The Bastian Stein Trio
November 5, 2018
The LOFT is indeed right at the top of its reasonably tall building, having many stairs to climb, but with jazz salvation found, once this effort is made. Improvisation and moderne composed music are also presented, plus there’s a recording studio attached, facilitating radio broadcasts and live album releases. A makeshift bar is separated from the performance space, serving slim glasses of the local Kölsch beer. The stage drapes are crimson, and the acoustic baffles abound, creating a cosy sonic environment.
The LOFT was created way back in 1986, by Hans-Martin Müller, moving location in its first few years, then settling in this Ehrenfeld zone of Cologne by 1989. Although Müller has handed over the reins to his son Benni, he still hangs out at the venue, and your scribe chatted with him at the bar during this evening. He seemed relaxed and satisfied with the prime alternative scene that he’s nurtured here over the last three decades.
The night’s band was the Bastian Stein Trio, drawing a modest gathering, but delivering a fine set. Trumpeter Stein was born in Heidelberg, Germany, but grew up in Vienna and has lately settled in Cologne. His trio partners are bassist Phil Donkin and drummer James Maddren, both from England. Opening with “Comfort Zone,” Donkin set up an insistent bass line, Maddren clacked out a rickety drum pattern, then Bastian emitted a fine, glowing dust via his trumpet. Maddren soloed with well-placed detonations, and the smallish audience didn’t appear to believe in applauding fine results. Either they didn’t have a jazz club mentality, or they were simply bashful in low numbers. “Fantasia” involved slow brushes, with prickly enunciation from Bastian, Donkin loping on the bass. The leader revealed his mute, slinking and poised for an eloquent solo, involving an impressive amount of detail. Maddren was given a gratifyingly clear run on the solo front, beginning “Traces” with another bold statement. The Monday night crowd might have been a mere scattering, but these two sets contained some alluring sounds, atmospherically clouding out of mainline jazz, but speckled with freedom accents.