From Belgium comes Jef Neve, an explosively gifted young pianist whose second album, It's Gone, is without question one of the best I've heard in 2005. It's an exhilarating ride through a varied program of Neve's creative original compositions, offset by a standard and a brace of tunes by Neve's bassist, Piet Verbist. The music is consistently excellent, a joyous and very swinging tour through the unexpected.
Neve's improvisations often seem to burst forth in a shower of notes, marked by an assertive left hand that adds a potent counterpoint to his darting right hand figures. But despite his youth, Neve goes far beyond mere exhibitionism of his impressive technical skills. He pours forth an abundance of fresh ideas, marked by an exceptional joie de vivre, almost as if he can't contain himself. Yet his improvisations are also orderly, with a keen intelligence guiding all those fireworks. And he powers his lines with a jaunty, happy swing, most notably on his originals, like the forthright cooker "Bop Me If You Can."
Neve also exhibits promise as an ingenious composer. His tunes resound with memorable turns of phrase, and some of them present daunting challenges for the unwary improviser. "Get Yourself A Wheelchair" shows the pianist at his most inspired. This Neve original's structure runs the trio through an obstacle course of fast 4/4 swing, a segment with a rock feel, and then some even faster 4/4 swing. Yet Neve and his tight, unified trio surmount every challenge.
Bassist Piet Verbist and drummer Teun Verbruggen shadow Neve's every move, responding as equals in every instance. Verbruggen is often busy, but never out of control, and Verbist is a rock. Like their leader, they swing with authority at all times. On two tracks, the trio is augmented by a warm brass choir; on the title tune, Bert Joris plays an excellent trumpet solo. It's Gone is not to be missed.
Sofar & Stillaway; Lament; It's Gone; With The Help Of God, Shine (Excerpt); Not What I Asked For; Get Yourself A Wheelchair; Bop Me If You Can; Blame It On My Youth; Entrance; By All Means; Contemplation.
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