Sunday, November 30, 2003

Scofield gets up offa his thing

In this Citizen Jazz John Scofield interview, the guitarist comments on jazz and dance (my translation of a translation...):

You know, I like electronic music a lot and I love to make people dance. When I play, whatever the context, I don't think about the kind of public I'm playing for, I try not intellectualise my playing. Perhaps the problem comes from the type of places we play in: you know, in the United States, you play jazz in "serious" jazz clubs and people come to hear you play jazz; when you play in groove clubs without chairs, where lights are low, people are stoned and they dance (laughs). Maybe we should think about that!

Now, I see that dance music has gotten rid of an important part of what makes playing jazz pleasurable, namely harmony. But this is nothing new: people like James Brown discovered this incredibly hypnotic groove thing, that form of trance that Miles was also a master of, and if you overload the harmony you'll lose the physical pleasure. As far as I am concerned, I do miss it and I noticed that, when I improvise in those musical contexts, I try to add the harmony "on top of" the trance!

Get up offa that thing!

A few days ago I received a CD called "@70s: A Tribute to the Jazz of the 70s." At the bottom of the accompanying press release, it is written (in French):

Practically all tracks can be danced to

This got me thinking about how the three ways in which the dance element seems to have been all but eliminated from jazz:

1. In the music itself, generally speaking, as tempos have sped up, rhythms have became more disjointed and melodies more abstract.
2. Jazz was increasingly percieved as "high art" or "intellectual music" from bebop on, relegating easier, more danceable forms appearing after the Swing Era to footnotes in the history books. Critics seem to take the approach that only the Music That Will Stand The Test Of Time is worthy, allowing them to disregard the more ephemeral, rapidly regenerating fusions of jazz with the dance beats of the day.
3. The disappearance of dancefloors in clubs and at festivals.

I don't know how instructive their point of view is, but Jazz Hot regularly has "Jazz and Dance" features. However, of the ones I've seen, they only cover tap-dancing (a minority sport, by their own admission) and swing dancing (featuring people in ridiculously retro, ridiculous retro and just plain ridiculous clothes). So, essentially (and even if tap-dancing has continued to evolve), they are harking back to when jazz was acknowledged as a dance music, i.e. the Swing Era, implying that dancing to jazz is a thing of the past.

To come back to the CD in question, while I tend to prefer the scrappy side of 70s fusion, the more polished fusion presented here is actually fairly successful in fulfilling its stated goal: the vamp underpinning the saxophone solo on Wayne Shorter's "Elegant People" is, with a little tweaking, a hip-hop hit waiting to happen (maybe it has already happened), "Hang Up Your Hang Ups" is a nice funk work-out and even the bubble-bath-and-candles slinkiness of Hancock's "Butterfly" is without excess schmaltz.

Moving on to the 90s, in Europe the jazz-meets-dancefloor music got named electro-jazz. Again, controversy struck as people like St. Germain, NoJazz, Llorca and Erik Truffaz in France, Marc Moulin in Belgium or Bugge Wesseltoft in Norway sold boatloads. Slightly more experimental, but still relatively popular, are Norwegians Nils Petter Molvaer and Jaga Jazzist. Americans are following suit, such as Tim Hagans's "Animation/Imagination" project and, in a more soul/funk/hip hop vein, the recent Roy Hargrove "RH Factor."

While some of them really aren't that great (NoJazz and Marc Moulin spring to mind), what the smugly mocking reviews overlooked is that these albums seek to produce one or two dancefloor anthems (St. Germain's "Rose Rouge" and Marc Moulin's "Into the Dark," for example), rather than a sit-down-and-listen-to-me experience. They've taken the place that popular B-3 organ trios and Lou Donaldson boogaloos used to occupy in jukeboxes (and that a group like Soulive is trying to continue).

So, of course, this leads to the question: "So what's the importance of people dancing, or not dancing, to jazz?" For me, its importance is in showing that jazz isn't only about sitting down and teasing out the meaning of harmonic puzzles set up by the musicians (to take one caricature), but that it is also a physical, light-hearted music that can play in the fields of both "low" and "high" art and not care. Also, I think that it gives a better, broader picture of how jazz has remained in the general consciousness than simply saying that jazz ceased to be a popular music (in both senses of the term) after the advent of bebop. Perhaps the impression that one can't just have a good time listening to jazz is one reason why so few people listen to it in the first place.

Friday, November 28, 2003

... overheard ... overheard...

Teun Verbruggen told me last night that the Pascal Schumacher Quartet recording session went extremely well, even saying that he considered that they had given the best interpretation they possibly could of every song. All the more reason to look forward to this album's march release.

Jozef Dumoulin said he might be recording his three piano project early next year. When I interviewed him, he said that it consisted of a classical pianist, a free improv pianist and... him.

Driving back home through incredibly thick fog, Jacky Terrasson playing "Jardin d'Hiver" from his album "Smile" came on the radio. I mention it because for the first time ever, I thought to myself "If I could play piano really well, I would play exactly like that."

Tomassenko - Beersel, 27/11/2003

Olivier Thomas - voc
Angélique Wilkie - voc
Anne Van der Plassche - voc
Jozef Dumoulin - Fender Rhodes, laptop
Geoffroy de Masure - tb
Michel Massot - tba, tb, euphonium
Teun Verbruggen - d

The De Meent Cultural Center's concerts are always (at least, the two times I've been there) special affairs, as both musicians and audience are huddled together on a big theater stage. This kind of forced intimacy works wonderfully for, well, intimate concerts: the other concert I saw there was a David Linx/Erik Truffaz/Diedrik Wissels (voice, trumpet, piano, for those who don't know them) trio that exploited the situation to magical effect. Tomassenko probably sound better when given a slightly bigger stage, but still put on a good show. Maybe the intimacy gave the vocalists and brass more room to play with on- and off-microphone textures.

Tomassenko is characterised by the wordless singing of its three vocalists (Olivier Thomas being the group's leader), which is supported by rich, funky music. The concert started with just Thomas behind the keyboards and Massot on euphonium. Fender, voice and brass blended to delicately trace out beautiful lines. De Masure then joined in playing small, restrained phrases on harmon-muted trombone (prompting easy, but I think apt, comparaisons to Miles Davis's harmon-muted trumpet) and the group progressively filled out, while the music remained appealingly subdued. As the vocals swelled, they gained a sort of African quality, like a kind of invocation. We were jolted out of this rêverie when Thomas suddenly launched into a funky voice percussion-cupped trombone duo, with the two back-up vocalists adding a JB horn section-like riff.

Anybody brave enough to sing a whole concert wordlessly has got to be a little weird and have a good sense of humour. This was first shown when Thomas and De Masure engaged in a spluttering, quasi-acting duet. Later on, Thomas would do a dance reminiscent of those 80s techno music videos in which sounds are represented visually (these still happen today as in the first few seconds of this video). After a downtempo, electro-lounge interlude where Thomas was again alone behind the Fender Rhodes, he shouted out "Fender!" to call Dumoulin back on stage. I thought it was pretty funny.

Clowning around also gave way to multi-cultural mish-mashes, as when a pre-recorded choir of [whatever it is you call wiggling your lips with a finger to make baby noises] (which sounded a bit like a couple of dijeridoos) were underscored by clattering, broken drum beats and keyboard tones, all of which eventually gave its place up for a bit of pseudo-Tibetan chanting.

I was originally intrigued by this group because I tend to see the musicians in it in more difficult settings (Tribu, Octurn). It was interesting to hear, for example, De Masure's straight-forward funkiness, which is usually a bit hidden. Dumoulin continued to impress me with his development on Fender (when I mentioned this to him, he replied, "Yes, I read about that," which was pretty damn bizarre. But still satisfying.). Again, in a clearer, less difficult context, it was easier to appreciate all that he does. A sort of funky baroque part on the second song was particularly satisfying.

The last song before the encore began with a capella harmonising and counter-point, a 3/4 with a kind of southern european feel. When the instruments joined in after a few minutes, Massot started by popping out a few amazingly voice-like notes from his tuba's very upper register. An atmospheric, glitchy backdrop provided by Dumoulin's laptop subsided when tuba and trombone introduced a riff allowing a mid-tempo 4/4 back-beat. The vocals then reduced to one line only vaguely reminiscent of the original chorale. On the bridge however, the group reverted to the original 3/4 and came closer to a fuller re-interpretation of the chorale introduciton. After a space-funky keyboard solo, the band became one percussive machine, with multiple interlocking riffs, for about 30 glorious seconds.

The encore was the only song with real lyrics. They were about a white elephant nonchalantly walking down the street (at first it was in a tram, so presumably he got out. Anyone who has been on a Brussels tram knows that this is unlikely: the doors are way too narrow for even a baby elephant to squeeze through. I've even wondered how heftier humans manage to get on and off.), wondering why everyone was staring at him.

CitizenJazz update

Citizen Jazz has been updated. In this issue, I contributed:

A "Brussels Letter" that sums up some of the concert reviews first found here,
A fusion of the two Pascal Schumacher Quartet concert reviews,
Reviews of Michel Bisceglia's "Second Breath" and Flat Earth Society's "The Armstrong Mutations," both very good albums. Amazingly, I do also review non-Belgian albums, this time it's Pachora's "Astereotypical," a fun, partying take on folk music of the Balkans and Middle East.

Just because I didn't write it doesn't mean it ain't good: a John Scofield interview. Oddly enough, the last four musician interviews have been of guitarists.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

'Round about Carrefour

When I went to the local Waterloo supermarket on monday, they were playing the Miles/Coltrane version of "'Round About Midnight" from the album of the same name. I was pretty surprised. "Kind of Blue" would not have surprised me in the same way, being such a ubiquitous jazz-for-people-who-don't-like-jazz album. "'Round About Midnight," however, seemed to imply a more concious choice. It may even indicate the existence of life within these big, bland supermarket chains. I worked in one for a thankfully brief time and signs of life were few and far between. I don't blame the workers, though: the job is brain-deadening.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Tord Gustavsen

Ben Ratliff reviews a Tord Gustavsen concert in the NY Times and I am pleased to find that he comes to quite similar conclusions as I did in my own review of the album. We both found drummer Jarle Vespestad particularly interesting, so it was nice to read Ratliff's description of his playing style:

And I found much originality in Jarle Vespestad's drumming.

It was so quiet that at times, with brushes in hands and hands on snare drum, he only tapped the brushes with an index finger rather than lifting his hand up to strike a beat.

At other points he put brushes away entirely and played drums with fingertips alone. All his gestures were radical reductions of the usual drum sounds: instead of hitting the cymbal with a stick, he'd scratch across the top of it; instead of adding fills between beats, he'd leave open space, suggesting grooves with absences.

While Ratliff likes the music (I do too), he winds up asking essentially the same question I did:

But how long can Mr. Gustavsen keep it up? Will the facade crack? Will he be forced to play something faster, more physical? Will a kind of messy reality invade the perfect glass vitrines of his music?

On CD, I found that the concept ended up stifling the music and I think that Gustavsen has a lot of resources as yet untapped, so I look forward to hearing more from him.

Okay, now that I think about it, maybe this post was only about stroking my ego/flattering my critical insecurities. I'm only human.

On live hip hop

I couldn't resist reading about Ol' Dirty Bastard's current state of affairs. It's been 4 years since his brilliant, totally wacko "Nigga Please" and since then he's turned into an embarassing slapstick saga. So, I read this concert review. It's sad that what used to be his amusing madness has degenerated into a debilitating handicap:

Midway through the first song, ODB finally walked on stage, somehow to little fanfare. Most of the uninitiated crowd ("Is that him? Is that him?") did not even recognize him, and why would they? This was not some grand entrance, but a meek hobbling, steadied at both arms and assisted onto the stage by two handlers.

(...)He was nowhere. His dazed vacant stare had everyone in the crowd scratching, instead of bobbing, their heads. While the other MC's onstage swayed, shook, and pumped fists to the beat, Ol' Dirty just glared around, expressionless and bewildered.


Toward the end of "Shimmy Shimmy Ya", ODB dropped his mic accidentally. A posse member retrieved it from the stage floor, stifling a giggle as he placed it back into ODB's frail hand.

Here's a general comment that I connected with:

Let's face facts. As inspiring and ferocious as hip-hop can be on record, it can suck live. Unless there's some organic musical accompaniment (the Roots), verbal do-wop interplay amongst several players (Jurassic 5), incredible backup dancers or set design to occupy the eye (Missy), or all-out violence, you're not in for a night to remember.

I've seen The Roots many times and Jurassic 5 once (Missy is probably out of my tax bracket, but I'll take a slick MC Solaar show in its place) and even then, there are problems. But I can't imagine anything more stultifying than canned beats under an over-loud, garbled voice (or the reverse). Which is what you often get at hip hop shows.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Gerry Mulligan - Night Lights

Night LightsI first heard this album at my parents' house and was completely taken by it: 34 minutes of focused melodicism over gentle bossa nova or light swing. Dating back to 1963, it is to be consumed like a small delicacy. Perfect lullaby listening.

The soloists, apart from Mulligan, are Bob Brookmeyer and Art Farmer. Farmer is sweeter, Brookmeyer gruffer, but both sing throughout the album. Jim Hall is mainly confined to accompaniment, but gets to take a couple of brief solos. Mulligan's renowned arrangement chops are also subtly on display in the warm brass voicings on certain heads. Oddly, is Chopin's "Prelude in E Minor" is re-worked into a bossa. It sounds nice, of course, but I wonder if Chopin would have recognised his composition. The first and last cuts are renditions of last "Night Lights," but the second one is from 1965 and has Mulligan on clarinet, backed by a different jazz combo and a 10-piece string orchestra.

Of particular enjoyment is Mulligan's incredibly light and soft playing in all registers. Picture the size of the baritone saxophone and try to imagine the instrumental control it takes to power such a big horn with (seemingly) so little air.

While an album such as this may seem to some to be too superficial or easy-listening, I find it to be, on the contrary, quite impressive, in a soft-spoken way. "Night Lights" is a complete, self-contained project that works very well as an album.

Miles Davis: analytical essays

Two long and detailled analyses of aspects of Miles Davis's playing:

My Funny Valentine: The Disintegration of the Standard by Luca Bragalini

Code MD: Coded Phrases in the First "Electric Period" by Enrico Merlin

Miles Davis by Franck BergerotFor french-speakers, Franck Bergerot's "Miles Davis: Introduction á l'écoute du Jazz Moderne" is an excellent thematic approach to Miles's playing covering all periods of his career. Having a good Miles collection handy is a necessity, however.

Groovin' to Sandow

Greg Sandow consistently blogs thought-provoking stuff. Today's entry is about rhythm in classical vs. pop & jazz. He says in part:

In classical music, rhythm is analyzed as a structural element of music. To repeat the same rhythms, over and over, is considered very crude. Rhythmic patterns are supposed to change and develop. To understand the rhythm of a piece, it's enough to study a score. (...)

In pop music of the rock era, none of this is true. Rhythm is (among other things) a "groove" -- a way of inflecting rhythmic patterns, so that even simple, repeated rhythms can be changed in ways that make them not simple at all. The drummer in a rock band might push the beat forward, playing always a little bit ahead, while a sax solo might lag sexily behind. Meanwhile the singer (just listen to James Brown!) can dance around the beats, getting ahead of them, playfully falling behind them, and often landing in the cracks between.

I advise you to visit his blog regularly.

Monday, November 24, 2003

K.fée concerts

28/11: Travelling Joni Mitchell
Barbara Wiernik - voc
Michel Hatzigeorgiou - el b
Michel Seba - perc
Bette Cryns - g

I've never seen this band, but I've seen all of its members in various configurations. On one hand I'm fairly curious to hear what this group sounds like and the K.fée is a great club, as described here. On the other hand, not knowing Joni Mitchell at all and the prospect of four concerts in four days (see my brand-new list of concerts on the left) have me thinking hard about whether to go or not.

5/12: Gino Lattuca Quartet
Gino Lattuca - tp, flh
Ivan Paduart - p
Bart De Nolf - b
Mimi Verderame - d

This is a much easier call: no way. Not that the group is bad (expect well-played bebop/hard bop, some standards, some originals, bla bla bla), but overall I will most likely find it bland. Verderame is a drummer I like, but the others put me to sleep.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Mogno Records

Mogno Records have given their website a much-needed re-vamping and updating. This is a small, eclectic Belgian label run by musician Henri Greindl. Their releases over the last few years have ranged from saxophone solos, to piano/drums, saxophone/piano and piano/piano duos, to Brazilian jazz, jazz-pop-fusion and beyond. Unfortunately, the English version of the site is still in the works, I'll let you know when it's up.

Of the Mogno CDs I have, I would recommend:

Apikon-Dia - Andale Dando: a violin-piano-percussion trio that draws on everything from free jazz to contemporary classical and Bill Evans, with a good dose of zaniness.

Barbara Wiernik and Jozef Dumoulin - Eclipse: Ethereal voice/piano duo, sometimes joined by a German saxophonist and an Indian percussionist. Jazz standards, Indian rhythmic exercises, traditional Bulgarian music, original compositions, it's all good.

4 - 4: the jazz-pop-fusion mentioned above. Modern, melodic and relatively easy music. The saxophone-guitar quartet is sometimes augmented by the lyrical trumpet of Bert Joris.

Pierre Van Dormael 404 Quartet - Brussels, 21/11/2003

Pierre Van Dormael - g
Anne Wolf - p
Otti Van Der Werf - el b
Osvaldo Hernandez - perc

Robin Verheyen - ts
Véronique IQ, Kate Maine, Anne-Marie - voc

Pierre Van DormaelPierre Van Dormael is a rare musician. He is of course highly knowledgeable about music and music-making, but is also an idiosyncratic mix of warmth, wisdom, innocence and winking playfulness. He has very few albums as a leader: "L'étendue des extrêmes" (an LP never re-issued on CD) is a guitar-saxophone duo that he describes as an attempt to play over chords while sounding like free jazz, "Djigui," from 1997, is a kora/guitar/bass string trio, that mixes African improvisation (Van Dormael spent 3 years in Senegal) with covers of Bill Withers's "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone" and Phil Collins's "Paradise." His masterwork, however, is indisputably 2001's "Vivaces," which presents a global, complete vision of who Pierre Van Dormael is, successfully combining complex poly-rhythms and -meters, dizzying arrangements of the 12 musicians involved and surprisingly catchy and smart melodies. During a marathon interview session, he spoke to me of the healing qualities of the acoustic guitar sound, how it resonates in the air, but also exposed the complex technical foundations of the music found on "Vivaces."

Van Dormael says that most of his groups only played one concert, so as to always keep the music fresh and repetition-free, and the 404 Quartet will probably be no exception. However, he has assembled a regular core of musicians that accompany him from project to project, spanning the best of Belgian jazz musicians, and regularly adding younger musicians such as Robin Verheyen. Friday night at the Studio Athanor, two long-time associates, Anne Wolf and Otti Van Der Werf, are joined by Mexican percussionist Osvaldo Hernandez, whom I've never seen play with Van Dormael before. In fact, the group was the same as one I saw earlier this year, only with drummer Stéphane Galland (of AKA Moon fame) instead of Hernandez.

The concert's first 30 minutes were its most consistently engrossing. Van Dormael became a griot, voice and guitar telling us of a Peugeot 404 leaving for Timbuctoo, a place one never reaches. This was actually based on his own experience of running out of gas in the middle of nowhere in Mali. Then the group played a piece from "Djigui," during which Van Dormael took on the dry, pinched sound of the kora. Wolf laid down deep-pedaled riffs over a light bass-percussion ostinato, creating a thoroughly African, transe-inducing and slightly magical atmosphere. The music shifted gently towards a more complex, "Vivaces"-like construction, but maintained directness of expression through the strong melodic sense which underpins even Van Dormael's trademark harmonically-twisted guitar lines. This huge slab of music ended with a tender song with a more European slant.

Later highlights included Véronique IQ singing a gentle soul/rock ballad in a beautiful, clear, soulful voice. Later, sitting among the crowd, she exchanged African/Islamic-sounding vocalisations with Van Dormael. She usually sings back-up for Starflam, a Belgian hip hop group.

It was also interesting seeing Verheyen, who I mentioned a few posts ago as a rising talent. The 20-year old came on several times. The first time was rather unsatisfying, as he seemed ill-at-ease and out of synch with the other musicians, unable to do anything but run up and down his tenor, spilling out lots of notes but not saying much. When he came back on soprano, he was much better, playing melodically over a quiet, desert-coloured groove. From there, he seemed to have gained confidence, and later played a well-constructed tenor solo which started slow and melodic and logically built up to fast, rhythmic lines. I have yet to see one of Verheyen's own gigs, but I'll be keeping an eye out.

(photo credit: Jos L. Knaepen)

Friday, November 21, 2003

A little comment about last night

I really wanted to mention it but forgot (hey, I posted the review at almost 5AM):

Teun's signature flashy shirt, with its bright blue and multi-coloured straight lines, looked a lot like a Sketch record cover.

Pascal Schumacher Quartet - Brussels, 20/11/2003

Pascal Schumacher - vib
Jef Neve - p
Christophe Devisscher - b
Teun Verbruggen - d

A few days before going into the studio to record their first CD, the quartet went through a trial run in the d'Imprimerie studio's quite nice lobby/bar/performance space. Attentive readers will remember the previous concert I saw of this group. Here, being a trial run, the mood was a bit different: they had decided to try out short versions of the tunes and were thus able to get through 11 compositions. Results were a bit mixed: the energy never reached the explosive levels I witnessed at the Hopper (then again, I'm not sure how well the acoustically bright room would have supported them), but the ballads, such as Schumacher's "Ancil," benefitted greatly from more concentrated and coherent readings. Because of the shorter lengths, the trademark thunderous climaxes were perhaps rushed and ended up feeling a bit forced and mechanical rather than natural and organic releases.

There were, however, a number of highlights, such as Devisscher's "Goodbye Little Godfather," which opened with Verbruggen playing drums with his fingers and Neve strumming the piano strings, all this so softly that you could also hear him tap his fingers against the top of the piano. I badly needed to cough, but held it in so as not to risk breaking the mood. Then came the concert-ending "When Spring Begins," a happy and dynamic poppish Neve composition, on which, half-way through his solo, Schumacher dropped two of his four mallets into the piano to play fast but highly melodic lines, wonderfully supported by Neve's simple pop/gospelly/bluesy chords. Neve's solo started off with one hand providing the basis for 3-way amusement, with many breaks for bass or drums. Earlier on, on "Pink Coffee," another Neve composition, the pianist showed a bit of his "entertainer" side, standing up in throes of ecstasy, then crashing back down on his bench as the solo ended. To end the first set, the quartet played a very surprising re-arrangement and re-harmonisation of "Summertime" (a warhorse if ever there was one), adding a new motif that continued through much of the arrangement. My hope for the recording sessions and subsequent CD, is that they strike a good balance between those songs that benefitted from the concision displayed tonight (or last night, as it is now very early friday morning) and those that need to be stretched out and blown to bits, energy-wise. It is great fun watching this group play together, as they are all visibly happy to be making music together, and I hope that that spirit can be transferred to tape.

After the first concert, I commented that "Teun Verbruggen refuses to settle into anything for too long," but tonight he was far less jumpy - and it worked just as well. A great pleasure was being able to actually hear Devisscher, as he is an impressive player. You'd never guess he started out in heavy-metal bands!

Jef Neve told me that he was planning to record his second CD in February (the follow-up to the excellent Blue Saga) and mentioned some interesting-sounding experimentation the trio is working on (Jef: have you heard Michel Bisceglia's "Second Breath"? And have you talked with Pierre Van Dormael?). While he's an extremely exciting pianist, his composing skills continue to impress me just as much, as they are tuneful, original and interesting. A short new tune played tonight called "Blues For Mr. S" (I didn't think to ask who Mr. S was) sounded much like a Bad Plus tune, and Jef grudgingly admitted as much. I am extremely curious to hear what he has in store. As I always say: 300 Japanese fans can't be wrong!

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Coldplayin' back in town

I'm back home.

The last few days of beautiful Geneva early winter weather convinced me that that area has a great overall climate pattern. I don't know whether or not it has anything to do with the presence of the lake Léman, the Jura or the Alps, but it's great to have hot (but not excessively so), sunny summers and dry, cold winters with a decent amount of snow. Nice, dry, sunny low temperatures really wake you up and energise you.

I got Coldplay's "A Rush of Blood to the Head" for my girlfriend and have been digging it. The music is fairly simple (for example, it only took me, a very poor piano player, 20 minutes to get the basics of a transcription of "The Scientist" I found on the 'net), but has a good deal of character. It's difficult to judge the album as a whole, as some of the songs were already lodged in my head through TV and radio play: ("Politik," "In My Place," "God Put A Smile Upon Your Face," "The Scientist," "Clocks") so the ones I don't know face stiff competition. When you think about it, it's pretty impressive that someone who has never actively sought out your music could know over half of your album quite well. And with that thought, I close be.jazz's excursion into Coldplay.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

From our correspondant in Geneva: The fear of discovery

From The Onion: Mom Finds Out About Blog

And the official policy

Thankfully, nothing here on be.jazz is too incriminating... yet.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

From our correspondant in Geneva: United Nations International Music Club

My father recently created a band made up of people from various UN organisations and I went to their weekly rehearsal last night.

It was lots of fun watching them put together tunes for a concert they're giving in early december. The pianist is the "artistic director," as he spent 30 years as a full-time professional musician. He briskly organised arrangements and voicings and learned a Dolly Parton tune in one listen. I'd never watched a group rehearsal before, so it was interesting to see him come up with ideas on the fly. Also, when the saxophone section clicked, it was quite a sound, in the narrow room.

Present were 3 female singers, 3 saxophones (alto/flute, tenor, tenor/baritone), two guitars, the afore-mentioned pianist, bass and drums. Even deep within the recesses of seemingly stodgy institutions, there lies musical talent. Fun was had by all and the wine flowed freely.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Time off

I'll be visiting my parents for a week, coming back in the 18th and do not expect to be able to blog during that time.

Try to have fun without me!

Saturday, November 08, 2003

More P2P

Interesting filing systems some people have:

c:\documents and settings\kevin\desktop\music 2 sleep'n' eat 2\whiny or obnoxious british music\coldplay

For some reason, all the hip people diss Coldplay: why? I don't have any of their albums, but like all the songs I've heard. It's simple but effective.

P2P rage

Add P2P rage to the list after road rage, air rage and trolley rage. I recently restricted my sharing to a select few, which apparently incensed one person in the midst of downloading an album. He sent one mild (but not exactly polite) message demanding that I share the remaining files he needed. I waited until he asked somewhat politely and acceded to his request. When his downloads were finished (or so I thought), I took him off the list again. Today I get this message (no preambule, no warning):

i will get it from other user so!!!!!!! ....i don't want to shares files with users like you ¡understand!

Yeah, that's going to make me want to share with you again.

Satie vs. Dixie

On the way to the concert described below, an odd adaptation of Erik Satie's "Gnossienne no. 3" came on: clarinet, trombone, tuba and drums (there may have been other instruments, I'm not sure) playing it in a dixieland style. That sounds like an odd idea and, well, it was. At first, the sense of aimless wandering was maintained nicely by the clarinet, but with a steady drum beat and oom-pah tuba, it's kind of hard to maintain that special barline-less feel. Then the clarinet became much harsher, morphing into a laughing hyena/circus sound. The tuba foundation tended to make the static harmony sound poor rather than pure.

I would need to hear the piece again to really make a judgement as to whether I liked the overall result or not, but I doubt I'll be trading in my Aldo Ciccolini recordings any time soon.

Jason Moran & Bandwagon - 7/11/2003, Antwerp

Jason Moran - p
Taurus Mateen - el b
Nasheet Waits - d

"We are the Bandwagon, picking up passengers and dropping them off, lost, leaving them to find their own way home." That's how Moran described his trio, mid-way through the one-set, 90 minute concert. The actual introduction was a kind of (extremely loud) hip hop cut'n'paste take on the traditional spoken band presentation. A pre-recorded message gave out the names of the musicians, followed by what were presumably samples of their own playing. So you'd hear "Nasheet Waits!" followed by drum rolls.

I'd previously heard very little of Moran, apart from a few live mp3's downloaded from his website and his playing with Greg Osby on "Banned in NY," but the recent flurry of positive CD and concert reviews had whetted my appetite. This was actually the first time the Bandwagon had played in Belgium as a trio, even though this summer they played here with Sam Rivers.

After the intro, they roared into the first piece. Beginning with free playing, Moran laying out clusters so thick he was almost playing with his palms, the trio then proceeded through a veritable whirlwind of rhythmic feels before climaxing in a sort of uptempo bluesy bop for a loud and viscerally exciting piano solo. Reaching near sensory overload, I felt like I was hanging on for dear life: a great beginning!

The second song began with the piano alone: crashing dissonance which settled into a more straight-forward ballad. Interestingly, Moran approaches ballads in more of a classical/pop way than in a jazz way. Then Mateen, slumped (almost crumpled) over in his chair in a cool John Lee Hooker kind of way, came in with a fast, oddly disconnected solo. While Moran (and the trio, overall) successfully jumped from one thing to the next at a moment's notice, I had trouble understanding where Mateen's solo interventions were coming from, especially during the first part of the concert.

A drum solo anchored by the middle tom (for some inexplicable reason, every element of Waits's kit was miked, making him far too loud) opened the following number. A bouncy theme slowed down to a much sparer midtempo swing/blues. Moran gave a cue on the piano to go into a more aggressive, funky groove, but by this time it was obvious that no one atmosphere would survive intact very long. Indeed, in the time it took me to jot down what was going on, they had changed direction. Throughout the concert, there were times where you could have danced, but only for a few steps before the groove had dissipated into something else. The piece ended with a fragment of a ballad that first sounded like the opening notes of Grieg's Peer Gynt, then went into jazz chords.

Henry Threadgill's "Too Much Sugar for a Dime" was announced, and led to a very nice intermingling of free playing and a motif drawn from the theme. A quite opposite method was chosen for the next number, as free playing over a fast ostinato vamp gave way to the pretty melody of "Estate" (I think), like the sea withdrawing at low tide to reveal a completely unexpected landscape underneath. At the end, Moran amused himself by playing a simplified version of the melody in the very low register of the piano.

Moran's "Out Front" was a complete joy, a marvelously rhythmic combination of stride in the left hand and free lines in the right. Later, Mateen introduced a slow, chugging blues shuffle which was taken up by the rest of the band, only to be accelerated into an almost-boogaloo.

Then came "Straight Outta Istanbul," which has been an attention-grabber in most articles I've read. For those who don't know, they play over the recording of a telephone call in Turkish. It's highly impressive how the follow the "melody" of the female voice. After traditionally-notated scores, graphic scores, here comes the audio score? They played through the recording a number of times, breaking away when it went into a 20-second loop. It became particularly interesting when the recording went into a one bar loop, because it took on a rhythmic, hip hop-ish character, rather than a melodic one.

The quiet solo piano that followed clearly displayed Moran's (perhaps too heavy) attraction for sudden sforzandos and quick dissonances, all the while sustaining a sweet melody. The last performance was notable for its hard hip hop beat, which was intermittently deepened by the piano, which then led into a amusingly over-the-top bashing climax. As Moran announced the end of the concert, I was surprised: time had flown by, the music had not dragged once.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Struggling to stay awake

The funniest line of this Andre 3000 of OutKast interview:

'I took my DJ to the Strokes concert last Wednesday,' Benjamin says, smiling. 'My DJ, y'know, he'd never been to a rock concert before. I don't know if he understood it really.' There's a pause. 'Actually, he fell asleep.'

In his appearance last night on the MTV Europe Music Awards (I was one of the two people watching - the other being my girlfriend), I was struck by his accent: I expected his southern drawl to be a lot thicker. Anyway, note to self: buy "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" at some point in time.


This month's NewMusicBox is devoted to music & politics, with interesting comments by Archie Shepp and Don Byron, amongst many other non-jazz people.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Club guide: Hnita Hoeve

While set in a bit of an odd area for a jazz club, the Hnita Hoeve manages to draw good crowds. It is arguably the oldest active club in Belgium, going back to 1955, under the same name but in a different location. For the last 20 years the club has been in a converted farm. It was started by Juul Anthonissen and as far as I can tell is now run by his son Peter. When I went up there to see Polar Bear, I found a very warm and friendly atmosphere where the management is very close to the listener base.

Concerts range from young Belgian upstarts to international headliners and soon (and quite surprisingly), the Brussels Jazz Orchestra! How the big band will fit into the club while leaving room for listeners is anyone's guess. The club has an excellent track-record and has often brought international artists to Belgium for the first time. Amusingly, way back in the day (late 60s) Keith Jarrett played the Hnita, for a sum he probably wouldn't lift a finger for today.

To be informed of concerts, send an e-mail to

Currently lined up are:

Friday, November 7, 20.30: ROBIN VERHEYEN TRIO (B) (20 year old sax phenom)
Friday, November 14, 2003, 20.30: ELECTRIC MILES PROJECT (B - D) (featuring the inevitable Jef Neve)
Saturday, November 15, 2003, 20.30: BRUSSELS JAZZ ORCHESTRA directed by Frank Vaganée (B) (with no guest soloists, which is unusual for them)
Wednesday, December 3, 2003, 20.30: RAVI COLTRANE QUARTET (US)

Lostraat 106 te
2220 Heist-op-den-Berg

Note to Peter: the website is lacking the club's address, telephone number and access details (at least, in English it is).

The art of reviewing: major vs. indie

A few posts ago, I mentioned approaching CDs differently depending on whether they were released on major, indie, or artist-run labels. I've thought about this a bit more during the past few days, and come to the conclusion that I don't really approach the albums differently. At most, my advocacy role changes.

I really like Stacey Kent (admittedly, in a guilty pleasure kind of way), but feel no need to actively advocate her music, as she's already quite popular. On the other hand, my Pierre Van Dormael mega-interview clearly indicates that I feel differently about him (it's the result of about 9 hours of conversation!). Another example is a stunning EP I recently received from Tunisian pianist Wajdi Cherif. A detailled post on that soon.

As far as Belgian albums go, there are 30-40 jazz releases per year (this page tallies them all). Most are spread out between a few labels: Igloo (the biggest back catalogue, I think), De Werf (currently the most interesting and dynamic), Lyrae, Carbon 7 (former home of AKA Moon) and Mogno (relatively new, but has some good and varied stuff, although their website is in dire need of updating). Check out this page for a more complete listing.

This year, however, albums on artist-run labels have, overall, been at least as good as those on more established labels: Flat Earth Society's "The Armstrong Mutations," Jef Neve's "Blue Saga" (hmm, I hadn't mentioned Jef in a while), Chris Mentens's "Driving With the Jazz Van" and Maak's Spirit's "Le nom du vent" in particular come to mind. I'll recap all these albums (and more!) by year's end.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

The elusive jazz blog

Have you ever tried Googling "jazz blog"? The results are at once odd and depressing (apart from be.jazz being near the top): not a lot of people seem to be blogging about this music with any regularity and a lot of the results are useless. A vacuum to be filled, I guess.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Citizen Jazz update

Oddly, Citizen Jazz has been updated on a tuesday. Continuing the odd theme, my two contributions are both reviews of vocalists' CDs:

Stacey Kent - The Boy Next Door (she's almost like a guilty pleasure)

Hilde Vanhove - Insense (the album that sparked "The art of the mixed review")

Jazz Hot / Hot Jazz

The French magazine Jazz Hot now has some interviews (Byard Lancaster, Ray Blue) in English, no doubt in an attempt to expand their readership.

Sam Rivers Jazz Hot coverJH is the most blatantly ideological of the three big print jazz magazines in France (the other two being Jazz Magazine and the website-less JazzMan) and their endless pontification (or sometimes more subtle opining) on what jazz is, who does or does not play it, how the institutionalised avant-garde is destroying the music, how the real defenders of jazz are being mercilessly hunted down, etc. is grating. However, there are also interesting interviews with people often ignored by the other mags. JH also has the distinction of not giving their covers over to the most obvious artists (i.e. those releasing heavily-marketed albums that very month). Finally, there is the pleasure of seeing the very artists they so admire contradict their ideology (especially on the teaching of jazz).

Scouring their downloadable Internet Supplement for ">" (branding sans distinction, or without merit) reviews is a monthly source of amusement: albums are lambasted for not being jazz, for taking jazz in the wrong direction, for being sure proof that the meaning of jazz has been lost in these modern times and the occasional completely off-the-wall rant. Their yearly downloadable CD Special was a real treat, in that respect. Maybe I should dig up and translate choice excerpts at regular intervals.

Paris Transatlantic

Paris Transatlantic is a webzine based in Paris (duh) but written in English (hence the "transatlantic," I suppose) and overseen by Dan Warburton (often seen in the columns of The Wire, if I remember correctly). PT covers contemporary music, avant-jazz, -improv and -electronica. Of particular interest to the jazz fan is the long Sunny Murray interview, which apparently caused quite a stir when it was published.

This month's editorial is a funny rant: after discussing journalists trading off excess promo CD copies (something I've never done, but I'm far from deluged by CDs), Warburton says

To combat such blatant abuses of the promo copy system, poor, cash-starved little cottage industry labels like Columbia have recently taken to sending out CDRs as promos instead of the real article. I've just received a promo copy of James Carter's Gardenias For Lady Day, with no information whatsoever on the disc or the plain black sleeve about who's playing, when / where it was recorded, and apparently I can't even play it on my computer, as it's copy protected, whatever that means. Talk about paranoid.. If you'll pardon my French, I'll be fucked if I'm going spend any time surfing on the Columbia website for information about this disc, and if they seriously expect me to spend any time reviewing it, they can kiss my hard drive. Am I really supposed to believe that Columbia can't afford a few bob to send out a few real copies?

Where's Toots?

I just realised I hadn't mentioned Baron Toots Thielemans yet. Consider it done with this recent Jos Knaepen photo, from a concert with the Danish Radio Big Band and Maria Schneider..

Toots Thielemans

Monday, November 03, 2003

Polar Bear photos

Here are some rather big photos from the Polar Bear concert taken by Jos Knaepen.

Sebastian Rocheford

Pete Wareham

Ingrid Laubrock

(as usual, the bassist is forgotten... sorry Tom!)

Nostalgia - already?

JanetI'm driving back from the Polar Bear interview, Janet Jackson's "That's the Way Love Goes" comes on and I find myself enjoying it far more than I should, singing along and digging the mid-90s production. Has nostalgia hit already? How can I avoid this? I really don't want to end up enjoying crappy music for old time's sake. I have a nightmarish vision of myself, 20 years down the line, getting on the dance-floor to do "The Macarena" as memories of my youth flash by (not that I ever actually did the macarena, mind you).

I actually have "Janet," or should I say, had it, as I have no idea where the album may be at the moment: I took it out of the main body of my collection and set it aside after a second-hand shop refused to accept it. I'd fish the album out, but the last time I saw it was several houses ago, so who knows where it may be now...

Upcoming Les Lundis d'Hortense concerts

I'm pasting part of the press release because I'm too lazy and tired (it's 3:47 AM!) to do anything else with it. The website cited at bottom should have all the specific concert info. If not, go to Philippe Baron's site (in my list of links, I'm too lazy to even make links, right now)

Les Lundis d'Hortense, association de musiciens de jazz, oeuvre pour la promotion du jazz belge.

Le Jazz Tour des Lundis d'Hortense continue. La tournée de Sayma a rencontré un vif succès. Beaucoup de jeunes, mais aussi des moins jeunes sont venus assister à leur concert au Café Théâtre du Botanique.
en novembre : Quentin Dujardin
en décembre : [qUETZAL]
en janvier : '4'

Le cycle des Midis Jazz, concerts solo ou duo, se poursuit également au Musée Charlier, où l'acoustique est excellente.
Ces concerts de midi ont un intérêt particulier puisqu'ils intéressent un public différent que celui qui sort le soir.
en novembre : Victor da Costa - Jan de Haas duo
en décembre : Daniel Stokart solo
en janvier : Steve Houben - Boyan Vodenitcharov duo

Vous trouverez ci-dessous l'agenda de nos activités, suivi des textes de présentation des projets.

Les Lundis d'Hortense asbl
c/o Maison des Musiques
Rue Lebeau 39
1000 Bruxelles
(nouvelle adresse !)
Tel : 02 219 58 51

QUENTIN DUJARDIN - - tournée en novembre 2003

Nouveau CD "Khamis" (septembre 2003) en collaboration avec la RTBF, Arsis World (AS-00-A-64014-W)

Nourri de flamenco de par ses rencontres avec les Gitans d'Andalousie ou encore de ses aventures berbères dans le désert marocain, séduit par la musique traditionnelle gnawa des Grands Maalam d'Essaouira, ce tout jeune artiste de 25 ans installe paisiblement son propre style pétri de Jazz, de Musique Arabe ou encore de Musique Classique. Ses expériences de vie aux quatre coins du monde comme sa musique sont étroitement liées, il ne recherche pas, il les trouve au quotidien un peu au gré de ses voyages.

Après son premier album solo intitulé "La Fontaine de Gore", aux côtés du prestigieux pianiste de Jazz, Diederik Wissels (Universal Jazz/France), il marque le début d'une carrière prometteuse. Plusieurs festivals belges l'ont déjà accueilli (Gaume Jazz Festival, Mons en Jazz…). Il fut invité à composer pour le quatuor à cordes KAOS à l'occasion de la Présidence Européenne Espagnole ; il se produit régulièrement en France, Maroc ou Espagne.

Quentin vous propose une formule concert regroupant ses compositions récentes à l'occasion de la sortie de son nouveau disque "Le Voyage de Khamis" alliant la fougue du Flamenco, la sensualité de la Musique Arabe ou encore la finesse du Jazz introduisant également sa grande rencontre marocaine en la personne de Jalal El Allouli, tout jeune violoniste marrakechi.

Voir également l'interview sur notre site :

[qUETZAL] - - tournée en décembre 2003

[qUETZAL], c'est une musique énergique, éclectique et décapante.
Pour 2 personnes : prenez 800g de groove, ajoutez trois cuillers à soupe de funk (pour relier) et une louche de rock en poudre. Pendant la cuisson (220°, à la ronde), incorporez une pincée de hard-bop, deux bâtons de spontanéité et trois feuilles de surprises. Servir très chaud !

Frédéric Delplancq (saxophones)
est né à Dour. Il étudie le saxophone classique ainsi que le solfège et la théorie musicale en académie entre 1985 et 1992. De 1993 à 1997, il étudie le saxophone au Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles avec Steve Houben où il obtient son premier prix en 1997. Il suit des cours en stage ou en privé avec Pierre Vaiana, John Ruocco, Richard Rousselet, Fabrice Alleman… Il joue et travaille avec les musiciens de la scène jazz belge dans différents contextes musicaux. Il est aussi leader de son quartet dans lequel joue, entre autres, Jef Neve.

Jean-Michel Veneziano (guitares)
Natif de la région de Binche, il a abordé la musique en expérimentant le piano et la guitare de 1982 à 1995. Il a ensuite suivit les cours de Fabien Degryse, Peter Hertmans, Raf Schillebeckx, Jeroen Vazn Herzeele au Conservatoire Royal de Musique de Bruxelles. Son expérience professionnelle l'a conduit à accompagner le West-Music Club (big band dirigé par Richard Rousselet), à travailler avec Vincent Venet, Gert Verhulst, Liss Norman – produite par Nicolas Neidhart (Maurane…) et à côtoyer des groupes de fusion, pop et reprise dans toute la Belgique. Côté enseignement, Jean-Michel anime des stages aux Jeunesses Musicales et est professeur dans différentes écoles de Wallonie.

Marc Mangen (Luxembourg - claviers)
Né en 1961, ce musicien acharné et bien trop peu connu a plus d'un tour dans son sac. Marc commence le piano à un âge précoce et s'initie à la basse, à la trompette et au saxophone. Il obtient plusieurs prix et mentions des Conservatoires Supérieurs de Luxembourg et Strasbourg pour le piano et la composition classiques. Il est totalement autodidacte en jazz. Figure de proue exigeante sur la scène de jazz luxembourgeoise et bien trop peu considéré à l'étranger, il est sollicité pour de nombreux festivals et masterclasses européens et tourne outre les frontières. Marc a joué avec Mark Turner, Michel Pilz, Philip Catherine, Ted Curson et Janice Lakers parmi bien d'autres et est souvent sollicité pour des compositions, son passe-temps favori. Marc dirige un big band et se produit en concert également à la batterie. Fondateur du groupe Afrodisax avec lequel il enregistre deux disques, il tourne avec différentes formations dont son propre trio pour lequel il a une conception et un répertoire uniques.

Olivier Stalon (basse électrique)
Mis au monde au milieu des pavés de Binche, il n'a jamais manqué un carnaval depuis qu'il sait se servir de ses jambes. Il a acheté sa première basse en 1991, mais c'est lors d'un stage d'été, en 1994, que Fabien Degryse lui a appris à y poser les doigts correctement. La même année, il a suivi les conseils de Maarten Weyler, professeur au Jazz Studio. La saison suivante, il a travaillé avec Théo De Jong lors d'un stage des Lundis d'Hortense. C'est en 1997, après deux années d'étude avec Michel Hatzigeorgiou au Conservatoire Royal de Musique de Bruxelles, qu'il a obtenu un premier prix de basse électrique. Mais l'électricité devenant de plus en plus onéreuse, il acheta une contrebasse d'occasion. Et, ne sachant pas lire le mode d'emploi écrit en tchécoslovaque, il suivit les instructions de Jean-Louis Rassinfosse et Bart De Nolf. Aujourd'hui, Olivier est actif sur les scènes rock, jazz, variétés et pop du Benelux et enseigne à Namur et au Grand-Duché du Luxembourg.

Patrick Dorcéan (batterie)
Né en 1971 à Bruxelles de famille haïtienne, Patrick commence a jouer sérieusement de la batterie à l'âge de 20 ans, après de courtes études musicales et plusieurs expériences comme programmeur, arrangeur et compositeur pour différents artistes en Belgique et à Haïti. Il a joué dans de nombreux projets : Daniel Wang Band, Carlos Nando, M. Bai Kamara Jr, Maurane, Daniel Romeo ; il a également joué pour des tournées européennes et des shows tv avec Khadja Nin, Melissa Kane, CocoJr… Il est régulièrement sollicité pour des sessions studio. Patrick est endorsé par les cymbales Zildjian…

'4' - - tournée en janvier 2004

'4' est un nouveau projet formé à Bruxelles par 4 jeunes musiciens belges et basé sur des compositions originales des 4 membres du groupe. Après avoir joué et enregistré ensemble dans différents contextes, ils eurent l'idée de créer un groupe ou ils pourraient mettre à profit leur approche commune de la musique, où la mélodie est fondamentale. Le résultat est une musique ou la pop et le rock se mêlent au jazz.

'4' is a new project formed in Brussels by 4 young musicians and based on original compositions. After playing and recording with one another in different bands, the idea came up to get together and work on a common approach towards music, where melody is the fundament.

Marco Locurcio (guitare)
est diplômé du Musicians Institute de Los Angeles et du Koninlijk conservatorium de Bruxelles. Il a étudié avec Scott Henderson, John Scofield et Peter Hertmans. Il a enregistré 3 CD's sous son nom avec entre autres Jeroen Van Herzeele, Chander Sardjoe et Jozef Dumoulin et joué en Italie, France, Etats-Unis et Belgique. Marco a aussi produit, enregistré ou composé pour de nombreux albums de rock et de pop.

Nicolas Kummert (saxophone)
est diplômé du Koninklijk conservatorium de Bruxelles auprès de John Ruocco et Jeroen Van Herzeele. Avec le Alexi Tuomarila Quartet, il a gagné des concours internationaux (Avignon, Hoeilaart) et enregistré deux disques (le dernier est produit par Warner Music). Il a aussi enregistré et tourné avec Pierre Van Dormael, Alchimie, Jambangle et différents projets d'artistes africains. Il a joué en Australie, Finlande, Norvège, Grèce, France, Tunisie…

Lieven Venken (batterie)
réside actuellement à New-York où il a étudié avec Billy Hart. Il est diplômé du Lemmens Instituut auprès de Dré Pallemaerts. Très actif sur la scène belge, il a enregistré avec, entre autres, Diederik Wissels, Bart Defoort, Michel Bisceglia et Jonathan Morritz et joué notamment avec Mark Turner, Kris Defoort, Steve Houben et Pete Mc Cann. Aujourd'hui, il joue de plus en plus souvent à New York où, en quelques mois, il s'est intégré à la scène jazz la plus relevée du monde.

Jacques Pili (basse)
est diplômé du conseratoire royal de Bruxelles où il étudia auprès de Michel Hatzigeorgiou. Il accompagne depuis quelques années la chanteuse belge Maurane, avec qui il tourne beaucoup en Belgique, en France et au Canada. Il a aussi enregistré avec plusieurs autres projets jazz ou pop tels que Mattis, les Gaspésies et Colours et joue dans le trio d'Arnould Massart

JAN DE HAAS – VICTOR DA COSTA – vibraphone - guitare duo – Mardi 25 novembre 2003

Le vibraphone de Jan de Haas et la guitare de Victor da Costa se sont croisés pour la première fois lors d'une jam. Les deux musiciens ont tout de suite été saisis par la compatibilité sonore entre ces deux instruments.
Dans ce projet, Victor et Jan se partagent les rôles de soliste et d'accompagnateur. Cela se traduit dans une dynamique séduisante.
Standards et quelques bijoux du répertoire brésilien sont au rendez-vous. Du jazz chaleureux, insoucieux et direct…

Victor da Costa est né à Rio de Janeiro en 1971. Il a commencé l'apprentissage de la guitare à l'âge de 11 ans. Après des études musicales à la 'Musiarte' de Rio de Janeiro, il vient se perfectionner en Europe. En 1993, Victor entre au Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles, section jazz, où il obtient un 1er Prix de guitare (1995) et d'harmonie (1999).
Ce n'est qu'en 2000 qu'il rentre au Brésil pour y passer 2 ans. Pendant ce temps, Victor joue avec de nombreux musiciens brésiliens : Idriss Boudrioua, Dario Galante, Osmar Milito, Adriano Giffoni, Luizão…
De retour en Belgique depuis janvier 2002, Victor se produit en trio et dans d'autres différents ensembles. Parmi les groupes et musiciens avec lesquels il a joué, on peut citer : Dgil, Cacau e grupo, Victor da Costa Trio, Marito Correa, Steve Houben, Erik Vermeulen, Denise Blue…

Jan de Haas est né à Bruxelles en 1962. Il s'intéresse très jeune à la musique et particulièrement aux percussions. Après avoir obtenu une médaille à l'Académie de Musique de Hoeilaart, il entre au Berklee College of Music de Boston où, en 1982, il obtient le 'Performance Diploma'.
En 1981, il est engagé pour quelques mois comme batteur dans l'orchestre de la BRT sous la direction de Etienne Verschueren. Avec son propre groupe, il reporte le premier prix au "Concours Jazz Hoeilaart" en 1982. Parmi les artistes avec qui il a joué et/ou enregistré, on peut citer : Chet Baker, Toots Thielemans, Philip Catherine, Steve Houben, Phil Wilson, Jacques Pelzer, Dave Kikoski, Eddie Daniels, Rick Margitza, J.R Monterose e.a.
Jan de Haas enseigne au Conservatoire d'Anvers.

DANIEL STOKART – saxophones alto & soprano, flûtes et divers instruments solo – Mardi 9 décembre 2003

CD : Daniel Stokart "Danses sur un pied", Mogno Music 2002 (mogno j008) –

C’est l’histoire d’un gars qui se cherche, qui cherche une musique. La meilleure manière qu’il a trouvé de se chercher, est de s’enregistrer, de s’écouter, puis de se réenregistrer de nouveau, en se démultipliant encore. Le tout mis ensemble donne une musique de sons et de couleurs qui lui sont propres. En concert, il s’accompagne de ses enregistrements qui sont autant de parties de lui-même. On peut alors entendre, par exemple, une multitude de sax soprano, accompagnés par une clarinette basse, des ocarinas, des flûtes, toutes sortes de saxophones mélangés dans un grand patchwork lyrique et ludique.

GB/ This is the story of a guy searching for himself, looking for another music.
The best way he found to search was to record himself, to listen to it, and then to record again, multiplying himself. The result is a music of sounds that are definitely specific to him. Live, he plays with his recordings which are parts of himself. One may listen, for example, a multitude of soprano saxophones accompanied by a bass clarinet, ocarinas, flutes and all kind of saxophones blended in a lyrical and playful patchwork.

STEVE HOUBEN – BOYAN VODENITCHAROV – saxophones soprano & alto, flûte - piano duo – Mardi 20 janvier 2004

"Vingt ans séparent notre première rencontre de ces enregistrements."
Les compositions présentées sur leur récent CD, "Les Valses" (Mogno music / AMG, 2003), sont les témoins des moments qu'ils ont passés ensemble au fil des répétitions, des concerts et de longues conversations, signes d’une indéfectible amitié au travers des péripéties de la vie.
Qui aurait osé parier qu’une porte entrebâillée il y a vingt ans entre deux univers si différents reste toujours ouverte aujourd’hui ? Ni l’un, ni l’autre ni d’autres sans doute, et pourtant… (Steve Houben & Boyan Vodenitcharov)

Steve Houben est né en 1950 dans une famille musicienne, sa mère était pianiste classique et son père jazzman amateur, mais c'est le saxophoniste Jacques Pelzer, un autre membre de sa famille, qui l'introduira au jazz et aura une grande influence sur sa carrière. Ensemble, il fondront l'Open Sky Unit.

Au milieu des années septante, Steve étudiera à la Berklee College of Music de Boston. De retour en Belgique, il créera avec Henri Pousseur le Séminaire Jazz du Conservatoire Royal de Liège. Durant la même période, il fera venir plusieurs musiciens américains en Europe et formera les groupes "Solstice", et puis "Mauve Traffic" (avec Bill Frisell, Greg Badolato, Kermit Driscoll, Michel Herr, Vinnie Johnson, avec lesquels il jouera en Europe et sortira l'album "Oh Boy" (MD).

Steve a joué avec Chet Baker (avec qui il enregistrera), Mike Stern, George Coleman, Gerry Mulligan, Clark Terry, Jon Eardley, Joe Newman, Peter Herbolzheimer, the EBU Big Band, Garrett List, Saxo 1000, Act Big Band, le pianiste tchèque Emil Viklicky, avec le trio hongrois Midnight, avec le pianiste Bobo Stenson, l'European Jazz Ensemble, le quartet de Gordon Beck, mais également avec Daniel Humair, Paolo Fresu, Joachim Kühn, Alan Skidmore... Il apparaît également dans le quartet du pianiste Gordon Beck. En Février 2001, Toots Thielemans l'invite à l'occasion de sa "carte blanche" au Théâtre de la Monnaie....

Compositeur, arrangeur, et musicien free-lance, il a enregistré plusieurs albums en leader, dont en 1982 l'album Steve Houben + Cordes, un groupe composé de 6 jazzman et une section de à cordes de 21 musiciens et à l'occasion de l'année Adolphe Sax en 1994, il a présenté et enregistré un septet présentant 4 saxophones "Steve Houben invite..." (Arpèges CDG 914).

Il a également joué et enregistré avec Charles Loos et Maurane "HLM" (IGLOO - IGL 043) ou Ali Ryerson ("Vagabondages", Igloo - IGL093), Steve Houben & Michel Herr rencontrent Curtis Lundy & Kenny Washington, avec une des plus grandes section rythmique américaine du moment (B. Sharp CDS 094), ainsi que "O Brilho Do Sol" en 1995 avec le songwriter Marito Correa et Michel Herr Il a aussi dirigé Cocodrilo, un groupe fusion avec des musiciens européens.
Steve Houben fait également partie du trio Pirotton/Houben/Pougin (Igloo CD "We can't stop loving you") et en tant que leader, il présente fréquemment ses propres groupes.

Il est également avec Luc Pilartz le fondateur de Panta Rhei, qui revisite les musiques traditionnelles européenne et a enregistré plusieurs CDs. Steve Houben apparaît également aux côtés d'Ivan Paduart, notamment avec son projet True Story.

Actuellement, il est membre du groupe belgo/tunisien "Anfass" avec lequel il a enregistré récemment un disque et joué de nombreux concerts en Europe et en Tunisie. Récemment, avec le percussionniste Didier Labarre, il a fondé le groupe Cuban Breeze et avec Jacques Pirotton, le quartet Pirotton/Houben INC.

Steve, qui reçoit le Django d'Or 2000, enseigne lors de nombreux workshops, est co-fondateur avec Henri Pousseur du "Séminaire de Jazz" au Conservatoire de Liège et est professeur de saxophone au département jazz du Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles.

Discographie sélective récente :
Steve Houben/Emil Viklicky, Bohemia after dark (P&J Music PJ 012-2).
Pirotton/Houben/Pougin Trio, We can't stop loving you (Igloo Igl 140)
Anfass, Anfass (Igloo Igl 148)
Steve Houben, Le saxophone et le jazz (Ricercar, collection Instruments)
Trio Midnight featuring Steve Houben, Friends Meeting (prod. Ciney Jazz night)
Panta Rhei, Strides (2002)

Né en 1960, le pianiste Boyan Vodenitcharov avait déjà remporté le deuxième prix du concours international de Senegallia lorsqu'il est entré au Conservatoire d'Etat de Sofia en 1979. Il a ensuite obtenu le troisième prix du Concours international Busoni en 1981, le premier grand prix au Concours national bulgare de composition en 1982 et le troisième prix au Concours Reine Elisabeth en 1983. En 1986 et 1987, il a reçu une bourse, le " Fullbright Grant ", qui lui a permis de se perfectionner auprès de Léon Fleischer au Peabody Conservatory de Baltimore.
Depuis lors, Boyan Vodenitcharov a été acclamé aussi bien en Europe qu'aux Etats-Unis, au Canada ou au Japon. Plusieurs festivals importants ont fait appel à lui tandis que l'on pouvait également apprécier sa musicalité dans de prestigieuses salles de concert comme le Palais des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles, le Concertgebouw d'Amsterdam, le Palais de la Musique de Strasbourg, la Salle Smetana de Prague ou le Suntori Hall de Tokyo.
Depuis une dizaine d'années, Boyan Vodenitcharov s'intéresse aux instruments anciens comme le tangentenflügel ou le pianoforte. Dans ce domaine, il a collaboré avec de grands spécialistes comme Ryo Terekado, Marcel Ponseele et Sigiswald Kuijken.
Boyan Vodenitcharov a réalisé de nombreux enregistrements que l'on peut trouver sous les labels suivants : Balkanton, Pavane, Vivace, Etcetera, Gega New, Cyprès et Explicit, ainsi que Denon et Phi pour la musique ancienne. De 1987 à 1991, il a été professeur de piano au Conservatoire d'Etat de Sofia. Il a ensuite enseigné le piano et la musique de chambre aux Conservatoires royaux de Gand et de Liège. Actuellement, il est professeur de piano et d'improvisation au Koninklijk Conservatorium de Bruxelles. Artiste-musicien dans toute l'acceptation du terme, Boyan Vodenitcharov est également compositeur.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

The art of the mixed review

I just finished writing a review of Hilde Vanhove's "Insense" and was thinking how much more difficult it is to write a mixed review than an outright rave or pan. Throw into the mix the fact that this is a small, independent release and things become even more complicated (I feel that this aspect is relevant, but that's another debate).

I aim to maintain clear prose (not that I always succeed), while highlighting both the good and the bad. At least online I don't have to worry about a word-count, allowing me to convey a more complex view than can be squeezed into 2 square inches.

There's also the question of pacing: do you start with the negative, the positive or intertwine them? This is important because it can subtley convey whether or not you feel the album is, overall, worthwhile. For this review, I decided to close with a positive comment.

Finally, it always seems that negative reviews require more justification than positive ones (although I don't really agree with that), so a mixed review requires intricate justification of both negative and positive aspects.

I wonder how the reader reacts to such a review. Curiosity (maybe that depends on the above-mentioned justifications), dismissal (skip the possibly mediocre in favour of the raved-about) or something else?

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Interviews with Belgian jazzmen

Jazz in Belgium has made a handy list of some musician interviews that appeared in the trimestrial Les Lundis d'Hortense magazine. All in french, though, and no interviews between 2000 and 2003.

Future LDH interviews might also be appearing in Citizen Jazz. I can't cover the whole scene by myself, you know.

Pete Wareham addendum

I keep on forgetting to say this, but Pete Wareham has a kind of Jarvis Cocker vibe going on, which is pretty cool.

Teaching music

Kyle Gann has written an interesting piece (actually, all of his blog entries are interesting) on the teaching of music at university level, which reminded me of a piece his fellow Arts Journal blogger Greg Sandow wrote back in september and which I linked and responded to. Gann says:

But for music majors, understanding the details of, say, gamelan influence on Debussy requires some solid foundation in the theoretical basics, and the pressure we feel to turn out technically equipped young musicians leaves us with little time to reflect on what music tells the world about itself.

Just yesterday I got a quietly aggressive e-mail from a pianist about my mixed Tord Gustavsen review, suggesting that I lacked the musical knowledge to talk about the album. Regardless of the fact that I didn't criticise in any way Gustavsen's musical abilities (and lauded the trio's cohesion), Kyle Gann reminds us that the music is to be found beyond techniques and numbers. Not that these are unimportant (speaking from the listener's point of view, as of course they are of extreme importance to the musicians), but who cares if you use a fancy chord or crazy composite rhythm, if the result sucks?

A few years back I read the first few chapters of André Hodeir's seminal "Hommes et Problèmes du Jazz" and was struck by how, after having set down a detailled and hugely knowledgeable musicological descriptions of a Duke Ellington recording, he fell back on the same terms as every one else ("magnificent") to describe the music's impact. Not only that, but the musicological description gave very little idea as to why, really, the performance was magnificent.

Polar Bear & F-ire

The interview yesterday went well, deep in the bowels of the ever-so-hip Marnix Jazz Café in Antwerp (all the trendy jazz clubs dress in red, apparently). I'm writing a French version for Citizen Jazz, but I'll try to do an English version as well.

First Sebastian Rocheford gave a little drum clinic, at which the band played, another drummer sat in and received feedback on his playing, some questions were asked and musical examples played.

A bit later on I went downstairs to talk to the band. When the pizzas arrived, conversation started flowing more freely, and they told me a bit about a collective they work with: F-ire (Fellowship for Integrated Rhythmic Expression). Seems very interesting and I don't think many people outside the UK (in Belgium and France, at least) are aware of it.

Saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock (I've finally got the spelling straight) gave me two of her CDs, the most recent of which (drums, bass, piano, cello and her on saxophones) sounds most promising, after one listen. She plays very differently on the CD than she does with Polar Bear, a testament to her versatility and talent.

In fact, I was struck, listening to the tunes the group played during the drum clinic, by how differently they approached material that I had heard just last night. This band really achieves a great balance between preparation and spontaneity, thoroughly re-working songs in the moment and taking them in different directions. Pete Wareham commented on how Sebastian's compositions had great longevity because they were open and grew the better you knew them.

Unfortunately, I couldn't stay for the concert itself, but the house was full.