12 Points Festival

Sun-Mi Hong Quintet / Kasia Pietrzko Trio

BIMHUIS, Amsterdam
September 25, 2019
text: Robin Boer

pics: Françoise Bolechowski

From September 25 till 28, the Amsterdam BIMHUIS was dominated by the thirteenth edition of the bustling European 12 Points festival: 4 days, 12 bands, 12 cities, 1 stage. "The freshest, hottest sounds in jazz and contemporary experimental music." (Irish Times).”12 Points presents promising European acts that distinguish themselves through their courage, energy, boundlessness and talent. During 12 Points you can feel the breadth, energy, diversity and ambition of the jazz musicians of the future!" A beautiful program was compiled, packed with surprising and promising acts, including Kasia Pietrzko Trio (POL), Trio Heinz Herbert (CHE), No Tongues (FRA) and JUNO (NOR), and an extra 'Orange Line' fringe, containing some of the finest artists based in the Netherlands, like Sun-Mi Hong (KOR), Xavi Torres (ESP) and Guy Salomon (ISR). This line-up attracted a nice mixed audience, with a particularly large number of young people striking. ProgJazz reports.

photo © Françoise Bolechowski / BIMHUIS

Sun-Mi Hong Quintet

There is no argue whether the Sun-Mi Hong Quintet is a good pick for this festival or not. The South-Korean drummer has little to prove, since she already impressed during different events in- and outside The Netherlands. That said, we are convinced that Sun-Mi has a lot to offer, now, and in the upcoming years. We learned that both the debut album and the live concerts we've witnessed so far made clear that this is far from traditional jazz music. The good news is that we will see her second studio-album released in March 2020 and the freshly composed pieces (Hong confirmed the pieces have been composed very recently) are being presented to us on this festival.

Typical in these compositions are the elements of surprise and the lack of repetition, reminding us of music from the classical impressionism era of the late 19th/early 20th centuries we love so deeply. Sun-Mi herselfs claims to be heavily inspired by classical music recently, although her background isn't classical. Both the solo piano works of Ravel (which she told us, is recognisable in the piano playing of 'her' pianist Youngwoo Lee) and the works of the Norwegian Christian Wallumrød Ensemble prove to be a huge influence.

During the first piece it appears that Alessandro Fongaro (double bass) and Sun-Mi are seeking for a way to match and master the rhythm. Of course, their impressive skills prove to be trustworthy when the various sections and shifts pass by and both Nicolo Ricci (tenor sax) and Alistair Payne (trumpet) are really bringing it with their dazzling and energetic phrasing. Hong impresses as usual, with her inspired and expressive drumming, forcing the present traveler to keep up with the booming train they're on. What more can be said of Youngwoo Lee? Is he just playing the piano, or actually a part of the instrument? The stories he tells us are so 'out of the box' and full of creativity we tend to suspect the latter.

We expect nothing less than many more bumpy rides this mindblowing quintet has in stock for us. March 2020 cannot start soon enough.

photo © Françoise Bolechowski / BIMHUIS

Kasia Pietrzko Trio

The charming, only 25 year old piano player Kasia Pietrzko (from Poland) enters the stage and brings a tasteful showcase of her own trio. Next to Pietrzko, we see and hear Andrzej Święs on double bass and Piotr Budniak on drums. The trio appears to be very well matched. Having a piano trio is challenging in the sense of tension and variety. An acoustic piano has much variety in sound texture, but little variety in the sound itself, which asks for a broad approach. This is not an issue for Pietrzko, who is capable of painting very melodic and accessible landscapes, without becoming dull and reduntantly repetitive. We are in particular pleased to notice that the talented pianist appears to have the gift to let her playing breathe around the rhythms, rather than hitting all the notes principly tight in the meter.

The 2017 released album 'Forthright Stories' functions as more than a proper calling card, since the performed music differs very little from it, if not at all. Both Święs and Budniak add extra pepper to the meal, using their space to take us with their musical journey and refuse to skimp their tasteful arsenal of groove skills. The thunderous applause after the last piece, in which Budniak raises the bar with some irresistible solo drumming, is more than justified. After picking up a personally signed copy of 'Forthright Stories', we hope to see and hear more from Kasia in The Netherlands in the near future. In other words: “We want more!”.