Alex Maguire Sextet: Brewed in Belgium (2008)
While calling them a pick-up band would be unfairly dismissive, the members of Belgium's The Wrong Object sure do get around. Since 2007, in addition to its own Stories from the Shed (Moonjune, 2008), TWO has collaborated with British trombonist Annie Whitehead and trumpeter Harry Beckett on Platform One (Jazzprint, 2007), and Elton Dean on The Unbelievable Truth (Moonjune, 2007)one of the British saxophonist's last performances before his unexpected passing in February, 2006. Brewed in Belgium continues the group's winning streak of stylistic breadth, this time with keyboardist Alex Maguire at the helm.
Maguire's teaming with saxophonist Robin Verheyen and four-fifths of TWOguitarist Michel Delville, trumpeter Jean-Paul Estievenart, bassist Damien Polard, and drummer Laurent Delchambremakes perfect sense. The keyboardist worked regularly with Dean in his last years, including the collaborative group Psychic Warrior (Hux, 2003) and the saxophonist's Moorsong (Cuneiform, 2001). Maguire opens this live set with a lengthy and largely solo revisitation of his elegant but oddly titled ballad, &quot;Psychic Warrior.&quot; Best known, perhaps, for his organ/synth work, here he proves himself an equally compelling pianist, combining hints of Bill Evans with, at times, greater drama and unexpected flourishes.
The sextet gradually enters during the song's final moments, segueing into the 9/4, riff-driven groove of "John's Fragment," from Moorsong, with Maguire adding organ to the mix. A simple thematic premise but a set-up for powerful solos by Verheyen and Estievenart, over a turbulent foundation where Delville's synth guitar comingles with Maguire's equally outre accompaniment. Incredible though it may seem, given Dean's free jazz proclivities, this version of "John's Fragment" is far looser and open-ended than the original.
The fifteen minute-long "Saturn," Brewed in Belgium's longest track, explores a singular bass riff, with Maguire and the entire group drawing a clear line to the music Soft Machine was making during its Dean years. That periodfrom Third (Columbia, 1970) through Fifth (Columbia, 1972)was vastly influential in its marriage of open-ended improvisation with the energy and electricity of rock. The flexibility demonstrated here would simply not be the same without it. The brief, cued theme of Delville's "Theresa's Dress" was a brief interlude on Stories from the Shed, but here it's extended to nearly ten minutes of free play that gradually intensifies in energy and density as it then dissolves into Maguire's equally oblique "Pumpkin Soup." The group finishes the set with a potent take on Dean's irregular-metered, grooving and often-covered (and often slightly renamed) "Seven for Lee."
Throughout, despite the sextet's collaborative nature, Maguire's near encyclopedic breadth of references make Brewed in Belgium true fusion music. More than just a blending of jazz and rock, he seamlessly brings together seemingly disparate stylistic elements. It must have been exciting to be in the Belgium club that night; thankfully Dutch radio was there to document it and Moonjune's always-watchful Leonardo Pavkovic ready to make Brewed in Belgium available to a wider audience.
Track Listing: Psychic Warrior; John's Fragment; Saturn; Theresa's Dress; Pumpkin Soup; Seven for Lee.
Personnel: Alex Maguire: acoustic piano, synth; Michel Delville: synth guitar; Jean-Paul Estievenart: trumpet, flugelhorn; Robin Verheyen: soprano and tenor saxophone; Damien Polard: bass guitar; Laurent Delchambre: drums.