Bavarian Jazz

July 6, 2007

The German Ambassador and his wife hosted quite a noisy cultural evening at their residence last night which I attended, a performance by a jazz band, a quartet of young Bavarians known as max.bab. They arrived fresh from an appearance at this year’s Montreal Jazz Festival where the response of their audience had been, according to the drummer, Andreas Haberl, “very good, very nice. Cool.” His fellow musicians are Max von Mosch (saxophone), Benedikt Jahnel (piano) both of whom compose what they call the “tunes” for the group and Benny Schäfer (bass) the only one of the four who had any sheet music to follow. I assume the others were improvising on what they could remember by heart, but it all sounded remarkably polished and structured, like chamber music really.

It would be hard to pinpoint the difference between modern jazz and modern chamber music. Benedikt the pianist leaned over the keyboard and plucked at the strings of the grand piano for effect, from time to time. I’ve seen that done at chamber concerts. The bass player did some virtuoso plucking at the extreme end of his finger board, easy to hear, because his instrument was plugged into an amplifier. The saxophonist let fly with some rapid, clarinet-like runs and the drummer’s techniques were fascinating. He ran the tip of his drumstick over his cymbals and made a sound startlingly like a bowed violin string. At other points in the music he swirled at the skin of the drum with what looked like a metal pastry brush. Often he just tapped at the drums with his fingers. There was as much eye-contact between the players as in a string quartet, and their synchronised entries into the different sections of the music were spot-on, in consequence of very disciplined rehearsals, I should imagine.

To acknowledge the applause at the end of their performance they stood in a line with their arms round one another’s shoulders and bowed in harmony. They have been friends since their schooldays.

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