Sunday, February 04, 2007

Jef Neve Trio - 30/01/2007@Vooruit, Gent

Jef Neve - p (website | myspace)
Piet Verbist - b
Teun Verbruggen - d (website | myspace)

Just a short note, as I have a review of Jef's great nobody is illegal coming up.

Contemplating the packed Vooruit, my joy at Jef's new-found stardom was tinged with sadness, as I couldn't help but think back to the same room, two-thirds empty for Dave Burrell, last October.

The first set got off to a slow start, despite the evanescent quality of new composition "Remorse." Three of the six tunes played were ballads, and while they showcased the trio's ability to use stillness and silence to great effect, they weren't really arresting. Things started to warm up with the driving "Wakeup Make-Up," which elicited Jef's first leap from the bench. His body language is a fairly precise indicator of the music's quality: the more he jumps around or laughs, the better the music being played is. They ended the set in style, with "Second Love," which, while less agitated than the album version, swelled to relatively gigantic sonic proportions.

The second set was brilliant from start to finish. A revised and retitled Schubert "Impromptu" allowed Jef to fully channel Mehldau in both his playing and title: "Sehnsucht." "It's Gone," from his second album of the same name, gained a surprisingly funky syncopated undertow that Jef either dug into with sparse, percussive lines or floated above with translucent chords.

One of this trio's particularities is that every composition has a strong narrative drive: new motifs or moods are introduced, finnicky rhythm accents are placed in strategic places, the band grows busy and relaxes together. This whole process, though, has grown increasingly organic: certain elements can be stretched when the need arises, so that there's never the feeling of a rush towards the next cue or section. "Nothing but a Casablanca turtle slideshow dinner" - a classical-to-bop-to-afrocuban fantasia as exuberant as its title - clearly used the in-built freedom, as Jef engaged in an extended duel with Teun by slapping the piano's strings, as Piet kept up a frenetic vamp.