Wednesday, June 09, 2004

bits 'n' bots: belgian edition

This was this blog's original remit (hence the clever title, see), but it soon feel by the wayside. Still, there are only three online venues that regularly cover Belgian jazz: Jazz in Belgium (obviously) and Citizen Jazz (see links on the right) and Zicline. So it's a rather underreported on area. Here's a quick and sloppy and not-very-informative round-up of some good stuff. Just because I can.

Rêve d'Eléphant Orchestra - Lobster Caravan
On their first album, you could pick out the separate elements (Indian and African musics, swing, rock, techno, imaginary folk...) that went into their crazy mix. Now, it's much more difficult to do, as things have blended together in a more personal, more detailled and more "produced" sound. The new one is less tuneful than the old one, as tubist/trombonist/composer/clown Michel Massot has taken a bit of a back seat, but when he does step up, he turns out a couple of beautiful tracks. Otherwise, Jean-Luc Evrard's guitar is more present and roaring than ever, the music is more aggressive and, despite an overly fragmented feel, better than before.

Maak's Spirit - Al Majmaâ
Their first album was a live quartet date, the second a sextet studio session and the third a sextet + the Moroccan Gnawa Express + a Malian kora player captured live in various places. But somehow it all makes sense. While others have worked with a kora or Gnawa musicians before, bringing two different African traditions together is pretty rare, it seems to me. The repertoire is a mix of Maroccan traditionals and original compositions. As you might have guessed, it's a percussion- and chant-heavy, rocking affair. When the (electric) bass kicks in on the first track, it gives the song a Bill Laswell ethno-dub kind of feel.

Pascal Schumacher Quartet - Change of the Moon
I can't remember if I've recommended this album before or not. Regardless, I can't say a bad word about this one, as these are some of my favourite musicians here. Melody, dynamics, energy, cleverness and bravura. I've lost count of the number of concert reviews I've done here, so I'll just leave it at that.

Fabrice Alleman Quartet - Sides of Life
A more mainstream album, but a very fine one. Saxophonist Alleman writes most of the tunes, pianist Michel Herr provides his trademark classy restraint and bassist Jean-Louis Rassinfosse his beautiful boom and guests chip in when needed: guitarist Peter Hertmans provides a nice shuffle-blues solo, trumpeter Bert Joris is, well, Bert Joris.

Jazzisfaction - Issues
Wide open, melancholy landscapes sometimes tinged with electricity dominate on German (but based in Belgium) trumpeter Peer Baerlein's debut with his quartet. The blurry romanticism is enhanced by Peer's soft, lyrical trumpet, Yves Peeter's delicate drumming and the fact that no-one touches their instrument more than they need to. There are enough changes in mood and tempo (such as a more confident paso doble) to keep this one interesting, however. Drummer/producer/label boss Dre Pallemaerts adds a great remix at the end, sampling and cutting up one of the songs and adding his own drumming underneath.