Sunday, January 21, 2007

Frederik Leroux/Toine Thys duo - 20/01/2007@Caravan, Brussels

Both Toine and Frederik (website) have recently released albums that draw on various forms of pop and rock as much as they do on jazz, so it was interesting to hear them play standards in an unadorned setting. Non-jazz influences were allowed to creep in, though: Frederik's scratchingly noisy comping on Monk's "Evidence" recalled some of Angular's heavy rock outbursts, while an arrangement of the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" brought the pair closer to Rackham's melodic sensibility.

Despite the ambient noise level, they eventually managed to settle into a luxuriant, unhurried space driven as much by a song's sound as by its chords. Toine told me afterwards that he would like to model this duo on the Paul Motian Trio's rubato abstraction. Though no real attempt was made to do so in this instance, it was easy to imagine it happening.

Caravan is a café-restaurant, and confirmed my dislike for restaurant gigs, but is a good place to have a meal: it's small and unpretentious, but well-decorated, the food is good (I was told) and very affordable, the desserts are excellent (I had two, the banana and almond cake and the tiramisú). The soundtrack after the concert included Fela Kuti's "Water," a sign of good taste. The only problem is that you might be disturbed by the musicians in the corner.

Since last December, I've been hearing a lot about Le Comptoir des Etoiles, which has started holding three concerts a week (on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) and filling Brussels's disappearing after-hours jam scene. I expected it to be a dive, but, while cramped, it's a lovely bar that's really devoted to jazz and manages to express that in a way that isn't cheesy. The grey-and-red walls are covered in polaroids, photos, framed Blue Note album covers and silver, hand-written inscriptions. Toine and I got there at maybe 1:30 AM and at 2 he generated enough enthusiasm for a round of standards and bop tunes to start up again. I was particularly taken with Frans Van Isacker (Franco Saint De Bakker myspace), an alto player I'd never heard before who had a real Cool Jazz sensibility.