Saturday, February 11, 2006

Pascal Schumacher Quartet - 08/02/2006, Brussels

We walked into the Beurs café in the middle of "Quartz." The short set consisted entirely of tunes from the Pascal Schumacher Quartet's current album, "Personal Legend": the hustling "Leap Year" (so named because it's partly in 7/4?), the somewhat bombastic ballad "Personal Legend," their fabulously imaginative arrangement of "You and the Night and the Music" (among other things, it splits the band in two: first piano and vibes dialogue, then it's the rhythm section's turn) and Jef's grand composition "Flim Music." The sound and piano were far from great and "Flim"'s intricacy got muddled, unfortunately. The album version is pristinely recorded, however, and the tune is unusual, so, for kicks, I spent an hour listening to it and trying to break it down.

Here's an excerpt of "Flim Music" that includes an entire run through the melody. I'd be happy for more knowledgeable readers to chime in and correct the blunders I'm about to make! And also for any reader to add their "love it/hate it" opinion, of course. I know what my friend Jazzques thinks of the PSQ and how highly the Belgian press regard them, but I've heard very little feedback from beyond that small circle.

The "head" is 35 bars long and is played twice at the beginning and once at the end, with a vibraphone solo in the middle, a rubato piano intro followed by a piano-only (well, piano and barely-audible vibraphone drone) rendition of the first theme and a piano-vibraphone outro that quietly disintegrates. Overall, "Flim Music" is happy and consonant, mostly hiding any complexity in the flow of melodies and changing rhythms/orchestration.

I picked out 3 themes, 3 transitions and the final section that's kind of in-between. I call the first theme the "river" theme because it evokes a landscape of a river running through a luxuriant northern hemisphere forest. There may be a mountain in the background. "River" is a 4 bar piano melody with the vibraphone keeping a regular pulse on the off-beats. It's played three ways: first in the piano intro, then by the band minus the drums and, the following two times it appears, by the whole band. Then there's a 4 bar transition, which, unlike the other two transitions, is fairly melodic. The vibraphone takes the lead in bringing the band down until it's ready to hit the 2 bar "bad plus" theme, which is played in half-time and features a lovely descending interval. Then it's on to the second transition: 3 percussive bars that seem to slow down so as to better launch the meaty "q & a" theme. It's the first time the band is in full flow, but its energy is still pretty controlled: there's a 2-bar-question-2-bar-answer sequence that is played twice, then only the question is played. They modulate (or some harmonic thingamajiggy) on every question, amping up the energy. The third transition is kind of tricky, as it sandwiches a 5/4 bar between two regular 4/4s before brutally shifting into the hard-hitting "out in 3" final section: 5 bars of somewhat rocking 3/4.


4 x 2"river"
4transition #1
2"Bad Plus"
3transition #2
4 x 2 + 2"q & a"
3transition #3
5"out in 3"