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Fred Van Hove: Passing Waves

Glenn Astarita By

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Legendary Belgian free-jazz pianist Fred Van Hove launches the newly formed NUSCOPE label with an extraordinary display of solo piano pieces performed on the Baldwin SD-10 piano. As Mr. Van Hove mentions in the liners “Most of these titles are wordplays or phrases that came to my attention during my trips to the U.S, but I think that they fit the different musical pieces as well”. Fred Van Hove wields his way through a tour-de-force of inspirationally derived tunes that mirror his trip to the United States. The results are simply gratifying and at times mind-boggling.

“In Depth Investigation” as the title may implicate is an exploratory piece, which showcases Van Hove’s lightning fast hands and flawless technique. Van Hove possesses the ability to infuse conservatory style austerity with sharp-witted and idyllic phrasing. On this track and throughout, the pianist proclaims his utterly sophisticated and consummate technical ability. Van Hove while at times cerebral successfully integrates emotions and a good dose of attitude into his compositions. On “Compromising Positions”, Van Hove gently strides the piano strings while also utilizing a billiard ball for startling effect. The pianist augments this approach with chord structures that emit an air indicative of mood swings and curiosity. Imagery and expressionism are vividly enacted. “Chic a gogo” (Chicago) is a tune that exemplifies big city life as we hear Van Hove weaving tapestries of sound that suggest meaningful interpretations of life’s experiences. This piece also highlights Van Hove’s amazingly dexterous left-right hand coordination. The final track “Almost Indian Song” winds the proceedings down with introspective passages that become contemplative and somber. The melody slowly diverts to dissonant phrasing ultimately leading to a climatic end.

Fred Van Hove may stand as the preeminent exponent of modern piano improvisation on this planet. His skills are exemplary and his execution of ideas indicates revolutionary concepts that seem unimaginable to the human ear. “Passing Waves” is a landmark recording and thanks to Dallas, TX based NUSCOPE records, should provide Van Hove with some much-needed exposure here in the States. Simply put, Fred Van Hove flirts with genius. An aural treat that is essential for the advocate of modern jazz piano. Highly recommended...!


Title: Passing Waves | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Nuscope Recordings

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