The superb trio of Airelle Besson, Sebastian Sternal and Jonas Burgwinkel at Triskel provided an example of the current rude health of European jazz, writes Philip Watson.
The spirit of European cooperation was alive and well at Triskel Christchurch in Cork on Sunday afternoon when French trumpet player Besson and German keyboardist and drummer Sternal and Burgwinkel – a trio that had first met in a band led by Italian bass player Riccardo Del Fra – were presented by enterprising Irish promoters Music Network.
In a sold-out concert that was the final date in a short Irish tour, Besson, Sternal and Burgwinkel provided a masterclass in the art of the trio – in group interaction and improvisation at its highest level.
Each member of the group is an award-winning leader, composer and innovator in their own right, and yet there was a sustained and overriding sense of three musicians playing as one.
While 41-year-old Besson, a trumpeter with a wonderfully expressive and translucent tone, might appear to be the putative lead instrument in such a bass-less set-up, this was a trinity of equals dedicated to deep listening and the development of a singular sound.
Melody, harmony, tempo, dynamics and solos seemed to pass seamlessly between the players, as if they were instantly interchangeable and in constant motion.
Prodigiously gifted 36-year-old pianist Sternal, who also doubled on funky Fender Rhodes on several tunes, was equally at home playing repeated rhythmic patterns and improvised figures, sometimes on the piano board and strings themselves.
Burgwinkel, 38, is an extraordinarily inventive drummer of infinite textures, colours and hues.
This was cleverly organised and arranged music that allowed for a generous amount of internal energy and intuition; each player was there to augment, to react and support, to make the whole more absorbing.
It was also exactly the kind of original and compelling music the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival should be about.
“Thanks a mill, thanks a million,” said Besson, in perfect Hiberno-English towards the end of the performance, in response to enthusiastic applause.
The full and appreciative house in this beautiful space on this fine autumn afternoon would no doubt say exactly the same.