Germany Dresden Music Festival 2019  – Jazz Night: Nils Landgren & Friends, Kulturpalast, Dresden, 9.6.2019. (MC)
Musicians – Nils Landgren (trombone, vocals), China Moses (vocals), Ada Rovatti (saxophone), Randy Brecker (trumpet), Simon Oslender (piano, keyboards), Lars Danielsson (double bass), Wolfgang Haffner (drums)
The Dresden Music Festival isn’t entirely about classical music and each season it does include some jazz concerts. I am sure this programming approach introduces many people to jazz for the first time. Judging by the size of the Kulturpalast audience this Jazz Night with Nils Landgren and friends had been keenly anticipated for some time. An eclectic mix, Landgren’s approachable set was best described as a jazz/rock fusion with a definite serving of funk.
To substantial applause Nils Landgren took to the stage with his first-class rhythm section: pianist and keyboard player Simon Oslender, bass player Lars Danielsson and drummer Wolfgang Haffner. Landgren dressed in a grey three-piece suit and white sneakers was playing a trombone with a red coloured bell section hence his nickname ‘Mr. Redhorn’. Standing out was ‘Night Life’ a Willie Nelson song with Landgren setting down a mellow groove, revelling in its catchy hook-line. Conspicuous too was ‘Broken Wings’ the song made famous by pop group Mr. Mister commenced with an extended bass solo by Danielsson, followed by Landgren’s calm, distinctive delivery on vocals.
After four numbers Landgren’s quartet was joined by renowned players, trumpeter Randy Brecker and saxophonist Ada Rovatti (a husband and wife team) and the impact of the richer sound was immediate. Brecker’s use of electronic effects to his trumpet added to the interest of the music in often unexpectedly ways. The seventh was a favourite piece of mine ‘Adina’, Brecker’s own song. Here he shared the solos with Rovatti who had switched to a straight soprano saxophone. Landgren left them to it and prowled around the back of the stage under the overhang of the rear balcony. Towards the end of ‘Adina’ when Brecker and Rovatti came together the effect was stunning, providing vivid colours.
For the ninth song of the set the six players were joined by singer China Moses eye-catchingly attired. Moses’s brand of soul/jazz and easy music chat provided extra syrup to the mix. Moses’s finest contribution was her soulful rendition of ‘Breaking Point’ a song from her album ‘Nightintales’ inspired by her relationship with a beautiful friend she envied but who was actually living a tragic life. Smoky toned, Moses produced an atmosphere that was both mellow and melancholy, then the music gained in weight and tempo with the three horns taking centre stage with a particularly big solo from Brecker. The ovation had Landgren running wildly around the stage like a teenager and fist pumping the air. From ‘Nightintales’ enjoyable too was Moses singing ‘Nicotine’ about falling in love with the wrong person. A minor grumble concerns the mixing desk that might have focused her voice better and the drummer was too prominent in the overall balance.
Beginning with a jazzy piano solo from Simon Oslender the thirteenth and final song was ‘Running’ also from ‘Nightintales’ all about growing up too fast and making mistakes. Requiring audience participation repeating the words ‘Running, Running, Running’ which was easy enough to do and worked quite well. Almost all standing, the enthusiastic audience could see lots of jigging about from Moses and Landgren and an especially notable solo from Brecker. For their encore Landgren led with Dr. John’s ‘Same Old Same Old’ but sadly the fun had to stop sometime.