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Consider the physicality of a Fred Van Hove solo performance. Perhaps the word “physicality” as defined by Merriam-Webster’s “intensely physical orientation: with the predominance of the physical usually at the expense of the mental, spiritual, or social,” doesn’t quite fit. While his solo effort may seem like a 15 round heavyweight fight, it doesn’t neglect the mental, spiritual, or social aspects of creative music. Van Hove, born 1937 in Antwerp has been playing free jazz since the 1960s and solo for the past 30. He was the pianist for the historic Peter Brötzmann record Machine Gun (FMP1968) and can be found on the recently reissued Nipples (Unheard Music Series). He is the founder and chairman of WIM (Werkgroep Improviseeende Musici), created to promote creative music.
Recorded live in January 1998 at Les Instants Charires Montreuil, France, Van Hove performs two pieces of 52 and 43 minutes length. His ceaseless creative pounding lines, working right hand runs while his left hammers, are both acts of endurance and one of a fertile imagination. His musical thoughts develop from his physical movements, like Jackson Pollock painting in the airspace above his canvas laid out on the floor. Like Pollock, Van Hove's thoughts are anything but random drippings. He passes intensity on, builds to a climax, releases tension with gentler cycles and opens the piano for some dulcimer sounds and wood thumping. The music heard is easy to relate to on several levels. Physically, the workout is impressive, emotionally or spiritually, his playing pulls you into the action before leaving you with a cathartic sigh, and intellectually (and maybe socially) you grasp the commitment he has to creative music. A satisfying and exhausting experience.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.