Eric Vloeimans Fugimundi, Ottawa, Canada, March 8, 2010
As is Fraanje. The youngest musician of the trio (in his mid-thirties), the pianist was also the least visually comedic member of Fugimundi, but when it came to his playing it was another story entirely. A confident player with an encyclopedic mix of classical training, sophisticated harmonic vernacular and an ability to build from a whisper to a maelstrom at the drop of a hator, more appropriately, in response to his trio matesFraanje worked particularly well with Goudsmit, the two empathically intuiting each other's every move to prevent the kinds of harmonic train wrecks that are an inherent risk when placing two chordal instruments together in a freely improvising context. His accompaniment was the perfect combination of push-and-pull, as the trio collectively went wherever an idea took it. As Goudsmit left the stage, crying loudlyas Vloeimans put it, "he's upset because he's been fired"Fraanje and the trumpeter delivered a spare and compelling version of the classic standard, "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" that proved how, while the trio's music may stretch the definition of jazz, the tradition remains an unequivocal cornerstone on which Fugimundi's music is built.
Fugimundi, from left: Anton Goudsmit, Eric Vloeimans, Harmen Fraanje
Vloiemans may be less known on this side of the Atlantic, but that's a status the needs to change. With a remarkable command of his instrument, the trumpeter was constantly exploring tonal nuances through incredibly precise embouchure; changing tone mid-stream as he went from a breathy tone redolent of Norwegians Nils Petter Molvær and Arve Henriksen, to a tarter tone on some of the set's more overtly outgoing music; adding a touch of grit here and a touch of plangent expressionism there. At times content to close his eyes, lean back and let Fraanje and Goudsmit take the music to unexpected placesand yet demonstrating a remarkable synchronicity with them as they managed, no matter how far off-center they went, to come back together for the reiteration of a melody with incredible accuracy and intuitionVloeimans, like the rest of Fugimundi, demonstrated a keen ability to be both reverential to the music's demands yet absolutely free and open-ended with its possibilities. His spoken introductions were slightly understated, a tad self-effacing and a lot funny, establishing a strong rapport with the audience that only served to make the performance itself all the more compelling.
The music ranged from soft and elegant to loud and boisterous; no shortage of European classicism combining with unmistakable tinges of blues and gospel, and a plaintive melancholy one moment just as likely to become an absurd, circus-like stomp the next. Unhindered by a rhythm section to create a defined pulse, Fugimundi swung hard at times, played with folkloric simplicity at others, and took advantage of their contextual freedom at every moment throughout a set that grabbed the audience from the first notes, and kept it on the edge of its seat until the very end, following a well-deserved encore.
Vloeimans' name may be new to some of his audiences here, but everyone at the Ottawa show went home knowing who he was, along with Fugimundi mates Fraanje and Goudsmit. Sometimes you have to build your audience one small step at a time. If the other dates in a 13-city tour, which took Fugimundi across Canada and the United States, were anywhere near as good as its Ottawa performance, then it's a certainty that Vloeimans is gradually building an audience in North America to match the one he's already established for several years in Europe.
John R. Fowler