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Eric Vloeimans / Florian Weber: Live at The Concertgebouw

John Kelman By

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In a career spanning the intimate chamber jazz of Fugimundi to the electrified Gatecrash, Eric Vloeimans has emerged as a trumpeter with uncommon instincts, relentless lyricism and an astute ear for musical partnerships. It's been three years since his last recording as a leader—Heavens Above (Challenge, 2009)—but in the interim there's been an expansive five-CD career retrospective, V-Flow (Challenge, 2010), that shouldn't be mistaken as any suggestion that he's done all there is. If anything, V-Flow consolidates and contextualizes Vloeimans' career to date, setting the stage for even better things to come. On the strength of Live at The Concertgebouw, the trumpeter's first-recorded encounter with German pianist Florian Weber, the future is already looking more than fine.

Weber's jazz cred may be relatively light, but if his one CD as a co-leader, Minsarah (ENJA, 2006), is any indication, he possesses a musical mind as broad as his Dutch partner's. Instead of the more expressionist leanings of his own session, Live at Concertgebouw finds the pianist in a pensive, wistful and, at times, downright melancholic mood. Some of the most beautiful music is so because of the deeper pathos that inspires it, and if Vloeimans comes from a country where absurdity and humor is often inextricably linked with jazz/improvised music, there's little levity to be found here. Instead, this 47-minute recital, recorded live in Amsterdam during the spring of 2011, is serious stuff, albeit without any overbearing melodrama or gravitas. Light as a cirrus cloud and as gentle as a spring rain, Live at The Concertgebouw may be one of the most elegant, delicate and emotionally honest records of the year, despite it being very early days.

Twelve of the album's thirteen tracks are Vloeimans originals, with only two not being heard for the first time. But if this version of "Requiem" is diminutive in scale compared to the quartet-driven version on Umai (Challenge, 2007), paring down to a duo allows Vloeimans considerably greater latitude for empathetic freedom as the piece moves from brooding angularity to a more powerful climax, with Weber revealing the expressionistic power that drove Minsarah. Vloeimans' reprise of the a capella miniature, "Solo Di Tromba nr. 5," from Boompetit (Challenge, 2005), demonstrates embouchure-driven timbral flexibility not unlike Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen, but with a lyricism all his own.

Two versions of "Mine Own King Am I" are quietly majestic, while the waltz-time "Lex"—revisited as the closing piano solo of "Mix-Lex (reprise)"—reflects the influence, intentional or not, of French composer Erik Satie," with a similar deceptive simplicity to its song form, while providing no uncertain challenge for either Weber or Vloeimans, who both solo with elegant restraint, always opting for melodism over melisma.

Vloeimans and Weber share a bond that transcends simply interpreting the written page. Instead, in one of the most plainly exposed of musical contexts, they turn Live at the Concertgebouw into a sublime work of understated power, as impressive for what it isn't as for what it is: one of the year's most hauntingly beautiful recordings, a high point in Vloeimans' discography and a tremendous introduction to the clearly underexposed Weber.

Track Listing: Solo de Tromba nr. 5; Mine Own King Am I; Lex; Kindred Spirits; Your Majesty; M.J. (for the king of pop); Realm of Ease; Solo Di Tromba, nr. 6; Rosinha, Vem-Te Comigo; Mine Own King Am I (Reprise); Joel; Requiem; Mix-Lex (Reprise).

Personnel: Eric Vloeimans: trumpet; Florian Weber: piano.

Title: Live at The Concertgebouw | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Challenge Records


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