Just a short write up of yesterday, before today gets underway. The festival really seemed to take off on Saturday, with some consistently high quality sets. The artists are settling in and getting to know each other, and the atmosphere is warm and friendly. Günter got his bag back and lit up the stage three times yesterday with his uniquely theatrical performing style, and the arrival of Bruno Chevillon (late due to a missed flight) added yet another dimension.
After the smooth running of the opening night it started to feel a bit chaotic behind the scenes, but amazingly things appeared normal at the front of the house, everything running just about on time and to the schedule. Perhaps traumatised after shock exposure to the affectionately re-named 'trombone loon' (aka Alan Tomlinson) on Friday night, Louise opted to go shopping in the afternoon. My first challenge came when Rob Brown couldn't be found before his 4PM slot, and after searching the building high and low several times I had to think on my feet, asking young Scottish tenor/baritone saxophonist Graeme Wilson if he'd mind filling in. Keen as mustard he took to the stage, only for Brown (delayed by a late-running Metro) to appear as they finished their first piece. The result? A dramatic entrance and a real bonus in the form of a quartet with a two horn front-line that for me turned out to be the day's highlight.
Günter was the next person to go Missing In Action, although it later turned out that he'd been behind the curtains on the stage all the time. He's already a big favourite with the crowds, and I'm pleased to finally get my chance to see him live after many years of admiration. Marilyn only played once, but found more space in today's ensemble, the Ducret/Chevillon combo was as tight as I'd imagined, and Fuhhler continued to impress with his work inside the piano. The young Dutchman closed the evening in a group consisting of his piano, two cellos and two bases. Another of the day's best groupings, their chamber-ish 'new music' recalled the New York avant-garde of the 50s and was just the kind of contrasting change of pace and direction that the evening needed.
Our work ended in dropping Bruno off at his hotel. No wrong turns down any one-way systems this time, just the cattle-market of Central Newcastle on Saturday night to negotiate. Bruno was the second ECM recording artist to hop into my car in as many days, making this a very acceptable way to close out another tiring but successful day. For Sunday morning we've arranged to take Marilyn sight-seeing, and then the music begins again at 2PM. I'm looking forward to her solo set in the evening, and also to artist programmed segment of the festival. Hopefully I'll find the time to blog all of that tomorrow...if not Monday.