Kaja Draksler Octet – festival hit
The Kaja Draklser Octet has been busy these past weeks with appearances at Ljubljana Jazz Festival, Copenhagen Jazz Festival, Molde Jazz Festival and Wonderfeel. Read Peter Margasak’s Downbeat review of the octet’s Ljubljana performance below. If that makes you curious to hear the Kaja Draksler Octet, then get along to De Bijloke Muziekcentrum in Gent on 28 September.
“A number of Slovenian artists performed throughout the festival without leaving much of an impression. But pianist Kaja Draksler—a native now based in Copenhagen after a lengthy spell in Amsterdam—gave the best performance of the festival with her unconventional octet, finessing gossamer-fine chamber pieces, mostly built around the poetry of Robert Frost. Singers Laura Polence and Björk Nielsdottir shaped gorgeously gentle melodies, toggling between folk and operatic modes, but all sung with a looseness befitting the music’s translucent opalescence. Reedists Ada Rave and Ab Baars, and violinist George Dumitriu layered gorgeous beds of color atop the airy rhythms coaxed by drummer Onno Govaert and bassist Lennart Heyndels, as Draksler tended to stick to the background, directing the ensemble with elegant chording.
On one particularly stunning piece, most of the ensemble situated itself among the audience, as an introduction featuring the leader on kalimba and the two singers elucidating melodies in wonderfully slack harmony opened up for a ravishing violin solo during which Dumitriu produced a luxuriant drone on one string and viscous, extravagantly textured melody on another. The set concluded with a tuneful meditation that crested with a knockout tenor solo from Baars, clearly channeling the gospel cries of Albert Ayler—within a decidedly European folk setting.
Here’s hoping that promising young Slovenians manage to achieve Draksler’s wondrous heights in the coming years.
Peter Margasak, Downbeat June 27 2019