Monday, September 06, 2004

Mons en Jazz - 05/09/2004, Mons

Only a few minutes away from home, ahead of me is an enormous military armored vehicle, preceded and followed by a police car, apparently fearing attack. On Mons's main square, the 76th Army Band is preparing to play for the people. The leader is a trombonist and singer: shades of Glenn Miller.

The stage was first occupied by Unlimited, a group featuring festival co-organiser Fred Delplancq on tenor (his debut CD Witches Dance is pretty good), François Descamps on guitar, Manolo Cabras on bass and Marek Patrman on drums. Mostly modern Euro mainstream: a mix of post-bop/early Metheny-style not-too-electric fusion/a bit of domesticated free jazz. Some good moments on third song: a pillowy gauze of mallets-and-plucked-bass shifts into roaring guitar rock, which dissovles into satisfying free-ish sax over noise groove, with Cabras attacking his bass particularly fiercely, before Delplancq slowly re-imposes order with the initial tranquil melody. The last song of the set, in gentle ternary rhythm, could have been a Dylan cover.

L'âme des poètes: Pierre Vaiana on soprano, Fabien Degryse on acoustic guitar and Jean-Louis Rassinfosse (again) on bass. Seen them three times, always great fun. They play covers of great and less great French chansons (Brel, Ferrer, Dassin, Brassens...). Essentially, they push the old-style swinging instrumental solo such as you might find in Brassens's music ("Les copains d'abord") as far as it will go: always melodic, not too adventurous harmonically, strong beat, not too serious. Many bad-but-funny puns from Rassinfosse, audience ringtones accompanying the set-closing "Gaston," which ended with a quote of the default Nokia ringtone. The song is about Gaston not picking up the phone, after all.

The Erwin Vann Quartet plays early 70s style fusion (think Big Fun). Rather than sharply delineated, mountain-range peaks and valleys, the music is oceanic: a unified surface that swells and dips, high tides and recedes, at its best suspending time. Miles did say that with this kind of music, five minutes pass very quickly.

On his Fender Rhodes + pedals set-up, Jozef Dumoulin (one of my favourites) put some of the danger that used to reside in keyboards in jazz (Corea and Jarrett with Miles literally hardly knew what they were doing and reacted to what their instruments threw at them) by putting timbre (dirty, dusty sounds rather than bombastic wannabe guitar pyrotechnics) ahead of notes (the true jazz way?). Dre Pallemaerts used his laptop at first, but when he picked up sticks left no doubt in anyone's mind that he is one of the best drummers around here today, if not the best.

Only two pieces, the first extremely long, the second actually containing a recognisable head, climaxing when Vann (the saxophonist's feet and pedals pictured above) laid free playing deep inside the swirling jazz-rock-funk of the other three, making for a wonderfully dense sound-cube.