’s solo set explored harmonic ideas from diverse traditions. This included using a micro-tuning device that Ikonen invented to access pitches from the maqamat concept within Arabic music. He poured Japanese scales, classical patterns and a hefty splash of blues into the mix too.
The Evergreen Earth typified his gift for sensitive, sound-driven composition. Ikonen played melancholy chords, letting each one ring as he leaned forward to slap and scrape inside the piano. Patiently, he dripped and scattered notes, letting hidden hues and shadowy secrets emerge. Kari Ikonen is a sincere pianist who is constantly searching for beauty. He finds it very often.
This exotic blend was followed by more familiar fare. Marc Copland’s jazz career stretches back almost as far as the history of Burg Linn. His quartet features two young musicians, bassist Felix Henkelhausen and drummer Jonas Burgwinkel, as well as Grammy-winner Mark Feldman. “The violin adds a certain sonic thing I really relate to,” Copland said. “It’s a new colour. It’s fun.”
The group pushed and pulled each other through five tunes. Copland’s Round She Goes offered a chance to power up and speak out. They grabbed it. The collective sound meandered with menace. Henkelhausen gave a fleet-fingered, melodic solo. Then Copland took a turn. When he lowers his head to the keys, the former saxophonist seems to breathe through the piano. “If you do this for a long time, you just get a feeling,” he said. “And magic happens.”
For an encore, the violin sighed the melody from John Abercrombie’s Sad Song. Feldman then stretched out. A shape-shifting violinist, he takes the form of a honking goose, a cawing crow, a nightingale. Then came the last piano solo of the night. Copland is a light-touch, heavy-sentiment musician. If the castle wasn’t haunted before, it probably is after this ethereal performance.
International Jazz Day, held 30 April since 2011, aims to celebrate the music’s roots and future. With its ancient setting, new sounds and deep emotions, this double concert in Krefeld was a fitting contribution. You can watch the show here.