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Paul Van Kemenade: Close Enough

Budd Kopman By

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Close Enough from alto saxophonist Paul Van Kemenade was a Downbeat magazine "Best of 2011" and it is no small wonder why. Sub-titled "alto Paul van Kemenade in different settings," the nine tracks range widely in both style and personnel, including a Renaissance vocal ensemble, a duo with cello, three horns and a bass as well two different more standard quintets. Through it all, Kemenade's playing is marvelous, bringing together a sly wit and sense of humor, much intelligence and a strong sense of surprise in his lines which continually do the unexpected.

The album opens with "Fantasy Colours" and its surprise instrumentation of a Renaissance vocal trio (Cappella Pratensis—Stratton Bull, Lior Leibovici and Pieter Stas), flamenco guitarist El Periquin, Senagalese percussion Serigne Gueye along with Kemenade, two horns and bass. "Lauda Jerusalem" (Psalm 147:1) is delivered as straight chant at first, only to be joined by the band in a Latin dance rhythm and is then woven throughout the piece as the band metrically modulates to a walking bass swing and back. After the shock wears off, it all makes sense, even through the flamenco-ish guitar solo. The distinct sound of the chant vocalists becomes "just" another timbre in the mix. Quite a track!

From this startling beginning we move to the title track, performed by Kemenade, trombonist Ray Anderson, drummer Han Bennink (who just plays snare drum) and bassist Ernst Glerum (all of whom were heard on Checking Out ), plus guitarist Frank Möbus . Opening with Kemenade accompanied by the rhythm section, everything that is attractive about Kemenade's playing is on display. Swinging gently, but with a low-flame intensity, the trombone enters with a harmonic counter line, only to have the piece seemingly end. But no, each player's free line intertwines as the band slowly pulls together in a fascinating, and magical way.

The next three tracks are performed by "Three Horns and a Bass" (Angelo Verploegen on trumpet/flugelhorn, Louk Boudesteijn on trombone, Kemenade and Wiro Mahieu on bass). A drummer is not missed at all on "Lapstop," which moves effortlessly through various rhythms (including a driving swing between bass and trumpet) and textures. "Take It Easy" features a progression performed as arpeggiated horns in a number of rhythms, all hanging together. The style changes again with "Cool Man, Coleman" as the horns unite, intertwine and dissolve over an insistent bass.

One might think music for a duo of cello and saxophone would be difficult to pull off, but cellist Ernst Reijseger is not your normal cellist. "Cuckoo" finds him playing cello like a guitar and providing harmony for Kemenade with his voice in this amazing display of musicianship (and humor). The texture changes once more in "It Is Never Too Late" as cello and sax change roles playing arpeggios to the other's lines—and it works. "Gathering For Alto And Cello" feels like a major statement of intent, and is a bravura display of how much density of sound a cello can provide. There is also an echo of the feeling of chant here and there.

The group Borderstopping (Eckard Koltermann on bass clarinet, pianist Stevko Busch, drummer Achim Krämer, bassist Benjamin Trawinski and Kemenade) performs the closing track, "Vormärz." Kemenade and Koltermann are both terrific in music that stretches the boundaries of jazz and swing in many subtle ways.

Close Enough in a wonderful example of pure music which exists outside of any style or instrumentation. It is to Kemenade's credit that his musical personality is strong enough to tie it all together. Highly recommended.

Track Listing: Fantasy Colours; Close Enough; Lapstop; Take It Easy; Cool Man, Coleman, Part 1 2; Cuckoo; It Is Never Too Late; Gathering For Alto and Cello; Vormärz.

Personnel: Cappella Pratensis -Stratton Bull, Lior Leibovici, Pieter Stas: vocals; El Periquin: flamenco guitar; Serigne Gueye: percussion; Rein Godefroy: piano; Angelo Verploegen: flugelhorn; Louk Boudesteijn: trombone; Wiro Mahieu: double bass; Paul Van Kemenade: alto saxophone (track 1); Ray Anderson: trombone; Han Bennink: snare drum; Frank Möbus: guitar; Ernst Glerum: double bass; Paul Van Kemenade: alto saxophone (track 2); Angelo Verploegen: trumpet, flugelhorn; Louk Boudesteijn: trombone; Wiro Mahieu: double bass; Paul Van Kemenade: alto saxophone (tracks 3-5); Ernst Reigseger: cello; Paul Van Kemenade: alto saxophone (tracks 6-8); Eckard Koltermann: bass clarinet; Stevko Busch: piano; Achim Krämer: drums; Benjamin Trawinski: double bass; Paul Van Kemenade: alto saxophone (track 8).

Title: Close Enough | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Self Produced

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