Thursday, April 13, 2006

Ben Sluijs Quartet - 11/04/2006 @ Walvis

Back in February, this quartet gave an absolutely magical concert at the Botanique: minimal amplification (bass amp), an attentive audience, musicians in a state of alert listening (I briefly evoked it here). The Walvis was bound to be a somewhat different affair: sill no microphones in sight, but a spread-out barroom crowd, a couple of red carpets in a corner signifying a stage... Correspondingly, the music was more boisterous, a little less sublimely thrilling, but very good nonetheless.

The way Ben Sluijs is adapting his clean, melodic alto to this freer context is fascinating and contrasts nicely with Jeroen Van Herzeele's rough-throated tenor (although he did pick up an alto from time to time). Two conceptions of free jazz saxophone meet fruitfully. The writing and band interplay, seem to turn a few conventions on their head. For example, harmonic indications emanate more from the two-saxophone intervals than from Manolo Cabras's aggressive bass playing. Don't be fooled by his wild back-and-forth rocking, though: he can also craft very beautiful solo statements that include agile chord voicings and evoking a kora by playing under the bridge. Marek Patrman and his relationship with Cabras, continue to astound. What I took to be his bread 'n' butter - Charnett Moffett-like wide open swing - turned out to be only one part of his arsenal, as he continuously shifted textures and dynamics. Sometimes he was aggressively on the beat, at other times he made himself near-invisible, simply adding a regular clack behind a Sluijs solo, for example, but even his silences seemed essential contributions.

I'm told that Sluijs is bringing out a two-CD live album soon. Considering how far the music has evolved since last year's "True Nature" studio session, it should be an indispensable document.