Friday, April 02, 2004

Jef Neve Trio - 01/04/2004, Brussels

Jef Neve - p
Piet Verbist - b
Teun Verbruggen - d

This was a pretty big night for Jef Neve, as it was his first time playing in the prestigious Flagey and he was in suitably high (too high?) spirits (a number of people seemed surprised by all the joviality and smiles displayed). He introduced a new move to his stage show: the standing jump. I'd already become used to the sitting jump (or "frog jump," as I like to call it), but the standing jump (I haven't found a cute name for it yet) is a new one. There was a massive turnout of about 200 people: the small Studio 1 (Flagey has a much bigger Studio 4, where Andrew Hill played not too long ago, for example) was full to the brim and they even had to add two rows of wooden chairs. Two odd things: the trio were all in suits, as Neve had decided that should look sharp for their initial Flagey performance; on the first tune, as Neve snapped and counted to give the tempo, someone just behind me started snapping and counting as well, quite loudly. Weird.

The repertoire was similar to the one I saw him play just under a month ago at the Hopper in Antwerp. Both opened with a playful reading of Chick Corea's "Matrix" and otherwise consisted of new originals. Neve playing "Matrix" makes evident that Corea is perhaps the biggest influence on his composing style. A very nice piece was "Lament," which begins with Verbruggen tapping out a quiet drum'n'bass beat with hands and fingers, while piano and bass slowly build upon two sparely stated chords. It builds up to a kind of warm and relaxed folky-bluesy stretch (I always think of Norah Jones at this point... in a good way), bursts into a full-out 12/8 before dissolving into a more classical-sounding take on the initial two chords. In the middle, Piet Verbist took a very nice bass solo, full of finger-bending double stops. Overall, the feel was open, dreamy and with an emphasis on texture, as Neve often insisted on a single low note while Verbist doubled it on bow.

The fourth tune featured a very nice intro recalling Brad Mehldau's contrapuntal playing. The second standard played was "It Could Happen To You," which featured a fantastic bass solo in the 50s jazz style the trio decided to play the tune in. Sometimes you branch out by going backwards, I guess. The last piece before the encore was "Get Yourself a Wheelchair" in which tempo was stretched and compressed like a lump of clay. This and the previous "Bop Me If You Can" seem to indicate that Neve is taking a subtler approach (both in his writing and soloing) to the fast, highly arranged bop of "Pink Coffee."

The two-song encore consisted of a three-tempos-at-once "There Will Never Be Another You" (until the three tempos snapped into one towards the end, it sounded very much like bad jazz well-played, which was the point, I think) and the ever-popular "Blues For Mr. P.S." I felt this concert not quite up to the afore-mentioned Antwerp one, but Flagey does tend to have a slightly soul-sapping effect, on jazz performances at least. Still, I taking a stand now and saying that I don't know who can challenge Neve for the title of "Best New Talent" at the Belgian Django awards to take place in December.