Submitted on behalf of Suzi Price
Motives for Jazz presented the Michel Bisceglia Trio with special guests on January 28, 1999 at the PCM Casino Beringen, Belgium. It had been six months since I had seen them perform at the Bizen Jazz Festival. I was looking forward to seeing the trio and the prospect of something new in their repetoiré, especially the possibility of Michel performing an improvisation of a ballad or two. Unfortunately, my expectations were soon transformed into disillusion as the end of the first set approached.
The first set was pretty much a duplication of their CD About Stories featuring Randy Brecker and Bob Mintzer, with one exception. Most selections were longer, trailing off into never-never land and Michel seemed to have lost the imagination and creativity that was heard on About Stories, taking a more avant-garde approach to his compositions. Of course, Randy Brecker and Bob Mintzer were not the special guests. Substituting were, Erwin Vann, tenor sax and Eric Vloeimans, trumpet. They gave a good performance within the confines of the trio's dark exploration. Oh well, everyone can have an off night, but I got the feeling on most songs that it was Moody Blues revisited. Also, the mix was not quite right and Mark Lehan´s drums over-shawdowed Michel´s piano and Werner Lauscher on bass.
This crossover approach left quite a bit to the imagination of the listener. You kept waiting to hear a familiar semblance of recognition, something that made you feel comfortable in the divergence of the improvisation. The only piece that came close was Stockholm. As a result, after intermission many stayed in the bar and did not return to listen to the esoteric second set. I returned hoping to hear the flip side of the presentation. While their last number was a nice improv of Herbie´s One Finger Snap, the performance ended to a faint round of applause and everyone disappeared like smoke through a chimney.
Don't get me wrong, I like Michel's playing. He is still young and has the makings of a fine jazz pianist. I think he is exploring and looking for his niche. Born in 1950 in Zwartberg (Belgium) with Italian roots, Michel has worked extensively in the jazz and pop scene with the likes of Toots Thielemans, Phillip Catherine, Randy Brecker, Eric Gale, Bob Minzer and Andy Middleton. Although he studied briefly at the conservatory of Maastricht and the Antwerp Jazz Studio, other than his two and a half years with a music teacher, Michel is pretty much a self-taught musician. The fact that he is now himself a teacher at the Brussels' Conservatory proves that he is a natural musical talent.
He will be performing at an upcoming concert in March '99 with an eight-piece orchestra and singer, Jo Lemaire, in a tribute to the renowned French singer, Edith Piaff. I missed this previous tribute concert held last December and it received extremely good reviews. I am hoping to see the brillance I saw in Michel in 1998 and look forward to reporting a more positive critique of this outstanding ingénue.
Michel Bisceglia Photo © Jos Knaepen, 1999.