Flemish Jazz Meeting 2009
The Carlo Nardozza Quintet operated within a much more traditional acoustic jazz framework. The band's trumpeting leader began with a straight-ahead post-bop blowing session, but as electric guitarist Melle Weijters sat in, the band's style gradually stepped sideways into a more modernistic patch, decorated with his embellishments. The presence of saxophonist Daniel Daemen also addded to this sense of adventure.
The subversive tilting of the mainline jazz form continued with pianist Christian Mendoza's group. This Peruvian composer has an individualist touch, filling his solos with subtle ornamentation, never playing one note when five will sound more compelling. His style sounds very natural, but it's not solely stemming from any recognisable jazz lineage. He seeks after the less obvious progressions. His compositions are also quite untethered to any obvious influences, not afraid of minimalist insistency in their themes, as piano and clarinet nag away at an addictive figure.
The Saturday night climax arrived with RadioKuka Orkest, a combo that's led by bassist Kristof Roseeuw, of the Flat Earth Society. Actually, it was reedsman Tom Wouters (also from FES) who came across as the dominant personality in this already unhinged quartet. His surprise switch from clarinet to drumkit dropped their full depth charge, prompting a complete shunt of style from fidgety chamber complexity towards a skitteringly funked momentum. Then, to top this, Wouters jacknifed back into the initial form, forcing the music into a concentrated reprise. It was as if we all had a sharp awakening from a deranged jazz nightmare. What is it with accordions and cellos this weekend? Phillippe Thuriot and Lode Vercampt also excelled.
Enjoyable though the concluding DelVita Group was, these striplings had to endure the trial of following the last pair of particularly creative groups, suffering through just not being dynamic or unusual enough in their fairly routine construction of horns (trombone/tenor saxophone) and rhythm section.
Following the Saturday night rush of excitement, Sunday morning's session was limited to just a pair of after-breakfast acts. First, the South African singer Tutu Puoane led a quartet, sounding better on the songs that spring more obviously from her homeland tradition. She was too mellow for some, even at this early hour of the day. Far more gregarious was the Bart Defoort Quartet, representing the old guard of post-bop jazz. Their whole set charged at full speed and intensity, providing a grizzled lunchtime blow-out that acted as a conclusive emission of pent-up soloing gusto.
If only more countries could set out to encapsulate their jazz scenes in a single weekend of condensed exposure...
The set-lengths were just right to sufficiently grasp each combo's ethos. The approaches varied (although none were truly extreme, in the old-fashioned experimental sense), taking in song, 'scapes, acoustic chamber intimacy, mainstream blowing and ethnic adventuring. Some of Belgium's best-known artists have already been featured in the first two years of this meeting, but there's still no shortage of new or new-ish discoveries to be made. Let's hope some of these combos get to appear on the club and festival scene around the rest of Europe in the coming year.