Saturday, March 20, 2004

Pascal Schumacher Quartet - 18/03/2004, Brussels

What more can I say? That this band only continues to get better, at once tighter and freer as a finely-honed ferocious unit? That you should buy the CD that just came out, Change of the Moon (review coming soon), because it's great?

A few highlights: a particularly nice version of Pascal's "Ancil," a composition a run hot and cold about: it didn't do anything for me when I last heard it less than a month ago. Pascal's flying mallet head during his solo on "Blues for Mr. P.S." No-one was injured. A great new composition called "Leap Year" (29th of february, you see) that pushes the band's everything-but-the-kitchen-sink (ie. lots of tempos, metres and melodies) approach to new lengths. If this were a pop (well, bloggers at least) song, people would be raving about the wealth of hooks. Jef's patented frog-jumps were augmented by lewd pelvic thrusting towards his piano, arena-rock guitar god style. He can get away with it, because he was, incredibly, even more impressive than usual, pulling new and unheard tricks out of the bag. The two sides to his playing (the extroverted showman with Pascal, the more introverted seeker with his own trio) are increasingly undeniable. Amidst all this energetic pummeling, he can still hit you with subtelty: after Christophe's particularly poignant bass feature on "Goodbye Little Godfather," Jef introduced some chords that reminded me of gamelan music, or untuned gongs, bringing a truly eery quality to the composition. Later he explained that it was a pile-up of major and minor thirds, some octaves and getting the pedalling right. "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise" was the only standard of the night, and whether they were skipping around the theme in the opening vibraphone-piano duet or during the extraordinary unaccompanied piano solo, the "softly" part was nowhere to be seen.

I'm writing an article on the band for Flemish cultural mag Rekto:Verso (I'm writing it in English, they're handling the translation, thankfully). My first "feature" (ie. not a review or a straight interview) article and I'm terrified. They make it look so easy in The Wire, with their cool, all-knowing tone and socio-politico-musical angles. At this point, I'm just trying to get the word count and not make it too hagiographic. Which is going to be hard. I'm mainly scared that my fandom has overshot what is actually matter of public record (ie. the album) and is based more on the handful of fabulous concerts I've seen. We'll see what happens. It'll be nice to see my name in print.

After finally leaving the club well past 3AM, I had the strange experience of hearing Cannonball's Somethin' Else on repeat all through the night, the few hours that were left of it, anyway (thanks M. for the hospitality and food!). An album I had always liked, but having it insinuate itself into my subconcious like that gave me a new appreciation of its greatness. Weird.