Dutch Jazz & World Meeting 2010: December 1-3, 2010
With The Netherlands as a wholeand Amsterdam in particularbeing such a cross-cultural melting pot, it's no surprise that so many of its groups are comprised of Dutch residents who emigrated from other countries. In fact, it's not unusual to find entire groups where every member of the group is a Dutch immigrant. Vocalist Simin Tander is a German/Afghan expat who, while still wrapping up her forthcoming debut as a leader, has been on the scene for a few years since graduating from The Netherlands' ARTEZ Conservatoire, even gaining the attention of jazz vocal legend Sheila Jordan, who dubbed her "a very special talent," and has since taken Tander under her winga mentorship that was in clear evidence during Tander's set at Melkweg's Old Hall. Tander's visibility has continued on an upward path, with the singer appearing at a number of European festivals, winning the first prize of the Vlaardingen Jazz Concours, and performing on the soundtrack to the occult television series, Tartort.
From left: Cord Heineking, Simin Tander, Etienne Nillesen
Tander's well-received set suggested many of the singer's strengths in a relatively brief time frame. An improvising singer who is bringing something a little different to the scat tradition, she was as comfortable in English on the pop-like "Becoming" as she was in what sounded like an African vernacular on "Shadowprint...," even, at times, creating her own fantasy language. With a voice possessing strength across the range, Tander also demonstrated fine command over dynamics, as did her group, which featured pianist Jeroen van Vliet (a member of Eric Vloeimans' Gatecrash), bassist Cord Heineking and drummer Etienne Nillesen.
Tander proved a charismatic performer if not, at times, a little too visusally busy onstage, especially when Vliet was soloing, with the kind of soft nuance that demanded undivided attention rather than distraction. Heineking, too, took a solo mid-set, filled with gentle lyricism, while Nillesen focused on a kind of hand/stick hybrid approach that gave his kit, at times, the veneer of hand percussion.
If Tander's set was any indication, there will be plenty of demand for her forthcoming, 2011 debut.
As fine as the various performance spaces at Melkweg were, there were many challenges inherent in trying to get from showcase to showcase. Moving around the tight stairways between the rooms, it seemed as though there was always the distraction of bumping into someone. The mingling aspect of DJ&WM wast undeniably terrific, fostering new relationships that will clearly carry on after the event. Still, with such relatively unstructured environs, it was a difficult juggling act to find ways of both interacting with everyone and catching the numerous showcases. One showcase that, sadly was missed until a few minutes before its end was that of violinist Lenneke van Staalen, performing with tablaist Heiko Dijker and the Het Makalu Kwartet, a classical string quartet that brought a whole new complexion to van Staalen's clear affinity for Indian music. It was a brief exposure, but one that will ensure attention when she releases her debut next year.
Meanwhile, the final showcase in the Old Hall was reserved for trumpeter Eric Vloeimans and his electric Gatecrash quartet. For fans of retro-Rhodes and synth sounds, coupled with a more contemporary approach to electro-centric music in a continuum also occupied, at various points, by Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær and Swiss-born/French-resident trumpeter Erik Truffaz, there was plenty to like about a set that drew heavily on the group's most recent disc, Heavens Above! (Challenge, 2009), and also from its sophomore disc, Hyper (Challenge, 2008)in particular, keyboardist Jeroen van Vliet's anthemically melodic and viscerally grooving title track. The keyboardist who focused so heavily on grand piano with Simin Tander earlier in the evening, was an even deeper fountain of ideas with Gatecrash, mining otherworldly textures, ethereal harmonies and quirky thematic inventions on Fender Rhodes and synth, while Icelandic bassist Gulli Gudmundsson (now also a Dutch resident) and drummer Jasper van Hulten locked in hard when the pulse required, but opened the music up for greater interpretive exchange when the music demanded.
From left: Jeroen van Vliet, Eric Vloeimans, Gulli Gudmundsson
Vloeimans, whose acoustic tone is a thing of expansive beauty, fed his trumpet through a pedal board of effects, ranging from delays to harmonizers, and while use of such gear seems de rigueur these days, Vloeimans managed to retain a personal voice, at one point playing call-and-response with himself as he shifted from a pungent, pure tone to one harmonized for greater reach. As clearly virtuosic as Vloeimans is, and was during the performance, his inescapable technical strengths never overwhelm or overtake a clear respect for the essence of song. He introduced his own "Pèlerinage (Pilgrimage)" as a song about "a walk of many hours...just walking...walking," as a slow but relentless pulse providing the contextual backdrop for a gradually intensifying performance that, with van Vliet's Rhodes building from swelling chords to more percussive voicings, led to a dramatic and cathartic climax through a repetitive, two-chord, minor-keyed vamp, before signaling the journey's end in gradual diminishment and, ultimately, silence.
Unlike Hyper and the preceding Gatecrashin' (Challenge, 2007), Heavens Above! is a studio recording; live, Vloeimans and Gatecrash expanded on its larger repertoire of shorter pieces, pushing the melancholy melody and fierier solo section of "Floratone" to greater extremes, the trumpeter not just visually deep in the music during his own solos, but clearly enraptured when stepping back and handing the stage over to van Vliet, Gudmundsson and van Hulten, whose effortless command, transcendent touch and perfect interjections were a constant undercurrent throughout.
While Vloiemans has been to North America with his Fugimundi trio, Gatecrash has yet to make the trip. With a performance as strong as its 45-minutes at DJ&WM, it will be a surprise if some of the many delegates who traveled to Amsterdam for the meeting aren't already thinking of ways to get the group to make the Transatlantic trek.