Dutch Jazz & World Meeting 2012: October 5-6, 2012
Following a Chinese buffet at the pagoda-like Sea Palace restaurantanother opportunity to mix with DJ&WM delegatesa full evening was programmed at the nearby Bimhuis. First up was pianist Ramón Vallé, performing music from Flashes from Holland (RVS, 2011), an album that also featured guitarist Jesse van Ruller along with double bassist Omer Rodriguez Calvo and drummer Owen Hart, Jr.. Neither Ruller nor Hart were on hand for the Cuban expat's showcase, which instead featured young up-and-comer Reinier Baas on guitar and Julio Barreto on drums.
Baas' grittier approach and Barreto's more frenetic kit work gave Vallé's showcase a different kind of energy to the equally fine recording, one that harkened back a tad, perhaps, to guitarist John Scofield's Live (Enja, 1977), featuring pianist Richie Beirach, with a similar kind of fire. Vallé was instantly impressive, a seemingly endless flow of ideas from the get-go, bolstered by Barreto's fiery and Calvo's unshakable support, while Baas' solos were a quirky combination of jazz traditionalism and unmistakable post-modernism. That's not to say the album doesn't smoke; the nearly 10-minute "Van Gogh Letters" runs the gamut from rubato tone poem to an incendiary second section where Vallé's linear dexterity and chunky chords push the tune to a powerful climax. But live, it just about ripped the roof off the Bimhuis, and concluded a set that set a high bar for the rest of the evening.
By contrast, Kapok delivered a set that proved it's possible to make music that's got depth and entertainment value. In a time when unusual instrumental configurations aboundlike Norway's PELbO, a tuba-drums-voice pop trioKapok may win the award for one of the most eclectic. Largely led by Morris Kliphuis, whose French horn is bested only, perhaps, by the bassoon as one of the most difficult improvising instrumentsKapok also featured guitarist Timon Koomen and drummer Remco Menting. Perhaps most impressive was the group's reliance solo on its three membersits debut, Flatlands (Kytopia, 2012) (a mixture of composed and freely improvised pieces) featuring additional guests on half its ten tracksand, unlike pelBo, not on a lot of looping or other effects processing. Instead, the trio combined New Orleans second line with hints of rock 'n' roll, in a short set that was as fun to watch as it was to hear, with Koomen surprisingly static for a guitarist, but Kliphuis moving around the stage with rock star moves, maintaining inter-group communication at all times.
It wasn't all rock posing, however; a highlight of the set was Kliphuis' gentle, melancholy ballad "Arkadia," dedicated to Arkady Shilkloperthe Russian French hornist best known, perhaps, for his recordings with Ukraine-born pianist Misha Alperin on ECM, including 2008's Her First Dancewhich contrasted with the rest of the set's more upbeat writing. Left to fill in so much of the harmonic space, Koomen may not have had a real opportunity to demonstrate his worth, but Kliphuis was consistently impressive. Whether or not Kapok has enough traction for sustainability has yet to be seen, but with the trio winning the 2012 Dutch Jazz Competition and already performing more than 50 shows this year, it certainly has more than a fair chance.
If Kapok had rock attitude in its visuals, Spinefex Quintet had it in power and sheer visceral energy. An offshoot of the larger Spinefex Orchestra, this configurationtrumpeter Gijs Levelt, saxophonist Tobias Klein, guitarist Jasper Stadhouders, bassist Gonçalo Almeida and drummer Philipp Mosershared some similarities with Pumporgan, though its touchstones reside more in new and improvised music. With soloing of utter abandon, Spinefex was still driven by idiosyncratic and complex compositional constructs, where challenging unison lines and stop/start rhythms were juxtaposed with passages of more complete freedom. Adventurous yet still with potent (albeit knotty) grooves to latch onto, Spinefex Quintet has yet to release a record, but if its Bimhuis performance was an indication, that's a crime that should be fixed...and soon.
Saxophonist Yuri Honing is another player with plenty of attitude; one that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. When he played with his electric Wired Paradise in Penang in the fall of 2011, it didn't work; here at the Bimhuis, with his Acoustic Quartet, it absolutely did. Dressed in a red jacket and roaming the stage with a kind of noirish attitude that matched the music, not everyone can pull this kind of attitude off, but Honing did.
Part of the reason for his success is, of course, his group. Pianist Wolfert Brederode has been on the ascendancy since work with singer Susanne Abbuehllast heard on Compass (ECM, 2006)and his own quartet recordings, also on ECMCurrents (2008) and Post Scriptum (2011). Here, with Honing's approach spare and spacious, Brederode was, in many ways, the quartet's most dominant voice, though bassist Gulli Gudmundsson (heard at DJ&WM 2010 as a member of trumpeter Eric Vloeimans' electric Gatecrash group) and drummer Joost Lijbaart (also a member of Wired Paradise) were no less impressiveGudmundsson all the more so for his being called to the gig at relative last moment.
The set was dark, spare and impressionistic, ranging from the simple pulse of "True," with Lijbaart using little more than a snare drum and a large bass drum up on a stand, to "Paper Bag," with Brederode creating muted patterns inside the piano box. It was a captivating performance of music from True (Challenge, 2012), performed by a group that certainly deserves to be heard outside of Europe.
Dutch pianist/composer Michiel Braam has his fingers in a lot of pies these days, what with his Bik Bent Braam, Trio BraamDeJoodeVatcher, eBraam and Flex Bent Braam. Somewhere between the larger Bik Brent Braam's thirteen pieces and Flex Bent Braam's septet sits his Hybrid 10tet, which brings together a curious combination of classical string quartet with tuba, trumpet, bass guitar and French horn (Kapok's Morris Kliphuis}}. As eclectic as it gets, the 10tet performed music from On the Move (BBB, 2011), including "The Indonesian Refuge" and the lengthy and appropriately titled "Cuba," where Braam soloed, supported by the string quartet's lush backdrop, with a strange blend of stylistic authenticity and forward-reaching modernism. It was an odd configuration of music that was clearly scriptedand in great detailyet allowed plenty of freedom within its constructs.