Ars Nova Workshop hosted the European Jazz & Improvised Music Mini-Festival on 6/13-14 at with 2 bands gigging each night.

Ken Vandermark was on a short tour with CINC (one of his 500 bands) which featured English drummer Paul Lytton and Ugandan-born violinist Philipp Wachsmann. Much of their work was contemplative and experimental except the final tune of the short set began with frenzy as Vandermark’s tenor screamed to signal a break in the evening’s vibe and his band mates peaked before returning for a gentle ride and landing. Lytton was in constant motion, head bent down, toiling over many playthings including Styrofoam to bow, empty plastic water bottles to crinkle and a long strip of metal to offend. The best was his tiny electric blender which got attached to a drum edge and whirled into a cymbal placed upside down. He thoughtfully prepared omelets for the hungry audience after the set with the device and posed for photos.

The second feature was Holland’s Trio BraamDeJoodeVatcher (Michiel Braam, p; Wilbert de Joode, b; Michael Vatcher, d) which played with the trademark Dutch ingenuity and humor. The muscular bass of de Joode held up well against Vatcher’s explorative drumming which featured a peculiar style that had him curling his wrist in a spastic fashion but somehow making it work. Braam was impressively in constant flux, switching from heavy handed percussive bouts to gentle romantic passages to Tatum-esque attacks. The trio’s intensity ebbed and flowed, never staying jacked-up too long and never allowing the listener to know what was coming next. As a side note, Vatcher is California born but moved to Holland a number of years ago from New York due to Europe’s greater work opportunities.

The second night continued with the Veryan Weston Quartet, an unlikely grouping of Englishman Weston (p), who bares an uncanny resemblance to actor Michael Caine in appearance and speech, along with Japanese percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani and 2 Americans, Jack Wright (as, ss) and Evan Lipson (b). The common thread was that Wright and Nakatani drove to Weston’s home in England a couple years ago to jam together but this marked their first public hit. The group’s specialty was experimental improv with a tendency to center on soft fragments of sounds although there were episodic tumultuous peaks. Weston gently compressed the piano keys while Nakatani thought up new uses for his drum set. The 5 minute finale was done to fill some available time but turned out to be a highlight and featured strong work by Wright and Lipson. Regretfully, Weston left town without really showing off his wares. A 5 minute solo would have been nice.

Switzerland’s (Christoph Gallio, ss, as; Christian Weber, b; Michael Griener, d) completed the small festival with an energetic set of tunes that tended to be very short and explosive.

Gallio, who has led the band for 18 years, frequently danced from foot to foot while blowing emotively and required time between songs to catch his breath. The tunes lengthened as the set wore on, giving them a chance to air things out and they really finished strong with “Joy” which paid respect to Ornette Coleman and included some spicy percussion. Ken Weiss