Monday, February 05, 2007

Pascal Schumacher Quartet - 01/02/2007@Sounds, Brussels

Pascal Schumacher - vib (website | myspace)
Jef Neve - p (website | myspace)
Christophe Devisscher - b (myspace)
Jens Düppe - d (website)

This is the sixth Pascal Schumacher Quartet concert review I've written on this blog, to which I must add a couple more for Citizen Jazz, not to mention reviews of both PSQ albums and a feature article for Flemish arts magazine Rekto:Verso. This would be overkill if the band hadn't evolved steadily (and maybe it's overkill anyway?), notably with the recent change of drummer. Jens Düppe provides a steadier, more swing-rooted beat, compared to Teun Verbruggen's super-interactive style. The difference between the two is captured in Jens's answer to the DTM musician questionnaire's "pop or rock album that you wish had been a smash commercial hit" question, which should be up soon.

The last PSQ concert I saw, in October of last year in Gent, was pretty lacking in energy, but introduced me to some of the new compositions they'll be recording for their third album. This concert, with those new tunes and some even newer ones, however, was strong.

With Jens, it's become a four-composer band, making it difficult to fit everyone's pieces in, perhaps explaining why none of Jef's were played. Also, the scope of the influences and rhythms they're bringing in is growing all the time, exemplified by the Arabic base of Christophe's "Sita's Walk" and the collective, uncentered groove Pascal's "Piata's Paint Thing" bursts into. "Monday Night at the Cats Club," also by the vibraphonist, was particularly striking, for a band used to making grand gestures: the menacing, low-lying piano chords that changed at unexpected times and the steady jingle of bells attached to Jens's foot created a menacing atmosphere, like an acoustic version of minimal electro. The difference with the pair of Pascal's older tunes that they played, the compressed, multi-thematic "Leap Year" and the bursts of rock that punctuate "Kitchen Story," was huge.

Jens contributed two pieces. "Kaa" gets its title not from the snake in The Jungle Book, but from a frequently-used Thai token of politeness. It's a mid-tempo ballad made slower by the bass's 3-over-4 pattern and the four simple, lovely chords it drifts through, over and over. The more challenging and percussive bridge livened things up, though. "Toast And Salty Butter" demonstrated Jens's affinity with African music, as its South African-style chords and polyrhythmic groove triggered a melodic, '70s Jarrettian solo from Jef, and a particularly singing one from Pascal.

The oldest tune they played was Christophe's "Chucho's Groove," a sturdy 9-beat bass vamp that everyone hovered around. Familiarity allowed for some silly frolicking, as when Pascal achieved sci-fi FX by speeding up his fan. He seems to be manipulating sound more adventurously, of late: the new "A Bad Memory" was the first time I've seen him use a bow, a practice that, a few years ago, he saw as being confined to contemporary classical.

A Monk medley that starts as "Misterioso" and ends as "Blue Monk" had failed to take off in Gent, but turned into a heavy-duty blues workout this time. It started with a vibraphone intro that toyed with "Misterioso"'s ascending intervals and the vibes-specific overtones they created (a bit like the intro to "Summertime" on Change of the Moon), then morphed organically from a heavy 12/8 to a 4/4 shuffle to some classic Jef Neve clowning around with hilariously simple, sing-song blues lines, one hand on the keyboard, the other on the strings, and ended with a series of intense bass-drum exchanges.