Belgian pianist Fred Van Hove is represented on this two-disc reissue of three “rare as hen’s teeth” albums recorded between 1972 and 1974 for the Vogel label. (Note: this material is so rare that the CD set, dubbed from LP, sounds a bit rough at times.) The collection consists of two solo piano performances ( Fred Van Hove and Live At The University ), a duet LP with saxophonist Cel Overberghe ( Een Tweede Vogel ) and a 7 inch single on the MU label.
First off, it is an educational experience to consider Van Hove’s artistry at the early stage of his long (and continuing) career. A variety of stylistic influences are presentbut make no mistake, this is European free improvisation through and through. His range is well represented on the self-titled record, as the first three tracks touch on the dynamic elements of Van Hove’s stylistic palette. Van Hove explores dazzling dissonance on “Suite 1.2.3/1," Monkian boogie woogie on “Guustjes Rock,” and on “Bouven Alle Verdenking Verheven (alfons),” tackles harmonic sensibilities as well as challenging, athletic flourishes. “Better Grounds” also offers a startling contrast, exploring controlled melodicism.
Passing over the duet recordings with Overberghe for the moment, Live At The University captures Van Hove in a live setting that commences with the brief, scurrying arpeggios of “Intrede” and the ominous chord clusters of “Sprookje.” Van Hove’s technique is constantly on display, but there is no better example of his dexterity than “Compositie Met Toonladders.” Van Hove has a little fun too, with the thirty-second accordion piece, “Pauze Met Accordeon,” the startling stride-like musings of “Muziek Bij Stomme Film,” and the off-kilter vocalizations on “Woordenschat.” For those seeking prepared piano, “Pling Pong” answers the question of what would a tray of ping pong balls sound like inside a piano (eerie, if you ask me).
Van Hove's fellow countryman, tenor saxophonist Overberge, joins the pianist on the remainder of the set. Their interactions range from experiments with a variety of sounds (like a church bell on “Wie Heeft Dat Vogeltje” or a busy urban street, replete with a jackhammer on “Ons Lisjsternestje”) to unfettered sax-piano duets. A more or less typical duet starts the proceedings off on “Wie Heeft Dat Vogeltje,” followed closely by the overdubbed glory on the Overberge feature, “Beter Tien Vogels In De Lucht,” with Overberge channeling Spiritual Unity by playing tenor, bass and drums using the magic of the overdub. “D’Er Was Een Vogeltje” captures the interaction of Overberghe’s rough tonality and the rubbery inside the piano work of Van Hove.
Perhaps the most satisfying interaction involves Van Hove taking a turn at the spiraling, circus- inspired organ on “Alle Eendjes” with Van Hove’s experiment adding a new dimension to this interchange. The last two tracks, from the single, consist of a humorous send-up (“Kreem Galas”) and interactive tightrope walking (“Bas La Police”). Overall, it is an intriguing program and indeed a worthwhile glimpse of Van Hove during his initial stages.
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Personnel: Fred Van Hove - piano, Hammond organ#; Cel Overberghe - tenor saxophone*, bass/drums^