Friday, October 31, 2003

Junior Jazz - update

Junior JazzHere are the links to the TV performances, back in january 2003 each one minute long:

Hollywood, Lullaby of Birdland, Nature Boy, How High the Moon, Devil May Care

The links are to the broadband videos. You can also go to this page, do ctrl + f to find "Junior Jazz" and click on the low bandwidth videos.

Ellery Eskelin movies

Saxophonist Ellery Eskelin has put up some home-video concert clips. They are more of interest to the fan than the neophyte and feature singer Jessica Constable.

Ellery's website

Mo Kin - The future of music

And you thought Stefon Harris was the future of the vibraphone?

Junior Jazz - a Belgian jazz toddler?

On Jazz Forum there is an article (it's in Dutch) on a 14 year old girl singer who's just recorded an album of pop, jazz standards and bossa nova. She seemed happy to have done recording it, but is loathe to tell anyone about it, probably won't listen to it at home and doesn't really like jazz that much. Not that I hold it against her, I just find it funny to learn all these facts right at the end of a rather lengthy article.

Eline Van Coillie was noticed by the record company after being on a show called "Man bijt hond" (Man bites dog). Every day at the end of the show, an act has one minute of air time. People then vote by phone on whether or not they want that act to re-appear the next day.

The album is on Virgin Music Belgium, but as you can see, they're not exactly flush with info.

I didn't see her appearance on the show, but last time I watched there were men in liederhosen prancing around, as beer-maids looked on. It was impossible for me to tell if this was serious or a send-up. Can people seriously do that German liederhosen music thing? Really?

Polar Bear - 30/10/2003, Heist-op-den-Berg

Ingrid Labrock (?) - ts
Pete Wareham - ts
Tom Herbert - b
Sebastian Rocheford - d

As promised, I returned to the Hnita-Hoeve to see the English quartet Polar Bear. We don't get non-free improv English jazz very often, so that stoked my curiosity. Apparently, many others felt the same, as Peter Anthonissen from the Hnita noted that he was happy that the audience trusted him enough to come to see a virtually unknown band. Considering people's reactions after the concert and a whole box of CDs sold, that trust was rewarded.

They played 11 originals penned by Sebastian Rocheford, the leader with the improbable hair. The melodies were generally low-key and deliberately paced, but with a kind of sad beauty. The two-tenor frontline weaved in and out of unisson and counterpoint and the music was precision-crafted, yet retaining a loose, open feel. Underneath, rhythms were established and deconstructed, as on "The Shapes in the Clouds Aren't Always Happy," when Herbert and Rocheford took apart a slow 12/8 to re-fashion it into minimalistic but irresistable pointillistic groove.

There were no microphones on stage (only the double bass was amplified), which suited the room and the music just fine. Saxophonists Wareham and Labrock (or is it LeBroque?) were subtly different. The former had a thinner sound and his fragmented explorations were more interior and dark blue, seeming to never take the direct route to get his point across, whereas the latter had a warmer, fuller and more generous sound and flowing lines, more golden, something like a Dexter Gordon to Wareham's Wayne Shorter. When they duetted, the saxophonists were careful to not step on each other's toes: not quite as unfettered as Chris Potter and Robin Eubanks can be in the Dave Holland Quintet, then, but still interesting.

An interesting aspect of both of their playing was how their respective foundations transferred themselves to their freer playing. Without reaching screeching extremes, Ingrid seemed to favour the more extroverted and joyous end of free jazz, whereas Pete built more on post-bop complication and minimalist soundscapes. For example, on the last song of the first set, Rocheford brushed a light drum'n'bass groove which steadily built up as Wareham moved from riff to riff throughout his solo. At maximal volume (which, in absolute terms, was not that loud), Labrock joined in with an ascending motif and Wareham moved on to grating harmonics.

Playing both inside and out was but one aspect of the band's palette. While many of the songs had binary rhythms, some veered towards up-tempo swing, such as "Argumentative," which was "inspired by the movie 'So I Married an Axe-Murderer,' with that guy from 'Wayne's World'," said Sebastian. Towards the end of the song, Ingrid went up high to somehow manage to sound like a dixieland clarinet.

I just listened to the CD, which, interestingly, is on a Belgian label ( and was extremely surprised by how different it was from the concert. Many of the tunes played last night are not on the CD, and were arranged differently, drawing on a larger palette. For example, in concert "Urban Kilt" began with arco scrapes and Wareham beating out a percussion part on his saxophone keys, over a slow and dark binary groove, but on CD none of this is present.

The quartet (with Mark Lockhart instead of Ingrid Labrock) is joined by cello and viola on several tracks, to very good effect. Just yesterday I was thinking about how strings are used. It seems to me that jazz musicians use strings mainly harmonically, which tends to be a bit boring, whereas in pop strings tend to be used to double or expand on the melody. Rocheford writes for the strings in a very interesting way, drawing on both approaches. "Snow" has a vocal part and I think it could appeal to the Portishead/Björk fringe of pop radio.

In a few hours I'll be heading up to Antwerp to interview the band, so maybe you'll get some more info then.

You can listen to some mp3's on the website:

Jazz is international

Here is a transcript from a panel by the Jazz Journalists Association on how the international aspect of jazz is (or isn't) represented in North America, in festivals and magazines.

Andy Gilbert makes an interesting comment on the importance of local coverage (which I feel concerned by, as I sometimes feel like covering the Belgian scene is as effective as throwing bottles out to sea):

I think that in many ways the battle being fought for writers covering local scenes is to get those scenes covered. Being on the west coast, the media is so New York-centric. I grew up in Los Angeles and my mission was to get the word out about Horace Tapscott, Bobby Bradford, John Carter, and Vinny Golia [applause and some shouts of "Yeah" from the audience]. Drawing attention to these other great scenes and musicians is something I'd love to do, but I feel that, like many writers, I'm a partisan of the musical scene, the musicians I've watched develop.

Those were some of the edgier players. But there were mainstream players too, like Harold Land, Teddy Edwards, these amazing musicians who couldn't get any coverage, or even minimal coverage in the national magazines or in The New York Times. And that goes back 50 years. You know, I don't think that Art Pepper was ever on the cover of Downbeat during his life, or if he was it was only much later during his come-back. So it is like 'What battles are you going to fight?' Sort of being based in the Bay Area, the first one I'll fight for are the great musicians I see weekly who I feel should get more attention. Then, its try to open up and have this different idea of who is important and who the interesting musicians are.

Earlier on, there was talk of the ownership of jazz, with this sad anecdote recounted by Paul deBarros:

The last time I talked to Branford Marsalis, I had just come back from Turkey and I said 'Have you of this guy from Istanbul on Double Moon Records?' and he just went into a rant about how 'who are these people who think they can make innovations in a music that isn't part of their history and culture. How could they presume to do that?'

The irony, of course, is that while seeking to re-inforce the Afro-American claim on jazz, Marsalis rather fences himself in and expresses a very narrow view of what culture is and what capacities individuals as such (rather than only as off-shoots of a culture) possess. Taken to its extreme, he almost justifies the exclusion from classical music Blacks suffered for a long time.

A nice quote by Bill Smith:

There is always this proclamation 'jazz is dead, jazz is dead.' But what it really means is that the writer has come to the end of their ability to continue to listen to newer forms. We always used to laugh about people who were stuck in Benny Goodman, stuck in Woody Herman, Stan Kenton. They were frozen there, couldn't go on to the next one.

That sums it up nicely, for me: "the ability to listen to newer forms." I don't think not being able to get with the "latest thing" is anything to be embarassed about, but one must come up with criticism that sounds like something other than "I prefer the past."

Wednesday, October 29, 2003


I had come across her name a few times, in The Wire and a few other magazines some time ago, but actually heard her for the first time only recently, while driving. Terrible, and totally catchy, mix of punk, electro, old-school hip hop (and maybe more, but I've only heard the song once), all for the cause of shaking your genitals. Play with Peaches here.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Hamid Drake

One of the most beautiful drummers I know.

Hamid Drake

(photo credit: Jean-Yves Dal)

Club guide: Studio Athanor

Studio AthanorThe Studio Athanor is a hip club in the very centre of Brussels, with low ceilings, curvy red upholstery and black & white portraits painted on the walls.

The music varies from electro/DJ parties (hence the hipness factor) to funky or acoustic jazz, along with a weekly jazz school and a monthly residency on thursdays (both are free and are followed by jams. Door and drink prices are reasonable.

This month's notable concert should be Pierre van Dormael's 404 Quartet, with Anne Wolf (p), Otti van der Werf (el b) and, surprisingly, Osvaldo Hernandez (perc) on november 21st.

Hotel Arlequin
Galerie de L´Îlot Sacré,
Rue de la Fourche 17-19
Petite Rue des Bouchers 14


Blue Notes: Riffing on Jazz :

I just came across this three-headed blog: Blue Notes: Riffing on Jazz :. Not a huge amount of posts, but a lot of content. There doesn't seem to be a huge amount of jazz blogs, so if these three guys can pick up the blogging rate a bit, it could become an interesting place to visit regularly.

Citizen Jazz update

New articles on Citizen Jazz. Two new reviews of mine up there:

Marc Matthys & Friends - Crossings (rather pedestrian jazz meets classical)
Steve Houben & Boyan Vodenitcharov - Les Valses (another classical meets jazz album, though better than the former)

Sandow on Mozart, Me on Mozart

A few days ago, Greg Sandow discussed clapping, taking Mozart as example.

Yesterday on Arte (it's a Franco-German somewhat high-brow cultural channel) I caught, purely by accident, Mozart's piano concerto number 20 played by Piotr Anderszewski and the Warsaw symphony. Anderszewski conducted it himself. I wouldn't normally have watched it, but these past few weeks I've been hearing a fair bit of Mozart on the radio in the car and finding I greatly enjoy it. Also, it made me think about two issues: clapping protocol and watching classical music on TV, which I think I read something about in the NY Times.

There was one point, during either the first or last movement, when the orchestra came back after a long, virtuosic and exciting stretch of solo piano that I clapped in front of my TV. I'm not quite sure what my reaction would have been, had I been in the room. Also, I found the silence (actually, coughing and chair scraping) between movements extremely artificial and even tense and uncomfortable. How can anyone prefer that to brief applause? I certainly felt like clapping.

As for the televisual aspect, I enjoyed that too. There was the visual effect of Piotr Anderszewski shifting between conducting and playing: there was a quasi-magical moment when his fingers seemed to drift off the keys, to continue playing not the piano but the orchestra. Also, he really seemed to be enjoying himself, but not at all in an exuberant way: sometimes just a slight raising of an eyebrow seemed to be totally in sync with the music. Finally, some nice camera work focussed on his hands, showing his beautifully relaxed style.

Another issue Sandow has been commenting on is classical music dress code. Anderszewski was dressed in all black, but wore a relaxed turtle-neck, whereas the orchestra (or what I saw of it) was more formal. Anderszewski's relaxed approach worked well with his overall demeanour, I thought.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Hnita Hoeve til dawn

Last night I went up to the Hnita Hoeve jazz club to meet up with some of the members of the Dutch-language Jazz Forum. Small crowd, but conversation raged on 'til 3:30 AM. I must say I'm pretty proud of my Dutch: I understood nearly everything that was said and incredibly made myself understood. I even made them laugh once or twice, no easy task in a foreign language.

I'll be headed back up there for Polar Bear, an English quartet led by drummer Sebastian Rocheford, this coming thursday. They've just put out (or are putting out) their first CD and even the club owner hasn't heard their recent music, so we're right on the cutting edge of discovery.

Chris Mentens - Drivin' with the Jazz Van (a recommendation)

To atone for the string of non-Belgian jazz-related posts below, here's a strong recommendation for the Chris Mentens album first discussed here. The compositions and arrangements are excellent (vibraphonist Jan Nihoul nails the inside parts beautifully, bringing at once solidity and lightness) and the solos are worthwhile: trumpeter Sam Versweyveld (a name to me) particularly stands out, coming from the bold Lee Morgan school and with a fine architectural sense and melodic flair.

Intolerable Cruelty

I passed up Pharoah Sanders and Fabrizio Cassol on aulochrome to go see this with my-girlfriend-the-George-Clooney-fan. Love above all, I guess. Not that I'm complaining: it was good fun. Most interesting was how Clooney abandoned his usually puppy eyes mannerisms and over-acted everything, eyes wide open, and made it work.

Get a job or a hairdo?

I went to a job forum a few days ago. There were stands for temping agencies and all sorts of companies from Caterpillar to associations to help the handicapped, but the busiest stand was one where a lot of high-school aged girls were getting, or waiting to get, their hair done.

Médéric Collignon

Médéric Collignon fans (he plays with Louis Sclavis and Le Sacre du Printemps, among many others) who read French might want to check out his recent spate posts (under the pseudonym "médo") on the Citizen Jazz Forums, this post in particular. This was brought on by the fact he fractured to ribs falling off stage at a concert (!), so he's currently at home a lot.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Cuong Vu Trio & Flat Earth Society - Antwerp, 21/10/2003

Cuong VuCuong Vu - tp, electronics
Stomu Takeishi - el b
Elliot Kavee - d

I got to the de Singel, a massive arts complex, a tiny bit late, so I had to wait for the end of the first piece to enter the room. I found this totally ridiculous: this isn't classical music. It's electronic, it's loud, it's fairly simple and I didn't even have to disturb anyone to get to my assigned seat. Anyway, on with the show.

I actually listened to Cuong Vu (Come Play With Me) for the first time the morning of the concert and some of the same songs were played that night. Globally, the music sounds like a mix of Miles Davis circa Big Fun and more modern rock and noise influences. Vu also does a fair amount of knob-twiddling to fill out the trio sound with layers of trumpet, as did Stomu Takeishi by looping lines on his bass. Songs tended to follow a general theme-group looseness-theme structure. I say "group looseness" because there weren't really any solos as they are generally conceived in jazz. At its best, the group moved together in a way analoguous to the Esbjorn Svensson Trio or The Bad Plus (but with very different musical results). Less interesting were the moments when the group drifted apart, though they may have served as scene-setting contrasts. The trumpet melodies were calm and pastoral, even when aggressively challenged by bass and drums.

The very last piece abandoned melody for a noisy soundscape underpinned by wildly shifting pulses by Elliot Kavee: from a slow 12/8 to fleet drum'n'bass, from loud to soft in mere instants. Suddenly, a rocking riff would come in, creating a great head-nodding groove, followed by more disintegration. When that riff came back to end the piece and the concert, I was uninterested and I'm not sure why.

Two odd events at the end of the show: first, a lone boo-er amid the applause and second, each of the musicians received a bouquet of white flowers. Maybe it's a tradition at de Singel.

Flat Earth Society
Peter Vermeesch - leader, cl
Too many others to list

I've been greatly enjoying The Armstrong Mutations, which I discussed briefly last month. The Flat Earth Society is "a band of rebels," according to the Toots Thielemans on their website. Certainly, the 17-piece big band is full of humour, fun and clever stylistic mish-mashing. The Armstrong Mutations is about taking music by or associated with Louis Armstrong, along with other pieces such as "Caravan" and original compositions and presenting it all in a quilt that goes from ragtime, stride and dixieland through to r&b and Cecil Taylor.

The Armstrong MutationsThe concert started great: the two percussionists were on stage doing nearly nothing for about a minute. Then, a clarinettist, trumpeter and trombonist (a dixieland frontline) entered from behind the audience and played some wonderful dixieland counterpoint walking down the aisle. Other highlights included clarinettist Tom Wouters shouting vocals over the powerful "King Ink," a great piano-brass-vocals rendition of "What a Wonderful World," featuring wonderfully soft brass voicings, which was followed by an 5-reed tune over a bass clarinet vamp that had a feeling similar to a slow "Caravan." "Caravan" itself closed the set, the synthesizer (of some sort, looked pretty old and had a sci-fi sound) rendition of the melody shows the kind of irreverence FES does well. The encore consisted of an off-mike trio of vocals, tuba and brushes-on-floor song playing something about "Mr. Monotony." Halfway through the song, the rest of the band members (who were off-stage) suddenly leaned out from behind the side curtains to add some group vocals.

Flowers were also handed out, but only to FES's leader. I guess de Singel is on a budget.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

The High Hat

The High HatI don't generally go in for the typical "here's a link" (or even "here's a link to a link") type of blog post, but I'm always up for an exception.

The High Hat is an interesting music/film/books/rants webzine and has just released its second issue. For jazz, there's Sadism and Perversity At Work, a review of the Miles Davis "Blackhawk" box. Its author, Phil Freeman, blogs at Most Weird, Some Normal.

Shuggie Otis

Inspiration InformationIsn't the first note of Inspiration Information simply the happiest sound you have ever heard?

A wide open mouth exhaling an "aaaaaahhhh" of endless optimism, with undulating guitars underneath amplifying the feeling. You can't help but see the world in the washed-out oranges and pinks on the cover with a note like that. Even the shift to a more disjointed and staccato groove for the body of the song does little to dispel the happiness. And the rest of the album isn't half bad, either.

Djana - Brussels, 15/10/2003

Bo van der Werf - bs
Jozef Dumoulin - Rhodes, synth, laptop
Otti van der Werf - el b
Stéphane Galland - d

It had been a long time since I had last been to the Café Central. They regularly put on concerts that usually veer towards free/improvised music, with occasional incursions into turntable territory and one-offs such as Lou Donaldson or Mal Waldron. This concert was one of those exceptions.

Bo van der WerfAll four musicians are part of the slice of the Belgian scene of which AKA Moon (of which Galland is the drummer) is the best-known exponent. A few other noteworthy musicians from this scene are Fabrizio Cassol (saxophonist and leader of AKA Moon), Pierre van Dormael (guitarist), who recently published the magnificent Vivaces and Kris Defoort (who has published several albums on De Werf. Many foreigners participate in this scene: Frenchmen Geoffroy de Masure (trombonist)and Guillaume Orti (saxophonist) and Dutchman Chander Sardjoe all play in Bo van der Werf's Octurn (I am currently writing an article on Bo). This collection of musicians could be thought of as a European answer to Steve Coleman (and several of them have played with Coleman). That's a lazy description, failing to capture all its diversity (for example, AKA Moon is more melodic and less compositionally-based than Octurn and Vivaces is yet another animal), but it will have to do for now.

The quartet is used to playing together, but not necessarily in this formation. Bo van der Werf is a fairly unique baritone player. Starting from a basis of bebop and admiration of Pepper Adams, he moved on to integrate Messiaen's techniques into his playing. As such, his phrasing, note choice and overall mode of expression has little to do with what is thought of as jazz saxophone. It is soft-spoken, introverted and even after a fair amount of listening, leaves me scratching my head. Jozef Dumoulin is one of the newer additions to the scene described above. I first heard him on piano on Eclipse, which is mostly a duo with singer Barbara Wiernik, but I've only ever seen him live on electric keyboards. He seems to be improving on that instrument: moving from a "weird sounds" and pianistic lines approach to something more percussive, textural, abstract and more suited to the instrument. His solo towards the end of the first set was a highlight, tapping into funk-like energy, giving this otherwise difficult music a more immediate appeal.

Stéphane GallandIndeed, the music was difficult, filled with odd meters, shifting tempos and murky structures. The exploratory nature of the music was shown when the musicians themselves seemed pleasantly surprised when they simultaneously brought a piece to an abrupt end. This might have appealed to the music student crowd (hang around them long enough and it's easy to tell who's a music student and who isn't), but certainly did not make for relaxed, easy listening. I asked tenor saxophonist Nicolas Kummert (who was there along with his frequent employer, pianist Alexi Tuomarila) what he made of it and he admitted to not quite getting everything. Alexi was more confident.

Otti van der Werf added a more legible element: his simple, yet deeply grooving vamps anchored the music, while Galland returned to his usual busy self. One enterprising music student attempted to transcribe one of Galland's grooves, but never quite made it: Galland's super-human playing can't be stolen so easily.

(photo credits: Jos L. Knaepen)

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

An aside: accessories

Observing the crowd after last night's concert confirmed something I've noticed over the years: a disturbing number of Flemish people wear rectangular glasses similar to Bart Defoort's, yet I don't think I've seen any Walloons wearing them. In fact, in the subway they are an almost fool-proof way of distinguishing Flems from Walloons (you can then verify by seeing which language the newspaper they're reading is in). I've also found that, generally, Flems are more likely to sport an "eccentric intellectual" look. Why is that?

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)

Citizen Jazz update

The october issue of Citizen Jazz is now online.

My contributions are an interview with guitarist Pierre Van Dormael, an account of september's Mons en Jazz festival and two reviews: "Vivaces" by Pierre Van Dormael and "Khamis" by Quentin Dujardin.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Chris Mentens Jazz Van - Drivin' (AZ Productions)


Chris Mentens - b
Sam Versweyveld - tp
Joe Higham - ss, ts, cl
Jan Nihoul - vib
Bilou Doneux - d

Koen Nijs - ts (on tracks 5 and 6)
Dree Peremans - tb (on tracks 6 and 8)
Ben Sluijs - as (on track 6)
Pierre Van Dormael - g (on track 6)

I've just received and spun this new release. A groovy, multi-layered and overdubbed bass solo leads the way into a set of Mentens compositions. The instrumentation (vibraphone instead of piano), the sound (clear and polished) and Mentens's melodic sense gives the album a Dave Holland Quintet-ish flavour, minus the tricky meters. Fine solos throughout, an enjoyable listen. Amusingly, the album opens and closes with sounds presumably made by the van on the cover. More details after more listening.

The Jazz Van is playing octber 10th at the Hnita-Hoeve and october 18th at the Sounds, the latter being part of the Audi Jazz Festival.

Check out the website for info and sound clips.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Upcoming concerts

At the K.Fée (featured in Club Guide not so long ago):

Sayma, described as a mix of jazz, latin, trip hop, ethnic music and drum'n'bass spiced with improvisation, electronics, sampling and video projections. The band is made up of singer Sanja Maas and some excellent Belgian jazz players, such as Erwin Vann (tp), Laurent Blondiau (tp) and Otti Van der Werf (elb). Friday october 10.

Although well past his 80th birthday Toots Thielemans (or should I say, Baron Toots Thielemans?) is still going strong. He's performing with Philippe Aerts (b), Dré Pallemaerts (d) and Jozef Dumoulin, who could easily be Toots's grandson. Following Toots is Greetings From Mercury, a jazz/hip hop group featuring complex rhythms and excellent rapping & throaty singing. Both concerts on friday october 17.

The Raid Note has yet to be featured in the Club Guide, but surely will be one day soon. They have concerts on fridays and jams on wednesdays. Send an email to to be informed of future gigs.

The Zero Parallel brings together a Finnish singer (Anu Junnonen), an Italian guitarist (Giacomo Lariccia) and a Belgian rhythm section (Olivier Stalon on electric bass and Jonathan Callens on drums). Friday october 17.

Avenue de Stalingrad 72
1OOO Bruxelles

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Club Guide: Hopper

The Hopper café is soon to celebrate its 12th birthday. Illustrious foreigners such as Horace Parlan, Teddy Edwards, Steve Lacy, Nat Adderley and Lee Konitz, as well as all the finest Belgian jazz musicians, have passed through. Its 2003-2004 season is now in full swing.

There are three regular (and totally free) concert series. Mondays and tuesdays are devoted to monthly residencies, while gentle afternoon concerts are held on sundays. In october, the residents are the Antoine Claeys Quintet on monday (reviewed below) and The Acoustics on tuesday. The Acoustics are Frank Vaganée (as), Kurt Van Herck (ts), Jos Machtel (b) and Martijn Vink (d), all of whom are members of the Brussels Jazz Orchestra. If you enjoy acoustic jazz standards, it's worth your while, as these are top-flight players. They're also scheduled for november, with the Bruno Vansina Quartet taking over the monday slot. I have yet to hear Vansina, but drummer Teun Verbruggen tells me he's awesome.

On sunday 12th, there is a Anne Wolf (p) - Theo de Jong (b) duo. I don't know de Jong, but Anne Wolf is a melodic, emotional player, reminiscent of Michel Petrucciani and strongly influenced by Brazilian music. Her debut album with her trio, Amazone netted her a Django d'Or last year and features singer Marcia Maria on a few tracks. On the 26th, singer Yvonne Walter is accompanied by Mary Hehuat (b) and... Jef Neve (p). I've talked too much about Jef already recently (I'm starting to feel like a sycophant), so I'll leave it at that.

Beside these free concerts there are occasional paying concerts. In october, there is the Nathalie Loriers Trio on the 15th and the Harmen Fraanje Quartet. Nathalie Loriers isn't really my thing. I don't know Harmen Fraanje (how many times have I said that?), but the quartet features Nelson Veras, who's quartet I reviewed a few posts ago. Next month, two recommended concerts are those of the Alexi Tuomarila Quartet (on the 5th) and Bert Joris (tp) with Dado Moroni (p) (on the 19th). I've reviewed two of Bert's recent albums, the Brussels Jazz Orchestra's The Music of Bert Joris and Live with his own quartet.

Café Hopper
Leopold de Waelstraat, 2
2000 Antwerpen

web page

Antoine Claeys Quintet - Antwerp, 7/10/2003

Antoine Claeys - g
Koen Nys - as, ts
Jef Neve - organ, fender
Christope Dervisscher - b
Toon Van Dionant - d

I went to this concert, again in the Hopper café, mainly to see what Jef would do on electric keyboards. He seems to have quite a collection: a grand piano and a Hammond B-3, as well as the two keyboards on display here and maybe others I don't know about.

I was sitting in an acoustically poor corner for most of the concert, so the instruments projected poorly (especially the saxophone) and the bass and keyboards sounded mushy. When I moved to the centre of the room for a while, everything sounded much better.

The music itself alternated between straight-ahead tunes and boogaloos. The boogaloos were fun but lacked a bit of that fundamental greasiness and bar-pleasing showboating. Drummer Toon Van Dionant was new to me and did a good job throughout, however. As did Jef, mixing fast runs with rhythmic stabs and the histrionic exclamations so adored by organists.

My only reference point for such music is a very fun Lou Donaldson concert (with organist Dr. Lonnie Smith) I saw a couple years ago, in which Donaldson managed to transform a hip Brussels café into a hot and humid swamp dive. From these two concerts, I'm led to wonder why organists seem to favour the screaming high register so much, when there are so many interesting sounds lower down?

I'm not much of a jazz guitar fan, so I didn't really get into Claeys's linear, fairly traditional solos, apart from a more percussive one on the second boogaloo played. Koen Nys was another new name for me, who seemed more at ease on alto than on tenor. I also got the impression that he would be more at ease in a different context.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

A digression into classical music

Since moving out of Brussels, in April, I've been living two doors down from Sébastien Taminiau, a 23-year old violinist studying at the Brussels Conservatory. While I don't listen to much classical music, on CD or live, I have twice had the opportunity to hear him play (not counting the many times I've heard him practice, whether I wanted to or not!). The first time I saw play was in a violin-cello-piano trio, last night it was just a duo, with cellist Alexandre Beauvoir. As usual, they alternated classical and contemporary pieces.

First off was a transcription of a composition for piano by J.S. Bach (sorry I can't be more specific, they didn't give the names of what they were playing). I greatly enjoyed the contrapuntal aspects of the piece: there's so much going on, it's like being caught up in fast-moving traffic: you have the option of isolating one or the other element or taking it in as a whole.

The second piece played was by East European composer Martino (or Martinù?). This was my least favourite of the night, but still, it enjoyably mixed grating dissonances (which sounded something like folk fiddling) and a whimsical skipping from one theme to the next.

Next up was a return to the past, with Stammitz (I have no clue about the spelling), a contemporary of Mozart and Haydn, we were told. Nice enough, but I do feel somewhat disconnected from this kind music. What was its function? How did people listen to it back then? What spirit was it played in? Then again, even if I knew these things, would I be able to get past old-sounding aspects and fully enjoy the music itself?

The concert closed with a piece from the 1930s by Jonghen, a Belgian composer. This one was notable for having perhaps more humour than the others (a manifestation of the famous Belgian sense of auto-derision?), with child-like melodies being plucked in unisson.

Club Guide: K.fée


The K.fée is a place I discovered only recently, even though it's soon to be celebrating its 3rd birthday.

The general atmosphere is open and friendly. The interior design is a warm red, with wrought-iron chairs, wooden tables and hanging scarves lending an exotic air. It's a comfortable place to see a concert, even if there is no stage and is situated in the very centre of Mons.

Highly recommended.

6, Rue des Clercs
7000 Mons