Flemish Jazz Meeting 2009

Martin Longley By

Sign in to view read count

Unaccustomed as I am to inhabiting the trade/music business function end of things, a sojourn at the Gent Jazz Festival and Jazz Middelheim in Belgium inevitably led to a swiftly-following weekend at the Flemish Jazz Meeting in the scenic city of Brugge. This is the third edition of a September band showcase that's designed to spread the musical wares of Belgium's Flanders region across the entire European jazz network. Therefore, most of its delegates are drawn from the world of promoters, festival organisers, club bosses and artist managers, arriving from France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Lithuania and Holland.
Also, as a kind of rogue element, there's a small posse of observationalist scribes, here to document the behavioural patterns of this strange, instantly-formed beatnik community. The physical host organisation is De Werf, which is quite possibly the key jazz body in Belgium, in terms of being both a venue and a label of long-running repute. The whole weekend is also jointly run by Jazzlab, Jazz Brugge and the Flanders Music Centre.
Travel the globe, and thou shalt always find places of alternative jazz refuge like De Werf. This feels like home. The concept is to catch five bands on Friday and Saturday evenings, closing out with two more on Sunday morning. These have been selected by a panel of 50 Belgian writers and promoters. Each band is given 20 minutes to make their mark, although the later sets seem to have some leeway for extension. There are one or two acts that proffer lukewarm sets, and a vocalist who's got to combat this reviewer's difficulties with most song-form jazz. That leaves a large majority of the combos who manage to attain various levels of thrilling excellence.

Diverse musical backgrounds converge with the Hijaz sextet. Tunisian oud player Moufadel Adhoum shares the front line with duduk blower Vardan Hovannisian, from Armenia. Moroccan percussionist Azzedine Jazouli allies himself with the Belgian drummer Chryster Aerts, and the line-up is completed by pianist Niko Deman and bassman Chris Mentens.

The dominant sound flows up from North Africa, draped over a homogenised jazz base. They're a suitable choice for an opening act, offering a wide array of textures, without particularly rising above a friendly fusion, devoid of the tensions and frictions that would invest the music with a more compulsive energy.

The Pierre Anckaert Trio was augmented by flautist Stefan Bracaval, who provided the main point of interest when hefting the bass variant of his instrument, darkly blowing with softly percussive power.

It was only when the Free Desmyter Quartet took to the stage that the Friday evening began its ascent to full intensity. I'd caught this pianist's trio at both the Gent and Middelheim festivals in July and August of 2009, concluding that Desmyter's enquiring and spacious style was attractive, but only suited to an environment of concentrated listening.

With the quartet, reedsman John Ruocco (an American dwelling in Holland) added a volatile ingredient, ramming the piano trio formation into a more riled-up state. He switched from tenor saxophone to clarinet, wading through the spaces left by Desmyter's wandering lines.

Operating on a very sparse terrain, accordionist Tuur Florizoone was teamed with cellist Marine Horbaczewski and tuba/trombone maestro Michel Massot (also a member of the brilliant Trio Grande). The confluence of these three quite unlikely instruments immerses the ears in sheer pleasure, uniting with the occasionally absurdist work of Massot.

By way of extreme contrast, saxophonist Jeroen Van Herzeele led his quartet toward free jazz oblivion, filling his space with lengthy, involved solos as he took the music in an incremental skyward climb. The leader's steady, slow-motion explosion dominated, but his band responded with equal force, not least the French bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel.

On Saturday evening, Briskey made an unlikely opener. Given this expanded combo's cinematically wide-angled sound, they'd be more suited to a later slot, to capitalise on their thrusting, accumulating motion. Gert Keunen triggered samples and field recordings, expanding his previously lonesome state into a full band-spread. Drummer Isolde Lasoen casually flicked out tight funk accents at slow speed, keyboardist Sara Gilis played on the edge of overload, but bass saxophonist Nicolas Roseeuw would have benefited from a volume boost to facilitate the full enormity of his elephantine belch-lines. The music hovered moodily around the realms of slow jazz and atmospherica soundtracks.


More Articles

Read SFJAZZ Collective at the Music Box Supper Club Live Reviews SFJAZZ Collective at the Music Box Supper Club
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: April 28, 2017
Read Anat Cohen at Davidson College Live Reviews Anat Cohen at Davidson College
by Perry Tannenbaum
Published: April 27, 2017
Read Mark Hagan's Jazz Salon At The Old 76 House Live Reviews Mark Hagan's Jazz Salon At The Old 76 House
by David A. Orthmann
Published: April 27, 2017
Read Kneebody at Johnny Brenda's Live Reviews Kneebody at Johnny Brenda's
by Mike Jacobs
Published: April 25, 2017
Read Vossajazz 2017 Live Reviews Vossajazz 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Hermeto Pascoal at SFJAZZ Live Reviews Hermeto Pascoal at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: April 21, 2017
Read "ECM Showcase at NYC Winter Jazzfest 2017" Live Reviews ECM Showcase at NYC Winter Jazzfest 2017
by Tyran Grillo
Published: January 22, 2017
Read "Miles From India at SFJAZZ" Live Reviews Miles From India at SFJAZZ
by Walter Atkins
Published: April 14, 2017
Read "Buenos Aires Jazz Festival 2016" Live Reviews Buenos Aires Jazz Festival 2016
by Mark Holston
Published: January 9, 2017
Read "Kurt Elling With The Keith Ganz Trio at Jazz Standard" Live Reviews Kurt Elling With The Keith Ganz Trio at Jazz Standard
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 2, 2016
Read "2016 Hope College Jazz Organ Summit" Live Reviews 2016 Hope College Jazz Organ Summit
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: September 28, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus


Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!