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If there is one word that could be used to describe Guus Janssen, it would be fluid. This trait occurs in his bands, in the arrangements of his tunes and in his constantly evolving music. Janssen works within a framework that embraces melody. He then fleshes it with arrangements that make optimum use of the instruments, bringing them in to elevate the moment. Besides, there is no gainsaying which direction the music will go in; he makes sharp turns without losing momentum or logic.
Working with a sextet this time around, Janssen brings in music hall, New Orleans, swing, the blues and a bend into free jazz that perks interest with its devolution. The group gets right off the bat on the amalgam of “Angelicanzone,” where Janssen dances in on the overture, only to be fragmented by the bassoon of Rabinovitch. Vincent Chancey switches the mode as he counterpoints Janssen with short “oomphs” on the French horn, only to navigate past that with some free notes that slip cosily into the spaces of Janssen’s piano.
When it comes time for “Passage,” Chancey and Rabinovitch snuggle the ballad against the brushwork of Ernst Glerum, lending the pensive tune an incipient heat with their taut lines. Contrary to its name, “Slow Step” is anything but. It has a percussive air driven by Janssen on piano and accented by Wim Janssen on drums. Knowing Janssen, expectation is not belied and structure breaks down to freer motifs before it comes back with Peter van Bergen ringing in some fine swing on his clarinet.