When I first heard Carine Bonnefoy with Deborah Tanguy a few days ago, I was deeply impressed by her sophisticated pianism, and so I eagerly anticipated her set yesterday, as it would also showcase her as composer. Also featuring Marcus Wyatt (trumpet), Tarjei Grimsby (trombone), Steinar Nickelsen (Hammond organ) and Kristijan Krajncan (drums), the set promised more of the soulful and exuberant playing that has characterised the 2011 Standard Bank Jazz Festival thus far.
Bonnefoy is a brilliant writer, whose work recalls the deft designs and silvery textures of composers like Kenny Wheeler and Maria Schneider. Full of space and light, her compositions evoke alternative worlds that are irresistibly inviting.
As ever, the musicians’ performances were skilful, expressive, and spirited. Bonnefoy’s solos were at once spicy and beautifully crafted, while Wyatt was particularly inspiring in her rearrangement of Cole Porter’s All of You. Nickelsen’s improvisations were all the more impressive when one remembers that he played them while simultaneously holding down bass grooves. While these grooves were faultlessly executed, the music with its complex upper-structure harmonies would have been better served with double bass accompaniment. This would have created more space in the musical textures and allowed the music to breathe.
Although he has enormous energy and technical facility, I felt that Krajncan at times overpowered the music, in particular overcrowding Bonnefoy’s carefully paced improvisations. Grimsby has a beautiful tone, but he was somewhat under-mic’ed and his contributions were not always easy to hear.
The future at Festival
It was truly wonderful to hear music of such sensitivity and complexity, but I vaguely worry that the Festival’s packed teaching schedule may not allow sufficient rehearsal time for these daring and commendable collaborations to reach their full potential. Hopefully, as more funds are made available to this unique and valuable jazz education enterprise, we can look forward to further outstanding concerts in which the musicians are afforded the space to best express themselves.