Friday, September 19, 2003

Some new CDs

Over the past few days, I've received 3 new, and quite different, Belgian CDs of which I'll give a brief overview. Upon further listenings, I may return with more detailed accounts.

Hilde Van Hove - Insense (Gandharva)
InsenseHilde Van Hove's debut CD is something of a mixed bag. Her supporting cast is thoroughly brilliant: Michel Herr on piano, Hein Van de Geyn on bass, Billy Hart on drums and trumpeter Bert Joris, who appears on several tracks. Billy Hart is especially wonderful, delicate and sensitive throughout.

The repertory is conservative, but with a few interesting turns. It consists mostly of standards such as "East of the sun" and "Blue in Green." My favourite of these is "When lights are low," a joyous voice-bass duet which successfully captures the bounce of Miles Davis's version on "Cookin'." Alongside the standards are an interpretation of Wayne Shorter's ballad "Iris," which conveys Shorter's mysterious elegance of writing and features a shimmering solo by Herr and two Brazilian offerings, "Gentle Rain" by Luis Bonfa and "Triste" by Antonio Jobim. The programme is rounded out by two originals.

I'm not a big fan of Dutch-speaking singers singing in English because their accent lacks the charm of, say, a Brazilian's. As it is, they generally sound a bit clumsy, and Van Hove is no exception. However, and apart from a totally misguided reading of "Every time we say goodbye," Van Hove does a decent job.

"Insense" is available at Hilde Van Hove's website.

Flat Earth Society - The Armstrong Mutations (Zonk!)
The Armstrong MutationsFlat Earth Society is a big band that specialises in somewhat off-the-wall music, as can be gathered from mono-syllablic album titles such as "larf" and "bonk." Here, leader Peter Vermeersch revisits music composed by or associated with Louis Armstrong, such as "What a wonderful world," "Black and Blue" and "St. Louis Blues."

The album's main strong point is that the raw energy that made Armstrong's music the popular, dangerous and fun music of its time is retained, thus avoiding the feeling of visiting a glass-encased museum-piece. Again, a few Flemish singers show up, but on thankfully few tracks. Not that they sing particularly badly, but it is simply impossible to sound idiomatic with a Flemish accent. Overall, however, a very fun and highly recommended CD.

A digression: FES recently provided music for an opera called "Helioglabal." While the opera itself was generally panned, the New York Times praised the music.

Flat Earth Society's website

Quentin Dujardin - Khamis (Agua)
KhamisQuentin Dujardin is a guitarist strongly attracted to Flamenco and Moroccan music as well as to jazz. This album, his second, is an intimate affair, with delicate modal improvisations setting a meditative atmosphere drawing mostly on North African modes. Here and there flute, accordion or violin step into the solo spotlight, continuing the Arabic chamber mood. A mood broken only slightly on one flamenco-inspired track with a more insistent rhythm.

Quentin's website does a very good job of presenting this sensitive young man.

Michel Bisceglia Trio - Second Breath (Prova)
Second BreathYes, I said three CDs, but here's a quick note to say that Michel Bisceglia has released his third album as leader. On first listen, it's a calm, modern trio date, coming out of the Keith Jarrett tradition and made up essentially of originals, with the inevitable "Blue in Green" popping up once more, Wayne Shorter being represented by "Footprints" and more originally, a version of Jacques Brel's "Le port d'Amsterdam."

Michel Bisceglia's website