Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Bart Defoort Quartet - Bruges, 13/10/2003

Bart Defoort - ts
Hans van Oost - g
Bart de Nolf - b
Jan de Haas - d

In Belgian terms, it's quite a drive from southern Brussels up to Brugge, but this well-balanced quartet was worth the trip.

The Lizard GameThe 39-year old Bart Defoort is one of Belgium's leading tenors, a permanent member of the Brussels Jazz Orchestra and an erstwhile member of Octurn. He recently released his second quartet album, The Lizard Game on De Werf and the concert was taking place on De Werf's home turf (the club/theater by the same name), so logically the CD's collection of Defoort and van Oost compositions was played. However, the acoustically dry room added a welcome sharpness to the music, which studio reverb renders somewhat distant on CD.

Hans van Oost opened the concert with dreamy delayed chords similar to those so beloved by Philp Catherine, before Jan de Haas came in with a loose binary rhythm (hovering on the edge of ternary) that laid an urgent base for an otherwise relaxed "Laughing Soul." Next came "Sloam," a slow 12/8 blues whose most interesting features were the soft arpeggios and bluesy slurs Defoort blew during the intro.

When the band went into its first ballad, my neighbour started snoring noticeably. He did however wake up in time to applaud solos and songs he had not heard, a pattern that would continue throughout the concert.

Bart DefoortBoth Defoort and van Oost are soft-spoken soloists: when their note output increased, they tended to play even softer, thus building a nice sense of tension. Ever phlegmatic, van Oost tended to let this tension peter out, but on a ballad during the second set a thoroughly quiet solo during which he alternated between pick and fingers was a beautiful highlight. On the other hand, Defoort would resolve tension with a long, soulful and louder note.

Adhering strictly to a head-solos-head format, atmospheres varied from ballads to funk to uptempo bop. An example of the latter was "The Lizard Game." Defoort explained that the cryptic title was metaphorical: jazz musicians need reflexes as quick as those of lizards. Nice compositional flourishes were scattered throughout the concert: on "Busy Inside" a pointillistic A section contrasted with a flowing B section, on "Mister Dot" an otherwise 7/8 funk tune contained what seemed to be a recurring 10-beat one bar break.

Other highlights included van Oost laying out during Defoort's solo on the uptempo "Strange Things Happen," allowing the saxophonist to thrive in the open space and on Mal Waldron's "Soul Eyes," Defoort opened with an a cappella solo, during which the little reverberance the room had came nicely into play.

The encore that ended the concert hinted at how Defoort has evolved since the 1997 release of his first quartet recording, "Moving." "Blonx" was much knottier and abstract than any of his new repertoire and brought the concert to an exciting end.

(photo credit: Jos L. Knaepen)