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Tron Theatre, 27th June 2009 (afternoon)

This was the first concert in a series of German jazz concerts organised with the assistance of the Goethe Institut.

I don’t listen to much free improvisation, so I don’t really know how to judge this in approved improv terms. Is it a form of jazz, or has it developed into a form of its own – non-idiomatic improvisation, I think the term is?

First up was a Gunter Sommer – Raymond Macdonald Duo. They played five or six pieces, each of which developed the opening idea in a fairly coherent manner, with obvious interaction between the two musicians. It wasn’t cold abstract music: there was an obvious element of humour and play to it. Jazz kept threatening to break out, but never quite did. I got the impression that Sommer would be an excellent straightahead jazz drummer if he chose to be, but that wasn’t his plan. (Later on, in the discussion, he said something along the lines of “I was playing Black American music, but I wasn’t a Black American. I felt like a thief”). On the jazz – free improv axis, the set was less jazzy than Fred Anderson and Hamid Drake’s “Together Again”, but more jazzy than Joe McPhee and Paal Nilsson-Love’s “Tomorrow Comes Today”, if that’s any help.

After the end of the set, Gunter Sommer gave a talk on his own musical past, and on the free jazz scene in the old DDR. He was interesting, amusing and spoke pretty good English. The BBC should get him to do an edition of Jazz Library, or at least interview him for the Jazz House.

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