The Melbourne International Jazz Festival’s last show at the Toff in Town saw award-winning Brisbane trio BFK – vocalist Kristin Berardi, pianist Sean Foran and Rafael Karlen on the saxophone – team up with Luxemburg’s vibraphone maestro Pascal Schumacher. The show was described as European folk meeting modern jazz and contemporary classical; the music took you off for a stroll on a late summer afternoon, with bees buzzing in lavender, poplar leaves rustling in the wind and shadows growing long. You could listen to Berardi sing all night. Most of the songs she scatted, her voice being simply another instrument in the mix. The Trio played their original compositions with all but two songs having lyrics. Her voice was in harmony with the sax; the instruments were never secondary to the lilting vocals. At moments on stage Berardi seemed something like a conduit, with the music seeming to almost pass through rather than across her.
Schumacher has Instinctive timing, bringing texture to the chiming sounds of the vibraphone. Berardi talked to the novelty of not having a rhythm section involved in this concert and referred to their music on this night as ‘transparent’. For all that, Foran made the piano into a percussive instrument at times, tapping the piano or making it grumble, while Schumacher sometimes whistled across sensitive chords from the vibraphone, which often just hummed beneath the saxophone.
The style of music lends itself to the cinema as it’s reminiscent of scores to 1960s French arthouse movies. This gentle flowing music could be called tonal poetry, but never lightweight – it’s easy to listen to, yes, and the sound is perfect to bliss out to with a glass of soft white wine as the sun goes down but don’t be mistaken, it was nothing like the ‘easy listening’ genre; it’s far too sophisticated and subtle for that. These compositions are resolved with integrity, not with safe predictability. There was sorrow among the butterflies, too, with a ballad inspired by a visit the ANZACS archives, Will I Ever Rest? Berardi’s own compositions included Revolving Doors, and she sang another song she penned for a friend who came to grief, referred to yet another wolf in sheep’s clothing and how ‘no shepherds live here;’ it was imbued with sadness. They finished with a tune composed by Foran called Ramblin. The trio has recently recorded with Schumacher so there’s more to come. Yay! This was all gorgeous.
2017 Melbourne International Jazz Festival
BFK + Pascal Schumacher
Venue: The Toff in Town | Second Floor Curtin House, 252 Swanston Street, Melbourne
Date: 6 June 2017
Tickets: $55 – $49