Pianist and composer Achim Kaufmann is the recipient of this year’s Albert Mangelsdorff Award which was given to him during a little ceremony at this year’s Jazzfest Berlin on Friday afternoon. The pianist, who has studied at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada, visited Gina’s place a couple of months ago for a little interview. “Music has always been around me. It was fascinating to realize that you can actually improvise and Jazz was the catalyst for me to do music after all”. That’s what Achim told me during our conversation.
After receiving his award, he played with Robert Landfermann (bass) and Christian Lillinger (drums) a short set which was full of open spaces, long adventurous shapes and the willingness to let yourself drown in whatever the other band members had to offer. For a short piece at the beginning and towards the end of his set, Gabriele Guenther added some spoken words to the proceedings. “I’m much more comfortable not to know what I’m going to play” – this sums up Achim’s approach to the music.
That openness was completely missing during the 60-minute set of pianist Tigran Hamasyan on Saturday night. The pianist from Armenia played with his trio Sam Minaie (bass) and Arthur Hnatke (drums) an eclectic mix of Armenian folk, jazz, and rock, but he repeatedly played the same rock riffs during his performance and was hammering on the piano instead of playing it. His choice of abruptly changing tempo and mood of his individual tracks didn’t enhance the act either. It came across as a pretty arbitrary, monotonous, and cold set. And it seemed that he was somehow caged in his corset and was never able to break out. Too many repetitions reflect more of a stagnancy than an advancement.
The combination of jazz and folk is working, though. Proof was the “Wild Man Dance Project” by 77-year old tenor saxophonist Charles Lloyd with his brilliant rhythm section, consisting of Gerald Clayton, piano, Joe Sanders, bass, and Eric Harland, drums. Added to the group were Sokratis Sinopoulos from Greece who played the lyra, and Miklós Lukács from Hungary playing the cimbalom, which is similar to a dulcimer. Lloyd’s suite-like work encompassed a vast amount of experiences and know-how and Miklós had a fabulous solo during the middle-part of the project which veered from open contexts with cries and bursts to some sweet and mild sections where Lloyd played spiritual and lyrical; always being the true gatekeeper and bursting with unobtrusive eloquence.