Tuesday, November 29, 2005


The French cultural megamarket FNAC has launched a music download service. 1 euro a track, 10 for an album (regardless of number of tracks). Files are 192 kbps WMAs, that you can burn 7 times and transfer 5 times each. The transfer limit is clearly a major sticking point, but the catalogue makes it an interesting possibility, especially for double albums or albums with 4-5 tracks. I'm also thinking of signing up to emusic.

I know I said I'd never buy downloads, but that was before I was offered an iRiver H10 for my birthday and my life was revolutionised.

Monday, November 28, 2005

llop borja update

What do you know: a Llop Borja website. The concert you can download from there dates back to march and isn't nearly as incendiary as the one I saw a few weeks ago. I haven't listened to the other stuff yet.

Free jazz big band - 27/11/2005, Brussels

By the time I got to the F#, they were out of the quiche that had so enhanced the Llop Borja concert and the orange juice was of a different brand... The room was full of twentysomething musicians (and so smoky by the end of the night that my eyes were stinging). I did somehow manage to find a dancer to talk to during the break.

This was the premiere of a new experiment: 3 conductors led a hirsute congregation (2 flutes, 2 singers, 2 pianists on one piano, violin, cello, all sitting on chairs in a semi-circle; 4 saxophones, percussion, double bass, drums and occasional guitar). The conductors subbed in and out, sometimes double- or triple-teaming the band. The result was a mash-up of jazz/free jazz, groove, cacophony, weirdness and vocal elucubrations. The shorter and much weaker second set ended with a sort of classical chorale, but I thought they could have done with more classical moments. It was interesting seeing the jazz players take control of their own destiny when they felt the conductor's grip slacken. A particular highlight was watching the bass player put down his instrument, step out front and deliver a jaw-dropping collection of vocal noises and exclamations. If my concert recording listenable, I'll be sure to post that moment. I imagine that this kind of thing was going on a lot in New York's Loft and Downtown scenes back in the '70s and '80s, so it was great to witness it here.

Organiser Clément hadn't even finished declaring "That's it. Thanks for coming. And for staying." When the big band's irrepressible drummer ferociously kicked off the jam session. Compared to jams at which it takes five minutes to settle on a tune, musicians are sluggish to get on stage and you hear chorus after bland chorus, this was a breath of fresh air. No tunes, just a constant jostling between soloists and accompaniment, hard-blowing and driving, then suddenly dropping down for a bass solo or sax duet, building up an impromptu group riff, a direction being shattered as a new participant boisterously jumped in. It was like a very, very rag-tag Brotherhood of Breath.

I knew maybe one or two of the musicians, which was great: I felt like I had stumbled upon this incredible and unsuspected cache of young musicians who were willing to play this ragged, adventurous, fun, catastrophic, lively music. If every sunday is like this one, the F# is definitely the place to be to close out week.

citizen jazz: back in the saddle

CJ has been going on its way very nicely without me for about a year, but I'm back:

Lafayette Gilchrist - The Music According To
A heavy, almost military, funk base, swinging trumpets, skronky sax, Andrew Hill-esque pianism (Gilchrist) and full-bodied arrangements: the album's not perfect (a little too monochrome, a terrible piano), but still compelling and rather original.

Hendrik Braeckman - 'til now
The Belgian guitarist's debut. Very nice arrangements, a few nice tunes, interesting style from the leader, Bert Joris and Kurt Van Herck do their thing, but it's still uneven: the studio band gels only about half the time.

Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw & Madeline Bell - Tribute To Ray Charles
Not particularly essential, but fun anyway: Dutch big band + American vocalist swing into Ray Charles's repertoire.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

25/11/2005: today was a good day

Update: the broken Darius Milhaud link has been fixed

Winter's first snow. How pretty. It snowed all day friday, and all night, and into saturday morning. I've never seen it snow so much in the four years I've been here. It was enough to discourage IVN and I from going to the Sounds to see Ben Sluijs's quartet after the Lenine concert.

lunch & midday classical
I had practically no money, so was condemned to wolf down the cafetaria's 0.15 euro asparagus soup that I hate. Thankfully, that was offset by a big, unexpected and amazingly delicious chunk of 0.55 euro frangipane. Thank the Belgian public sector for the ridiculously low prices.

After the quick lunch, I went to see classical pianist Thérèse Malengreau perform a programme of short early 20th century pieces at the Bibliothèque Royale before approximately 140 senior citizens and a handful of non-senior citizens. One piece I particularly liked was Darius Milhaud's "Trois Rag-Caprices, no. 2: Romance" from 1922 (listen to it), whose simple, warm chords reminded me of Jef Neve's "It's Gone."

at the FNAC

I initially went with to get the trio of new old concert recordings that everyone seems to consider essential: Dizzy Gillespie/Charlie Parker Town Hall, New York City, June 22, 1945; Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane At Carnegie Hall; John Coltrane One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note. Fortunately/Unfortunately I also came across Andrew Hill's Andrew!!! at 9 euros and Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsys at 8, and couldn't pass them up. To cap it all off, Brad Mehldau Trio Day Is Done tugged irresistably at me: mid-priced and I hadn't bought anything of his later than Art of the Trio Vol.4. Oh wait, I bought the solo Live in Tokyo just a few weeks ago. Anyway, the change of drummer (Rossy out, Ballard in) has done the music a world of good.


I never win anything. Until now: I won two tickets to this concert thanks to Vazy! (see sidebar). Granted, a lot was lost by not being able to understand the lyrics. Granted, the concert got better and better as Lenine moved from a fairly bland pop-rock template and rocked harder and popped less. Granted, there were lots of (pretty) Brazilians (girls) and Brasil-sympathisers, who eventually got up to dance on the sides (one bold soul even twice scrambled onto the stage to dance, after which two staff members blocked the steps leading to it). Still, I wasn't all that taken with the music. The Vinicius Cantuaria concert was infinitely more interesting and seductive. There was a song that juxtaposed "Dolores" and "dolares." I wonder what that was about.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

jazz and blogs #3

History: #1 #2


Darcy James Argue's Secret Society
A composer, his thoughts and his big band's live mp3s. Check it out if you're interested in the Gil Evans/Bob Brookmeyer/Maria Schneider lineage.

Pianist Jessica Williams's The Zone
Excellent, hard-hitting stuff, especially when detailling the gender discrimination that makes making a living playing jazz even harder than it already is.

A French bassist who plays with a lot of interesting people and writes interesting confessions. A translation of a concise and interesting thought (translation mine): "Here's a musician [Enrico Pieranunzi] who's found his folklore. We Europeans have to imagine and take up that place hidden somewhere between the intimidating afro-American culture and that which resonates and reasons (résonne et raisonne) in our vallies. It's in this space between assimiliation and affirmation that our language is to be found, somewhere..."

A West Coast trumpeter.

Podcasts and mp3s:

Robin Eubanks, DD Jackson, Portland Jazz Jams
Get them from the iTunes Music Store podcasts section. Check out Pere Soto on Portland Jazz Jams, a rather idiosyncratic guitarist.

Bending Corners
Monthly music podcasts.

Gunter likes french fries
Subtitled "jazz + mp3." So that tells you what you need to know.

From the armchair:

Night After Night
Not that Steve Smith, the Other Steve (Smith). Not just or even mainly about jazz, but so what.

Top Ten Sources for Jazz
I just discovered I'm a part of it... thanks! to whoever is responsible for that.

Batteur Online
Kind of a Bagatellen-like hybrid format led by the incomparable Férid Bannour and slanted towards drummers.

I've linked to this before? And so what if I have? And how many times will "so what" appear in this post? *

Jazz and politics. Both are well-thought out (no rants, thankfully). See his awesome dissection and reassembly of the latest round of rioting in France.

Spiced Tea & Letters
Dreams and jazz.

I don't know if there'll be much more content, but what's there is kind of interesting.


Echoes From Manhattan
Not even a blog, but so what? The series of videos explore the downtown Manhattan scene, with some usual suspects (Eskelin, Hollenbeck, Speed) and some less so. Yeah, the format is something of a pain, but it's worthwile.

* Five times.

out 'n' in

David Valdez has a really interesting post on inside/outside playing, which has been extended by the equally interesting comments of Jason DuMars.


From saturday 3rd of December 11PM to sunday 7AM, RTBF 2 will be having a "Jazz Night." Complete details.

The programming is all-new from 11PM to 3AM, at which time a new version of the already-broadcast Django Awards will be shown, followed until 7AM by reruns. I'm not sure if jazz fans are supposed to be grateful about this. It's almost impossible to a) watch the whole thing in one sitting, b) avoid falling asleep and c) record 6 consecutive hours without changing the tape. Complaining is futile: I'm starting a project of my own to improve be.jazz's audiovisual situation. More about that as it comes together.

Bettye Lavette - I've Got My Own Hell To Raise

I've Got My Own Hell To Raise

Enough time has passed for me to listen to I've Got My Own Hell To Raise as an experience separate from the concert.

I could talk all day about the rampaging Joy, the myriad nuances LaVette condenses into Down To Zero, the utter despair of a passionless relationship in Just Say So, the appropriateness of On The Surface's medium groove and the fabulous production work on Little Sparrow and Sleep To Dream, LaVette's forceful swing that invigorates a somewhat workman-like How Am I Different, the multi-layered guitars and fuzzy keyboards on Only Time Will Tell and finally the unstoppable triumph (and hint of a hip hop tinge) of the closing Sleep To Dream. But I won't. Just get the album.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Jazzisfaction & more - 19/11/2005, Brussels

We, IVN, visiting Londoner M and I, walked into the Archiduc around 6 PM as the band was starting up the last tune of the first set. I saw an electric bass and heard a jazz-funk groove. Sure, trumpeter/leader Peer Baierleen was there, but I doubted whether this really was Jazzisfaction. I then got roped into buying a Kriek Girardin. A tip: if given the opportunity, don't. 6 euros for not much return on investment.

After the break, I listened to the concert from the U-shaped balcony. It was an odd but excellent vantage point: I was directly above pianist Ewout Pierreux's hands and could see Peer's hands and fluegelhorn/trumpet, but not the rest of his body. The Archiduc small enough that a relatively good-time band like Jazzisfaction isn't overwhelmed by the ambient conversation levels, especially from my balcony perch. Peering out over the rail, I could even make out the bass solos well enough. So the atmosphere was nice and lively, and the band ebullient. Jazzisfaction released their debut CD, Issues, a few years ago, a highly recommended mix of delicate and atmospheric jazz that bursts into surprisingly solid grooves from time to time. Pierreux masterfully juggles between piano and Fender Rhodes.

Afterwards, we went to a Japanese restaurant, a first for me. It was, iirc, Sakura in the Halles St. Géry quarter. If you're hungry, I recommend the Maki menu: 18 bite-size fish 'n' rice rolls (the menu claims 12, so maybe I benefitted from some kind of mix-up), for 15 euros. Still later, we headed out to Fol Le Goupil. That bar/restaurant's oddities are almost too numerous to list: several small, low-ceilinged rooms spread out on several floors and strewn with sofas, walls hung with innumerable paintings, statues here and there, the place must be in tourist guides, as it was full of young tourists, they only serve their own rather particular cocktails and the boss gives off a decidedly strange aura. All in all, I think we gave M a nice vista of Brussels.

Friday, November 18, 2005

foiled in search of the Belgian dream; one too many laughs and way too much ice cream

I should have seen it coming: for the last few weeks, the morning trains to Brussels have had between 5 and 25 minutes delay practically every single day.

The plan was to go home, skip Dutch class and take the 8:28 train to go see Amina Figarova at the new Palace Music club. I stepped aboard the 5:04 at Brussels-Central. We passed Brussels-Midi and ground to a halt around Forest-East. Eventually, we were informed that a train ahead of us had broken down. We started moving again. Then stopped outside Rhode-Saint-Génèse. For a very long time. The ventilation system cut out, half the lights died, but the electric doors still worked. A conductor came by to inform us that a 20 kilometre-long section of the electric grid had given out. Seven trains were stuck without power, which I would estimate to be carrying around 4,000 people. Weirdly, no announcements were made over the PA system, which suggests that the conductors have no way of informing all passengers simultaneously in case of an emergency. All sorts of ideas were evoked: heading back to Brussels, being evacuated onto another train on the other track, being dragged by a diesel locomotive, one person was reported to have fled the train - against conductors' orders - and gained RSG on foot. Some passangers feared suffocation. Personally, my left buttock is kind of sore. Miraculously, we started moving again.

We stopped at Waterloo and a few people got off, which was puzzling, as this train wasn't supposed to stop there, so what were they doing on the train in the first place? At my stop, masses disembarked, far more than usual, their confidence in the rail system clearly shaken. Understandably: by that time, it was 8:50 and Amina was a distant memory. If you missed her, or even if you didn't, I recommend her album September Suite or, better yet, the Live in Amsterdam DVD, both out on Munich Records. The content of the DVD will apparently be broadcast, to quote her website, "On Dutch TV: Nederland 3 NPS Output Monday November 21, 2005 at 24.00."

Normally, when I get home, I'll work out a bit and attempt to limit my strong urge to eat all night long. I felt harassed and deserving of comfort, however, so I skipped the exercise and wolfed down the remaining halves of two packs of crisps and vast amounts of melted-chocolate covered vanilla ice cream. Also watched trafic.musique on France 2 and saw the pretty Chistopher Stills, the transatlantic son of Stephen Stills and Véronique Samson (who also sang on the show), play a very pretty song about California and French hip hop group Saïan Supa Crew display mind-blowing flow over some excellent beat-boxing. All that after Envoyé Spécial and its investigations of the incredibly poor housing conditions in Paris (not the suburbs) for low-income immigrants and on a fundamentalist Muslim terrorist/freedom fighter organisation in the Philippines. A pretty stimulating evening.

Another TV notable: an innovative car ad. Cars used to be fast, safe, comfortable, eco-friendly or cheap. In France's troubled socio-economic context, Toyota has decided to add employment-friendly to the list. The ad for their new Yaris doesn't talk about the car at all, but about the 1,000 jobs they created to build it. I don't know if it's an efficient selling-point, but it's one I'd certainly never seen advertised before.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

relive the madness

Remember the Balkan Beat Box concert I saw? They're in town again and if you're not doing anything (like going to the Motives Festival to see, among others, the fantastically rocking Acoustic Ladyland (ignore their name)), I suggest you hand over the 10 euros and enter the Beursschouwburg.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


After the midday concert, I went to see Tarkovsky's Solaris at the Musée du Cinéma (two museums in one day (a work day, no less), a record!

My first Tarkovsky, my first visit to the museum, which I imagined a haven for hardcore movie fans. It all started out rather farcically. There was a massive line (around 60 people, I heard) who had not yet bought tickets (I had bought mine the previous day), I think pretty much all of them were turned away. I had to engage in a ridiculous haggling session to actually get in, because of my lack of knowledge of the museum's arcane ticketing policy. A few attendees couldn't remain quiet for 165 minutes. The image quality was fairly poor: at one point, black lines threatened to cancel out the images entirely. A woman at the back sanctimoniously declared (during the film) "Mobile phones aren't allowed" to which the target's partner replied "Yes, he's trying to turn it off." Through all this, there was a film going on and I was fighting to stay awake. IVN lost the battle utterly and slept through most of it. I struggled early on but then was fully alert and was left pretty much baffled.

I don't think I understood very much. I haven't read the book, but I have seen Soderbergh's version (since George Clooney is in it, it was inevitable that IVN would rent it). The opening shot is great, as it seems to say that the story's main character is no more important than an underwater plant or any other part of the decor. Thus, when the camera starts following his movements and gaze in a more traditional manner, it's kind of a shock. There are a few easy-to-grasp philosophical pronouncements (on man's relationship to space exploration, for example, which is totally true if you think of the mirror-to-humanity role aliens play in, say, Star Trek). But mainly, I'm unsure who some of the characters are (Kelvin's mother? The woman with his father? Berton?) and not much more certain of what happened and what it was about. I spent a lot of the "empty" moments wondering if I found it fantastic or an utter waste of my time (there's a room at home I need to paint). It could go either way, I really don't know. Maybe it'll come into focus over the next few days. Links to explanatory articles are welcome. Tonight I intend to go see the World Saxophone Quartet play Jimi Hendrix. I expect the questions, answers and point to be infinitely easier to grasp.

And what's up with the horse?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Sébastien Texier & Michel Debrulle - 15/11/2005, Brussels

Up on the fifth floor of the Musée des Instruments de Musique, like when I saw Listen Trio. It's a great room, comfortable movie-theater-like folding chairs, a dozen rows of terraced seating and no amplification necessary. If only more people would come to these midday concerts (we were twenty, maybe slightly more, in a room that could easily hold over one hundred), it would be the most intimate venue in Brussels. Still, down in the first row it isn't too bad.

Sébastien (son of Henri) Texier started out on alto saxophone playing warm, long-note melodies. Throughout the 50 minute-long concert, he would alternate between this and more violently passionate modes that brushed with free jazz and Gypsy and Arabic musics. Along with his alto, he brought a regular clarinet and an alto clarinet, which went sadly unplayed. On the concert-ending "Trois dans quatre" he blew a rambuctious storm that evoked a particularly lively Storyville-era dive in a totally unnostalgic way. Like there was some New Orleans buried deep in the music's DNA.

Michel Debrulle got lots of chances to play the totally unacademic funk he's showcased so on brilliant albums by Trio Grande and Rêve d'Eléphant Orchestra (on De Werf). It's a messy collection of grooves halfway between the carnaval parade and the junkyard. In his many solo spots, he'd build up tottering yet infectious patterns, while when accompanying Texier, he'd orchestrate transitions between composition and improvisation, or between songs, as when he rubbed a woodblock across a drumhead long enough for the reedman to pick up the horn he needed.

There were deliciously delicate moments too, as when they played a stripped-down version of what I think was "Un chat sur le toit:" Texier sounded out the sad and beautiful melody without needing to decorate it further, Debrulle played the a skeletal 7/8 beat on brushes and hummed the melody at the same time. Thus reduced to its simplest expression, the song could open up to sparse, piercing alto cries.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

birthday in a be. mode

One the most delightful Belgian traditions, in fact, maybe the most delightful Belgian tradition, which has been observed at both places I've worked here so far, is that of offering your colleagues pralines on your birthday. Even people you don't know and have never spoken to will stretch that magical golden, ingot-shaped box in your direction. Few things light up a workday like the unexpected reception of a few grammes of Leonidas.

My birthday (the 27th) is tomorrow, but it's on a bank holiday (Armistice Day, which explains my peaceable nature) and I didn't want to miss the occasion, so I did the rounds of the 30-odd people on my part of the second floor. I'll be doing another with the far less numerous members of my evening Dutch class. In all, one kilogramme (and 16 euros) of happiness brought (briefly) into the world.

Flagey do Brasil #2: Orfeu Negro / Vinicius Cantuária Quartet - 10/11/2005, Brussels

I wonder what it was like to see Orfeu Negro back in 1959, when it came out. There are the omnipresent samba rhythms, the vivid colours, the in-your-faceness of the characters, the carnaval (which makes the lead characters' mythical baggage seem commonplace: their neighbours dress up as Versailles-era courtisans, the morgue scene hints at other dramas played out that same night), the rampant sexuality, the two kids scurrying around frantically, the beauty of the melody of "Manha de carneval," Breno Mello's awesome virility that allows him to pull off the gold Spartacus look, the beauty of Eurydice and Mira, the gap-toothed masses. It must have been quite a shock. But there's also the slightly disjointed plot, the hint of condescension (the people dancing as the ferry backs into the port) and, in this particular case, the haphazard subtitles that were often hard to read and went missing altogether when the translator deemed the dialogue tangential to the main plot.

Vinicius Cantuária - g, voc
Michael Leanhardt - tp, elec, perc
Paul Socolow - el b
Paulo Braga - d

Cantuária had even more trouble filling Studio 4 than Hermeto Pascoal (aka Flagey do Brasil #1), so the ushers asked those of us in the cheap seats to move forward. As is sometimes the case, the absentees missed a magnificent concert full of music to drift and dream to, where the odd xylophone note rang out and seemed miraculous. The only thing they didn't miss was the fifth member of what was billed as a quintet, as the percussionist didn't show up.

I remember reading in an interview (maybe with Caetano Veloso) that Brazilians tend to have a more amateur approach to music than, say, Cubans. That feeling came through in Cantuária's classic bossa nova-limited-male-crooner voice and the particularly laid-back and effortless atmosphere the music created. However, it took a lot of precision and cleverness to sustain the illusion. Leanhardt was incredibly attuned to the leader's voice: Cantuária would sing at a barely-audible volume and draw mere sketches of melody; Leanhardt amplified the voice, filled in the colors and shaded the lines, remaining supremely lyrical throughout and at just the right volume.

The grooves varied between samba-based early-70s-style jazz-rock (helped along by Leanhardt's discrete sampler effects, Socolow's oscilloscope squiggles and Cantuária's prolonged chords), a creampuff light hand-rub rhythm that accompanied a spare rendition of "Corcovado," bossa nova and others I don't know the names of. They got heavier at times: a dancing Afro-rhythm, a slow straight-eight back-beat that wanted to be a shuffle.

The general quietness distorted aural perspective: towards the end, when Cantuária sang at "normal" volume, he seemed to be belting. Similarly, you could almost be forgiven for not noticing the guitarist's solos: the delicate lines, occasional harmonic suprises and plucked chords tended to be eclipsed by, or, perhaps, hide behind, the bass riff. During the well-deserved second encore, Leanhardt created a very cool fake-electronic effect by whistling the xylophone notes he was playing. Cantuária had the crowd trade vocalese with him and Braga before sending us off into the peaceful night.

ROVA / Casimir Liberski - 08/11/2005, Brussels

[Note: this entry was written on the 9th]

The PP Café started an odd festival last night. Casimir Liberski's solo concert was free, ROVA's cost 9 euros, tomorrow the pattern repeats and for the next few days, all concerts are free. Also, there was very little publicity: the festival wasn't even listed on their website until very recently. That and the higher-than-usual price (9 euros instead of 5) may explain the pitiful turnout for ROVA. The room wasn't even half-full (even the optimistic version sounds glum). In the not-so-distant past they were turning people away from the Liebman/Eskelin Quartet and the Grimes/Crispell/Cyrille concert was packed, so it's not about the music's difficulty.

I'd been seeing pianist Casimir Liberski's name in the concert listings a lot in the last year or so and reports touted him as a 17 year old prodigy. He certainly does play well and makes interesting repertoire choices: excellent renditions of "Lonely Woman" and "I Mean You," a Don Cherry African folk tune, a fragmented Edith Piaf song (of which only the "Quand il me prend dans ses bras" part subsisted). Not everything came off equally well - the Cherry tune, essentially one scale over a vamp, sounded amateurish and limited rather than fun and dancey - but I was encouraged when, having started "Blue Monk," when inspiration flagged he didn't hesitate to segue into a stream of songs I didn't know or couldn't remember in a Jarrett-like folksy style. "I Mean You" was swinging, bluesy, full-bodied and took some liberties so as to break up the flow. Interestingly, Casimir has also scored the film Bunker Paradise, directed by his father Stefan (who is, apparently, fairly well-known in Belgium).

ROVA is hard to do justice to in words, as its music is like nothing I've heard elsewhere, apart from the first time I saw them and the CD of their's I have. This singularity not because ROVA is a saxophone quartet: it's fairly common to make conventional music with (or despite) unconventional instrumentation. Maybe the official blurb says enough:

"Positioning themselves at music's most dynamic nexus, Rova has become an important leader in the movement of genre-bending music that has its roots in post-bop free jazz, avant-rock, and 20th century new music as well as traditional and popular styles of Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States. With its potent mix of stellar musicianship and compositional creativity, Rova explores the synthesis of composition and collective improvisation."

Yeah, it's a bit dry, but that's more or less it. Collectively, they play the entire spectrum of jazz saxophone sounds: Jon Raskin might croon some near-verbatim Hawkins/Young/Mulligan over wind-rustling-in-the-trees accompaniment, Bruce Ackley can similarly seduce with vintage film noir tenor saxophone virile ballad-playing or blow Balkan-influenced soprano fury, but Larry Ochs will unleash full-throated free jazz skronk and Steve Adams might just play one of the most incredible jazz/free/post solos you've ever heard.

The overall impression is one of absolute balance. The compositions are equal partners with the improvisations, with the individual musicians and with another distinctive element, the hand signals that reshape the music on the fly. The ensemble might sail easy, flowing waters for one piece, then plunge down treacherous rapids where everything happens at once and rocks jut out at awkward angles the next. Mingus, theater, Don Van Vliet, contemporary music, precisely constructed cacophony and space exploration form a cohesive whole that is at once rigourous and supple, demanding and cajoling. Amongst the weirder moments was Scott Adams's "Anomalous Ejectae," inspired by maps of Mars showing the paths of the robots currently on its surface and whose score resembled a collection of experiment results printouts.

Monday, November 07, 2005

'round midnight or tonight at noon

The 2005 Belgian Django d'Or awards ceremony will be broadcast saturday 12th at midnight and sunday 13th at noon on RTBF 2.

Friday, November 04, 2005

a noisy silence

Doug Ramsey refers me to what Bob Brookmeyer writes:

"The Jazz Standard is a very fine place and the people who work there are unfailingly gentle and helpful. However, they -- and all jazz clubs -- suffer from the fear of silence. The minute we stop playing, ON comes the music from somewhere, and it won't stop until we get on the stand -- sometimes not even then. It's an established tradition and a vile one... The pauses between performing are very important and should be treated as part of the evenings flow. The fear of quiet is growing and it is a dangerous trend -- people have to shout to be heard, so inflection and communication get lost."

I can but agree 100%. I feel that going to hear live music is a special experience and one that best arises out of the relative silence of pre-concert chitchat brouhaha and best sinks in (when the music was good enough that you want to let it sink in) in a muted post-concert daze.

Live music immediately bookended by recorded music is a steadily increasing occurence, unfortunately. I was really stunned at the Hermeto Pascoal concert, to hear piped music before an after the concert in what is a sophisticated concert hall. The point of music played explicitly to be talked over escapes me, especially in a dedicated hall.

At the AB Club, the informal atmosphere is more conducive to recorded music, but more importantly they have a real DJ, so the musical choices are more inspired and appropriate than mindlessly putting on Blue Train, for example. Still, a 5-minute buffer zone before (to instill a sense of occasion) and after (to finish absorbing and emerge from what was just heard) would be nice. Constant music gives the live bit a "oh, some more music" feeling.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Bettye Lavette - 02/11/2005, Brussels

Doors to the AB's upstairs Club opened at 7, the concert was supposed to start at 8. The guitarist, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Frank Zappa, quietly slipped onto the still-dark stage at around 8:30. The drummer followed a few minutes later. Then came the bassist, unhurried. The keyboardist was stealthy, I didn't notice his entrance. He looked like a scientist, so maybe that was normal. At 8:45, the band launched into an amiable groove driven by Meters-ish organ, and followed up with a jazz-tinged (piano, bass, chords) blues propelled by a powerful and unusual beat. Two instrumentals to warm up, and the FZ-lookalike asked us to welcome the evening's diva, Mrs. Bettye Lavette. Downstairs, many more people had paid twice as much money to see Sioen, the Flemish sophisto-pop singer/pianist of the day. It took only a few words from Mrs. Lavette to prove that they were at the wrong concert.

I was here mainly because of a highly laudatory NY Times review of the singer's new CD, I've Got My Own Hell To Raise, and also because opportunities to see real, old-school soul in an intimate setting are rare. I had high hopes; they were fulfilled: this will be a contender for concert of the year. Lavette sang about how "Joe Henry made a woman out of [her]" at the age of 16 in her backyard, an amusing, inside-joke anachronism (Henry, 44, produced the "nearly 60 years old" singer's new album), about male betrayals and their aftermaths ("I'm not a sparrow/I'm a broken dream"), about the paradox of female strength ("It's not a time to cry," she said, as her voice cracked), about resilience, acceptance and finding peace in a final, heart-breaking a capella song.

Bettye Lavette's frayed, treble-heavy voice was that of classic, raw, heart-on-sleeve soul. Vibratoless and melisma-free, she gave the impression of an unadorned truth. Of course, the greatest trick a performer can pull is to make you believe there are no tricks. I often got the weird impression of her voice coming off a vinyl record, especially when she suddenly overwhelmed and saturated the microphone. Whether screwing up her face or prancing triumphantly across the stage, the singer threw herself unreservedly into every song and every nuance. She ruled and defended her territory, not hesitating to slap an annoyingly boisterous member of the audience. The music went from Al Green/Willie Mitchell achingly slow and minimal 12/8 to funky one-bar black-rock vamps. In short, nearly every tune was a phenomenal performance. I bought the CD and if it's half as good as the concert (I haven't listened to it yet), then it's a must-buy.