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TRPTK: Breaking Genre Walls

Mark Werlin By

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The sudden silences, half-whispered pianissimo passages, and wide-leap intervals in Louis Andriessen's "Triplum" are drawn into a coherent presentation through van Hees' masterful technique and sensitivity to the composer's intentions. "Variations on a Quote by Debussy," a new work by Aart Strootman, a composer of the generation succeeding Andriessen, draws on the inspiration of early-twentieth century French modernism without resorting to pastiche or cliché. It's refreshing to hear a new work that is so approachable, an entryway to the album as a whole.

The two pieces on the album written by guitarist van Hees display the performer's skill at conveying those characteristics that are unique to the instrument, the tangible pull of fingers at the strings, the emotive warmth of the wood. "Ikariotikoyunbabarrange" builds variations on a minor key hymn-like theme towards a dramatic climax. It would be a natural encore for live performances. The meditative "Orewoet" shows a more introspective side of this talented young composer.

Jan-Peter de Graaff's "All that Changes" and Christiaan Richter's "Remgewogen," with their bold chromaticism, restless changes of mood and dramatic percussive effects, bring the album not so much to a close, as to an open question: Where does music come from, and where is it going?

The recording, made in the Lutheran Church, Haarlem (see the accompanying video), is of exemplary sound quality. Modern microphones and high resolution recording technology are the guitarist's best friend—and most intimidating adversary; every nuance of the performance is captured with vividness and detail.

Personnel: Martin van Hees; guitar.

QOPE (pronounced "cope") Nocturnal

During the session, I put up a very strict anti-ego policy. There's already way too many recording engineers and producers that make the whole session about themselves. I personally think it's much more important to be open to the artist not just as artists, but also as people. Brendon Heinst, in correspondence with the reviewer

Nocturnal is a set of concise, minimalist solo piano improvisations notable for clarity and inventiveness. Pianist-composer Bart Koop makes a virtue of simplicity in these eight spontaneous compositions. QOPE's pieces remind me of taking a night-time walk through a familiar neighborhood and noticing small details along the way that you'd never seen before. On first listening to Nocturnal, you might not notice the intentionality and careful preparation behind the gradually-shifting variations on basic harmonic materials, but with repeated exposure you begin to hear the underlying sophistication under the minimalist surface.

Approaching any new work by an unfamiliar composer, I always reach for the liner notes. But in lieu of explanatory commentary, Bart Koop weaves the titles of the eight pieces into a prose poem. "As the dusk falls.... if you could shut down all the streetlights.... return to yourself..." A willingness to let these phrases carry whatever personal meaning they might have offers a key to interpreting Koop's method.

A quote from his bio: "Bart takes his inspiration from the likes of Max Richter, Jóhann Jóhannsson..." led me to the music of Jóhann Jóhannsson, a contemporary Icelandic composer-performer known for his film soundtracks and ambient-minimalist works. Jóhannsson, who died in 2018 at the premature age of 48, drew from the contemplative stream of late-20th century Northern European music, as exemplified in the work of Arvo Pärt. That Jóhannsson could achieve popular success as well as critical acclaim points to the growing impact of new instrumental music that can be understood by non-specialist audiences.

The supportive environment that Brendon Heinst and Maya Fridman offer TRPTK artists is evidenced by the successful recording of Nocturnal live in the studio. The piano sound is well-balanced with generous room ambience, and the music is presented without editing or superfluous enhancement.

The music that Bart Koop shares on this recording, like that of the musicians who inspire him, can be appreciated as a vehicle for quieting the external distractions of the world and the internal obstacles of the mind, and though the performances are rooted in basic harmony, the flow of musical events, like the unfolding of life, is never that simple.

Personnel: Bart Koop; piano.

Coda: Building a Scene in High Resolution

Jazz scenes used to coalesce in 'magnet' cities: New York, Detroit, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Chicago; Paris, Copenhagen, Rome, London and Tokyo; places that offered reasonable rent, sufficient work to support musicians and their families, an audience to support the performance spaces, and record companies to promote the artists through LP sales and radio play. But popular tastes changed, audiences "aged out" and moved to the suburbs, affordable rents grew scarce, and the record industry giants abandoned jazz in pursuit of the most profitable popular music styles.

In the past decade, the Internet, high-speed online access and social media, together with cultural institutions such as jazz foundations, music conservatories and fine arts organizations, have engendered jazz/new music "virtual scenes" that can be accessed by anyone with a fast enough connection. What may be lacking in virtual scenes are unexpected encounters with new ideas, the sense of immediacy, the feeling of being present in the moment of improvisation and innovation.

What TRPTK provides is both a local space for artists based in the Netherlands, and a virtual space in the form of the label's website and blog, for listeners at a distance. The cultural capital of any small jazz or new music label is the quality of its artists' production, and the confidence of label customers that the selection of new original music by unfamiliar artists will be curated with a consistent and recognizable aesthetic. The four albums reviewed in this column represent only a portion of TRPTK's output, and it is a hopeful sign that their catalog has grown steadily.

TRPTK's recordings are available in a range of resolutions on the label's website, and distributed in standard resolution on CD and download formats by this site's sponsors.

Original recordings in multichannel DXD. Downloads in stereo and MCH in DXD, DSD 64, 128 and 256, PCM 24/192, 24/96 and 24/44.1, CD and USB drive.

Albums in this review were downloaded in stereo 24/192.
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