Ken Vandermark & Paal Nilssen-Love Duo, Donny McCaslin Quartet - Jazz geht Baden, Baden, 28 April 2012

WHOAH! Paal Nilssen-Love is one bad m-f! Holy shit! His playing was amazing, very, very intense, loosening up, freeing all rhythms, yet at the same time with lots of drive and momentum. Ken Vandermark started on tenor, then they picked up for real when he went on with clarinet and baritone, then back to tenor it was... and they added an encore without losing any momentum - yet it was quiet, lyrical, with VDMK on clarinet again (the instrument I prefer hearing him on).

Fantastic set!

Donny McCaslin's band... oh well... Uri Caine on fender and some cheapo stuff w/mac-book, Tim Lefebvre on electric bass, and Rudy Royston on drums. They kind of wanted to play an uninterrupted set, but applause didn't quite let them. Certainly all four of them are very good from a technical point of view, but well... McCaslin doesn't seem to know where he wants the music to go, Royston beats the sh*t out of his drums, but it's all too sly, too... you know, the youngish crowd loved how hip it was, but compared to Nilssen-Love it was super-tame and cute. Lefebvre was definitely the best of them, but he didn't get dirty that often, alas. Caine had some fine spots, but was mostly as boring as I expected (tell me off for that, if you want). McCaslin has a good sound on tenor and amazing technique, but he's not at a point where he has any direction with his own music. He has some sly ideas, does a short groove-thing, lets the band take over, then does his boring virtuoso soloing, very far removed from the original groove pattern, and often - worst in a much-too-long unaccompanied solo towards the end of the set - resembling a mix of etudes and transpositions straight out of some classical learning book.

Too bad, as there was loads of musical ability up there, but no idea what to do with it.

But then who am I to say so? The four seem to have enjoyed themselves, smiling at each other, happy about that clever little trick the other guy just pulled... it's just that to me, it got old before it even really started.

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