Documentary maker Norbert Wiedmer, who co-directed Sounds And Silence: Travels With Manfred Eicher, has now teamed with Enrique Ros on new documentary El Encuentro to be released in January by ECM on DVD.
The two films share the charismatic figure of bandoneonist Dino Saluzzi and cellist Anja Lechner in common, but El Encuentro (‘The Encounter’) has a different focus, primarily on how the Argentinian pioneer of provincial tango, and chamber musician Lechner, formerly with the Munich Rosamunde Quartet, approach music and life.
It’s under an hour long, but despite the short length manages to pack a lot in. There are travels in Armenia, and Argentina, as well as stop-offs in Switzerland, ultimately finishing with a concert in Amsterdam with conductor Jules Buckley leading the Metropole orchestra included.
Saluzzi comes across as a pater familias, the head of a family band, and someone who as he says himself uses “doubt” to channel his musical ideas like a car needs petrol. It’s almost a Jesuitical concept, and Saluzzi in a fictional form could be the main character of a Graham Greene novel.
The Armenian sections, while fascinating, don’t really fit in to the overriding narrative thrust but the sections with composer Tigran Mansurian are worth watching with brief beautiful glimpses of two duduk players performing his music.
Swiss pianist and bandleader George Gruntz, who did much to introduce Saluzzi to European audiences when he was director of the Berlin Jazz Festival, makes a fun cameo that’s again of strong interest, a fine reminder of one of the giants of European jazz who turned 80 this year.
The film is good at capturing the spirit of rehearsal and how the preparations knit during the process leading up to the concert that formed part of the El Encuentro album recording issued three years ago. Lechner, is a dynamic interested presence who breathes life into the documentary, although somehow the film makers haven’t quite got to the heart of the matter. They perhaps needed to tease a little more out of Lechner especially. Saluzzi tends to dominate, and this film like the earlier Sounds and Silence increases our understanding of what makes this significant composer and performer tick. But he’s still, nonetheless, something of an enigma.
Dino Saluzzi and Anja Lechner, above in performance early in their collaboration together in 1991, plus the cover of the DVD edition of El Encuentro