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Das Kapital plays Hanns Eisler

Recital Room, Friday 29 June 2012

Hanns Eisler – pupil of Schoenberg, associate of Brecht, and composer of the East German national anthem – is not the composer most associated with jazz, but Franco-German-Danish trio Das Kapital‘s show at this year’s Glasgow Jazz Festival demonstrated that with a bit of imagination, his music can work very well as the source for jazz improvisation.

Guitarist Hasse Poulsen played an amplified acoustic guitar, but managed to get a wide range of electric guitar-like distorted sounds from it; Daniel Erdmann blew some fine tenor; and drummer Edward Perraud contributed a lot of imaginative colour to the music, often changing the cymbals on his kit between tunes so that he could produce the sounds most appropriate to each number.

I’m not familiar with Eisler’s music, but Das Kapital managed to produce a very varied set from it. “Verfehlte Liebe” (“Misguided Love”) was a tender ballad, “Sklave wer wird dich befreien” (“Slaves who will free you”) a latin swinger, and “Auferstanden aus Ruinen”, the former East German national anthem, was made to sound remarkably like an Ornette Coleman piece. Generally their approach of recasting the song into a jazz idiom then launching into some free-ish improvisation worked well, but there was the occasional section which misfired. Every now and again there seemed to be a hint of the dreaded post-modern irony, but I can’t rule out the possibility that, rather than the band sending up a song by Eisler, Eisler himself was parodying early 20th century German and Austrian popular music.

It’s always good to come across musicians I haven’t heard of who turn out to be really good. This was one of those nights. So thanks to Glasgow Jazz Festival for taking a chance and putting them on, and to the Goethe-Institut for helping support the gig.