Joris Roelofs © Gemma Kessels
Paul Heller & NLJ Big Band feat. John Ruocco & Joris Roelofs
Almost every eyewitness and ear witness of the Stadtgarten concert by Anat Cohen and Gabriele Mirabassi leaves the hall with a smile. Even with an expression of amazement and wonder: Can a clarinet touch, even enthral?
Yes, she can. The initial skeptics, who attributed their reservations about this instrument to Dixieland and Swing, were relieved of any fear of contact within one evening. No doubt, the merit of two exceptional artists.
And Next Level Jazz, Paul Heller's concert series, which also this year cooperates with the clarinet festival Multiphonics, presents two more luminaries of this woodwind faction in 2019.
John Ruocco, an American in Europe, has played with Dizzy Gillespie and Slide Hampton, in this country he is known since the 80s for his work with Peter Herbolzheimer and Ack van Rooyen. One of the few who knows how to manoeuvre the clarinet through boppy waters, but can also elicit smooth, chamber-musical subtleties.
Joris Roelofs, a specialist on the bass clarinet, is also from the Netherlands - a scene to which Heller maintains close contact - and is associated above all with more experimental and freer styles of improvised music - but not exclusively: He can not only make them creak and buzz wonderfully, but also make them sing wonderfully lyrically.
John Ruocco and Joris Roelofs contribute their share to weakening the image of the clarinet, supposedly stiff, a little dusty and limited in its emotional expressiveness. But apart from the fact that both are also excellent saxophonists: More decisive than all their instrumental competence - as in the case of Cohen and Mirabassi - is their musicality. She's the one that ultimately triggers something in us.
John Ruocco - clarinet
Joris Roelofs - clarinet, bass clarinet
NLJ All Star Big Band:
Wim Both, Max Seibert, Stephan Geiger, Ruud Breuls - trumpets
Günter Bollmann, Raphael Klemm, Carla Köllner, Achim Hartmann - trombones
Stefan Pfeifer, Pascal Bartoszak, Frank Jacobi, Jens Neufang - saxophones
Hubert Nuss - piano
Caris Hermes - bass
Hans Dekker - drums