Friday, August 27, 2004

Ellery Eskelin DVD

Ellery Eskelin has released a homemade DVD of a 2003 European tour. Read about it here (scroll down a bit), read Ellery's rejoinder there (again, some scrolling is necessary), and read another review and discussion yonder.

I haven't seen the DVD myself (I wonder if it would work on my zone 2 player?), but I can only recommend Ellery's trio CDs (Eskelin/Parker/Black) on Hat Hut (with Kulak 29+30 or Arcanum Moderne, the latest, as the places to start) or as a sideman on Dennis Gonzalez's equally fantastic NY Midnight Suite on Clean Feed.

The audacious middle

The mind boggles at Stephen Holden's descriptions of of a Diana Krall concert:

recently Ms. Krall, the Canadian singer and pianist, made the kind of break with the past that few performers of her stature would dare... "The Girl in the Other Room"... [w]ith its tough, stripped-down pop- jazz arrangements and unfamiliar material, the album invited her loyal audience to rough it in the wilderness

If TGITOR is roughing it in the wilderness, then most music is like being dropped on Mars by a faulty probe without a space suit.

it has infuriated longtime supporters, and many have registered their displeasure in consumer reviews on

At Radio City Music Hall, where she concluded a 34-city tour, Ms. Krall was not backing down. Although there were a fair number of walkouts, the capacity audience generally expressed a cautious approval

Apparently, Ms. Krall's fans are scared of the wilderness of a lawn that has gone unmown for two weeks.

Ms. Krall is obviously reaching for something very high. If it is still not quite within her grasp, you can only applaud the courage it takes to make such a dangerous and unnecessary leap into unknown territory.

It is hard to believe that Mr. Holden believes this. Over-compensation? Self-delusion? Never walked barefoot on grass? Surely even Krall fanatics can see through this crap?

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Filling the vicarious trophy shelf

I guess I just have really consensual tastes, since two of my very favourite "young, discovered in 2003" bands have just won important awards.

On August 5th, the Pascal Schumacher Quartet did swept up both the Jury and Audience prizes at the prestigious Tremplin Jazz du Festival d'Avignon.

The latter prize netted them the opening slot for the following day's concert, the former is rewarded with two days at the top-notch La Buissonne studios and the opening slot for the headlining concert at next year's festival.

It's all the more remarkable for two reasons. First, they were playing with a substitute bassist. The regular bassist, Christophe Devisscher just *had* to go and fall in love at first sight on the group's highly successful recent Australian tour, and he just *had* to rush back there to get married. She's a singer, apparently, and will be singing with the PSQ later this year. Keep thoughts of Yoko Ono out of your minds. Second, it was drummer Teun Verbruggen's second win at the competition, since in 2001 he won with Alexi Tuomarila's quartet. Belgian bands led by non-Belgians seem to be doing well.

Sebastian Rocheford, leader of the great British (I was going to type "English," but Seb is Scottish...) band Polar Bear, has won the BBC Jazz Awards Rising Star and PB came in second for Best Band.

Change of the Moon and Dim Lit are both great records, but make sure to see these bands live if you get the chance. Expect features on both bands to pop up somewhere or other in coming weeks.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Euritmix Day 3

The city centre has become a life-size radio. If you don't like what you're hearing, turn the dial (ie. walk) and hear something else. It's sunny, if not exactly blazing hot.

The Euritmix posters keep on advertising "80 concerts" and "20 venues" but only 9 venues and much-less-than-80 concerts are listed in the programme brochure. Who knows, I might be missing all the good stuff... ?

Four On Six @ Sint Goriksplein
Live neo-soul/downtempo/"electro"-jazz. Pleasant, but amazingly loud for the small corner of the square the stage is stuck in.

Whispered Notes @ Vismarkt; Hermosa @ Sint Katelijneplein (cf. photo)
The former played lite fusion, the latter a nice Latin tune, then a cloying poppish one. Both victims of dial scrolling.

Noah Howard's Migration Orchestra @ Sint Goriksplein
The main reason I came. I read an interview many months ago, seemed interesting: started out in free jazz, born in New Orleans but has been living in Belgium for a while.

Bizarrely, the band started without him, playing two straight 12-bar blues (an Elmore James tune and "Hoochie Coochie Man"). The singer took faux-growling way over the top. The two guitarists contrasted nicely, the older one playing in a dissonant rural Delta blues kind of way, the younger one spinning out more rockish distorted single note. The Fender Rhodes added an unexpected touch to this hidebound context.

Howard came out with his black alto (I don't generally like them, but his was kind of cool) and the band shifted gears into a sort of airer version of Bitches Brew-era fusion. Things were looking up.

Alas, they then downshifted back down into bluesy funk, with the same guitar and harmonica solos being wheeled out again and again. Howard also sang. I left after a few songs of this. I'll go see him next time his quartet with Bobby Few is in town.

Tricycle @ Vismarkt
By this point I was feeling a bit down and almost ready to go back home and had never heard of Tricycle before. So I was maybe a bit tired and a bit open and a bit ready to be convinced. Accordion, double bass and sax will do that to you.

Drawing from a range of popular musics (East European, gypsy, Brasilian, Irish, Carribbean (a closing biguine that resonated strongly with the part of my mind still lingering in Martinique)), the trio led by the accordion guy with a name that just begs to be metioned: Tuur Florizone. Rhythmic, dynamic, happy, unserious, I felt like I was watching street musicians seeking to entertain passer-bys, in a good way. Troubadours, perhaps. Not everything was hugely succesful (the Irish song, notably and the soprano player's turn on flute), but you can't begrudge them the constant unspooling of danceable melodies and melodic improvisations. And thank bassist Vincent Noiret for holding it together in great style.

M. Dorcea @ Sint Katelijneplein
A Haitian band with two percussionists, one of whom was Mexican and also played some very good violon and, although I missed it, flute. Impressive.

Also impressive was the female singer's honey-coated voice, and the light, dancing groove created by acoustic guitar and acoustic bass guitar, along with the above-mentioned percussionists. On the way back home, I heard a live performance by The Kills. It has its own rewards, I guess, but in my ears they're doing a lot less with a lot more noise. And while I'm at it: face it Franz, you can't sing "Matinee" without Pro Tools. It's still a cool song, but why kill it live like that?

Then I switched the radio off.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Badminton rocks.

Louis Sclavis - Napoli's Walls
Good CD, I tried to have a little fun with the review. Also, I believe it's the first transparent pre-recorded music CD I've come across (hence the solar eclipse-like photo).

Freedom Art Quartet - Spirits Awake

Steve Hass - Traveler

Friday, August 20, 2004

Euritmix Day 2 (& Poster #2)

It doesn't feel like you're making the proper effort when you can just walk from square to square, nonchalantly check out the band, hang out and chat at the back and walk away whenever. Because it's free. "What happened to Day 1?" you ask. I missed Day 1. I gave Christina Branco a miss too. Saw her a few years ago, doesn't do much for me.

Moonpie @ Place de la Monnaie
Downtempo slightly mopey electro-tinged rock, fronted by incomprehensible but suitably ethereal girl singer. Predominantly almost half-time beats, lots of ride cymbal naturally, a keyboardist for atmosphere, as if the drizzle didn't provide enough.

So there I am, in my suit (because I've come straight from work) and v-collar (because it's friday), a bag full of CDs (I stopped by the FNAC and the library) and an empty biscuit tin (might come in handy).

The first song was a bit Massive Attack-ish, then things got a bit more rockish and noisy as pre-recorded voices told us how order could come from chaos and, later, how they'd like to hear some good old rock'n'roll. There was a bit of "experimentation" when the bassist picked up a dijeridoo he had lying around, the pianist started hitting a low tom-tom, the girl twirled madly and the guitarist smacked a wood-block, reminiscent of Will Ferrell exploring the space with a cowbell (but thinner).

Still, I asked myself the same question I do when listening to, say, Explosions in the Sky: "What's the obsession with the continuous eighth-note? Why are you so static, rhythmically?" The volume drowned out my questions and I was far away, to protect my ears.

D. Pierard/B. Clément @ Place du marché aux poissons
Acoustic guitar duo, much quieter, obviously, but much more fun rhythmically, obviously. Gypsy jazz-inspired, but breaking out of that mold for some really nice remodellings of "Georgia" (bizarrely described as "an old jazz tune") and "Solar." The two took turns accompanying and soloing, another departure from the norm. They did dip into the QHCF bag from time to time, though.

Still, I asked myself the same question I do when listening to this stuff: "This is all well and good and community-based, but when is someone going to break out of it? Mix it up a bit with something else? Get excommunicated?"

Aldo Granato @ Place Sainte-Catherine
Accordion player with bassist, drummer and female singer (whose trousers, shall we say, put her behind in a somewhat unflattering light), sounded a bit like the Gotan Project: tango-type melodies supported by modern and d'n'b dance beats.

Admiral Freebee @ Grand-Place
Old-school 60s-70s rock. Very loud. Massive stage for only four people. The Admiral goes through the grand-standing postures, playing with his teeth, singing about everybody in Antwerp City either licking ass tonight or getting their ass licked. I'm not really into loud music. By this point, not only am I in suit, v-collar, bag, etc., but also with my girlfriend's parents' dog. People are kinder to animals than to strangers, so we became quite popular, me and the two blondes (the other being my girlfriend).

Nathalie Loriers/ Yadh Elyes @ Place Sainte-Catherine
After a nice 7 euro pit-stop at a Greek place, I decide to give Loriers another chance to win me over (after barely imprinting my memory with her last album, a concert with that same group, a duo with a singer and a mercifully short duo with bassist Philippe Aerts that bored me to tears). That, and I've never seen an oud being played live. I do like the Rabih Abou-Khalil albums I have very much, though. It's a cool instrument with a sandy attack, it's about imprecision and an eastern twang.

The oud player's songs are great: clear melodies, fairly strong rhythms, they're catchy or moving, depending on what's necessary. I react to Loriers the same way I always do: a fine player, but a feeling of sameness or, perhaps more precisely, a lack of necessity or of anything sticking when it's all over. In a bizarre conversation many months (years?) ago, a man whose name I don't know described her playing as lacking ass. Maybe that's it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004


Speaking of Skinner and Dizzee:

British m.c.s generally sounded like variants of their American counterparts. Having an adorable accent didn’t disguise the fact that you’d borrowed your style from Rakim, or Run-DMC, or Nas. The debt is finally being erased.

I don't know the English hip-hop scene much at all, but what about Roots Manuva? I don't find his accent, flow, narratives and beats any more derivative of US hip-hop than those of Dizzee and Skinner. Or does the general consensus say otherwise?

Monday, August 16, 2004

Poster #1

Summer festival posters: a quick and efficient barometer of who's hot, who's getting paid, who people want to see, who people want to book. They also provide interesting information: Arrested Development are still in existence! and get third billing! Who knew?

And I checked: the enthusiastically large-breasted woman is not part of the poster.

Quantity over quality

These 9 albums and boxsets contain 17 CDs. Thanks to our friends at Brilliant Classics and 80% off summer sales, the lot cost me the whopping sum of 4 euros. A lot of this stuff is like "Oh, so that's Beethoven's 5th symphony." Winterreise (or Winterreis as it's known here) is unfortunately a Dutch translation. Still, it's kinda pop, in a nice way. Now I just need to find volumes 1 and 4 of their Scarlatti sonatas series...

Saturday, August 14, 2004

"Your sweat is salty and I am ripe" just about the only thing I understood of Björk's song last night at the Olympic Games opening ceremony, but it's a great one. At first it sounds like a retro-translation of a disastruous overseas version of an ad campaign's slogan. Then, I thought that it might be about licking the sweat off an Olympian's bulging post-effort muscles, while offering carnal delights of one's own. In any case, wild speculation is needed to counteract the bloodless wonderfulness of everything else about the ceremony.

My excuse for sitting through the thing (along with 4 billion other chumps. And why didn't she sing at the end of the "artistic" part of the ceremony? Surely, that would have made more sense) is that I wanted to see what the Icelander would do (even though I'm not a fan at all). I was wondering if they would have made her do something like Nelly Furtado's song for Euro 2004, but no, they let her be herself. Now I think it would have been cooler if they had thrust an unfailingly cheesy "international competition anthem" into her unwilling hands. And made Furtado sing "Oceania."

About the parade of delegations: did Belgium really need to reinforce its reputation as a bland place? Could they find no other colours to wear apart from dark khaki and grey? More generally, on the politics of cheering for delegations: the small ones, of course; the ones with cool, brightly coloured clothes; the war-torn countries got crowd support if the US was involved (cf. Sudan); Barbados because we've painted the doors to our kitchen cupboards a shade of "Barbados skies"; various countries because I've lived there (apart from the US, because they don't need my cheers).

Suite Martiniquaise: blog d'un retour au pays natal

#4 Music

Martiniquan music follows the same general processes of other music of the African diaspora, with perhaps the main difference being the French influence. The basic rhythm is an interpretation of the 3 in a 3-2 clave (I don't know if there's a proper name for it) that's found in calypso and central African music, for example. It's also prominent on David Murray's second Creole Project album Yonn Dé (which is excellent, by the way. I haven't heard the first. I've heard a bit of the new one, Gwotet which sounds good, but is much more funk-oriented. Yonn dé captured the atmosphere of a film like La Rue Case Nègres extremely well, I thought (let's ignore the fact that the film was made in Martinique), with Guy Konket as griot. On Gwotet Konket is much less present, with the guitar taking a major role).

So the oldest sources of modern Martiniquan music are the rural bèlè (very African, drum- and call-and-response-based) in which, despite the percussive density, the basic 3-accent beat is audible and various forms of French "light music", such as biguines, quadrilles and mazurkas (a creole mazurka is pretty far removed from a Chopin mazurka!). Influences have continued to aggregate: jazz and dancehall (more so than rap). One particularly incredible amalgam of all (or most) of this is to be found in the group Malavoi. There, a rhythm section laid down the syncopated beat, the excellent Paolo Rosine brought in jazz and classical influences on piano and the mid-sized string section completed this with the French tradition evoked above. The Martiniquan violin sound is less histrionic (vibrato-laden and statospheric) than the classical violin, but also less wild than American or Irish fiddling traditions (I don't think there's much, if any, double string playing, for example). It's a nice middle point. Singers such as Ralph Thamar came in on some tunes. If you can get a double disc best of, I highly highly highly recommend it. The son of Malavoi's founder recently created his own group, Mahogany, which extends the defunct Malavoi's concept, by adding a horn section, broadening the influences to Cuban music and beefing up the arrangements. The self-titled debut is a bit uneven and perhaps less catchy than Malavoi, but still good.

Stepping outside of the Martiniquan realm, we went to see France's latest r'n'b sensation, Corneille (in brief: Rwandan, parents killed during genocide as he hid behind sofa, flees to Canada, sings about his life, becomes superstar). I think that it was the first time that my whole family (all four of us) had been to a concert together and probably the first "screaming girl fan" concert I'd ever been to. I'd seen Corneille on TV singing a Sam Cooke song extremely well, so even though I didn't know any of his songs, I was somewhat interested. He began with "Redemption Song" and ended with two Marvin Gaye songs. The rest of the time he played his own songs, providing an interesting quick overview of 30 years of evolution of soul singing, in a nutshell from warm and tuneful to colder and a bit tuneless. Still, he played a new song (or so he said) that turned out to be my favourite, with an afro-funk feel.

Returning to the Martiniquan realm, a highly recommended CD is that of Mario Canonge, Rhizome. The pianist invites a somewhat lacklustre Roy Hargrove on a great caribbo-boogaloo track, but otherwise mainly takes the lead, with heavy percussive backup. Great pianist.

OK, now this damn suite is done. Finally.

Monday, August 02, 2004

#3 Food

Is 25 too old to go on holiday with your family? While I'm asking questions, here's an unrelated one: is it just the trip to Mexico or is On The Road truly better appreciated away from home? I ask the first question as a tangent to the phrase I initially wanted to begin this post with.

One of the main reasons to look forward to going to Martinique is the food. I'm not a seafood fan, so there will be no discussion of crabs, lobsters, sea urchins or the like.

Let's start with the basics. Red beans, possibly with rice, preferably with manioc flour. Because the flour is in some senses tastier than the rice, but also because obtaining exactly the right beans-to-sauce-to-flour ratio adds a bit of artistry to the dish. This can be accompanied by yams and dachines. The two are almost always together, I think for aesthetic (the former are grey and generally cut into rough pentagons or hexagons, the latter yellow and more small potato-shaped) and textural (yams are crumbly, dachines a bit buttery) reasons. And why not throw some breadfruit in there too. Cod (but I prefer the French word morue) or meat completes the dish.

Boudin. Blood, guts and the pepper. It's only when I arrived in Europe that I discovered that people considered black sausage a bit disgusting. Perhaps, but maybe their's isn't as good as ours? Squeeze out the boiled blood with a fork, scoop it onto a piece of bread or mix it with something else on your plate (rare, as it's mostly eaten as an entré), swallow. Another top entré: marinades, also known as accras, small balls of batter mixed with cod and fired to be slightly crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside.

There are lots of great dishes, quiches and other delicacies, but let's skip to dessert and pastries. Chocolat et pain au beurre. Chocolate and butter-bread. Might not sound like much, but those 5 words have almost magical powers. Both homemade, the chocolate reminds you that Nesquik is an ersatz. Thick and dark, with a thin skin of milk forming on top after a while. My mother's has a heavy dose of peanut butter, others' vary. The bread is traditionally braided into a large empty square, with intricate "flowers" at each corner. Most people simply dip the bread into the chocolate, I put mine in and push all the air out with a spoon, for maximum soakage.

Banana jam is the best jam in the world. It's a counter-intuitive red. Goyava jam isn't bad either, pink and drier. Both can be found in the corresponding pâtés. There are many others, coconut-based for example, but alongside chocolate, my favourite desert is flan coco. When my mother made this, there were always two: a smooth one in the deep round mold with a hole in the middle and a grainy one in the shallow, no-hole mold. When we moved to France and I first saw flan listed as desert at the shcool cafeteria, I got excited. I all-too-quickly discovered that the French had a different - and passably disgusting - conception of flan: flan au caramel. I couldn't eat more than a spoonful or two of the stuff. I've come to accept the idea, but there's still only one real flan.