Dutch Jazz & World Meeting 2012: October 5-6, 2012
Following New York Times jazz journalist Ben Ratliffe's intriguing keynote speech on how changes in the way music can be accessed are changing the way we listen to it, participating on a panel about the challenges for Dutch musicians to get work in the United States, and time spent checking out a variety of labels and artists in the Info Market, it was time to hit the afternoon series of showcases in one of two rooms at the Conservatory: the darker, more intimate Blue Note and brighter Sweelinckzaal.
Since releasing its 2010 debut, Levantasy (Kepera Records), the Kepera Trio, with guest Yoram Lachish, has been exploring what it calls "East-West Intercultural Adventures in Music." While its purview is different, the quartetnow also called Levantasyhas at least some roots in the music of longtime panculturalist group Oregon, at least from a textural perspective. With Lachish playing oboe, English horn and ethnic instruments that, in the group's DJ&WM showcase, included the Hebrew shofar (ram's horn), the connection to Oregon's reed multi-instrumentalist Paul McCandless was hard to ignore, though Lachish was, of course, a completely different playeras was the rest of the group, despite the Kepera Trio's Rembrandt Frerichs (piano), Tony Overwater (double bass) and Vinsent Planjer (drums/percussion) mirroring the American group in configuration.
But that's where the similarities ended. Showcase performances are inherently challenging for musiciansperforming in sometimes brightly lit rooms like the Conservatory's Sweelinckzaal, oftentimes in the middle of the afternoon, and for at most 30 minutesand so they must be assessed on a different set of merits. Obviously the quality of the performance is key; but so, too, is whether or not the group manages to get exactly what it is across in so short a time. Despite its short duration, Levantasy's showcase managed to highlight the individual strengths of its four members, while also making clear the delineation of the group and why it should be considered by presenters as a possible group to bring to events around the world.
The 35 year-old Frerichs also leads his own trio (which also includes Planjer), with its latest CD, Continental (Challenge, 2012) released earlier in the year. With classical music a significant touchstone for the Edison-nominated pianist, here his elegant touch and open ears were directed towards a more global purview, meshing seamlessly with Lachish's similar blend of virtuosic intent and underlying lyricism. Overwater, who also works with saxophonist Yuri Honing (to perform later that evening), proved both firm anchor and melodic foil, with his late-in-the-set bass solo but one of a number of highlights to the group's short performance. Planjerstill recovering from a broken shoulder, though you'd know itcombined gently textured pulses on his kit with the goblet drum tombak.
Working primarily on English horn, Lachish explained the significance of the shofarall the more meaningful to the Israeli, with the Jewish High Holidays having just concludedprior to Levantasy closing its set on a high note, with a compelling blend of middle eastern tonalities, impressionistic tendencies, soft rhythms and, most importantly, in-the-moment spontaneity.
If Levantasy was gentle, melodic and impressionistic, Pumporgan rocked out with a hard edge, in-your-face kind of expressionism. A quintet with a clear touchstone in the avant-edged, freewheeling music of Captain Beefheart, Pumporgan was led by bass guitarist/alto saxophonist Dirk Bruinsma, who composes the group's music. Also featuring guitarist/bassist Jeroen Kimman, organist Wilbert Bulsink, baritone saxophonist Christian Ferlaino and drummer Nout Ingen Housz, the group's performance blended quirky, episodic writing with "where's the one" mixed-metered rhythms, commanding attention with a combination of punk attitude and unfettered improvisational abandon.
One of the highlights of DJ&WM 2010 was saxophonist Jasper Blom's quartet set with guitarist Jesse van Ruller, performing material from the recently released Dexterity (Mainland, 2010). That quartet has a new release, the third in the triptych, Gravity (Mainland, 2012), but for DJ&WM 2012 the focus turned to van Ruller and one of his own projects, the appropriately named Chamber Tones Trio. Also featuring Vienna Art Orchestra clarinetist/bass clarinetist Joris Roelofs and double bassist Clemens van der Feen (heard at DJ&WM 2010 with pianist Harmen Fraanje), the group's sophomore release, The Ninth Planet (C-String, 2012) is just out, following Chambertones (C-String, 2010).
With its lineup, it was hard not to think of reed multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Giuffre's mid-1950s trio with guitarist Jim Hall and bassist Ralph Pena, a comparison made all the more vivid by Ruller's clean, hollowbody tone. Still, while never wasting a note, van Ruller is an overall busier player than the more spartan Hall, and his ability to create an unrelenting sense of forward motion, bringing together propulsive single-note lines and chordal support in ways that most groups would require two guitarists to execute, made him a clear focal point for the trio. Knotty motifs, sometimes mirrored in unison by all three players, combined with surprisingly strong grooves for a set that was one DJ&WM 2012's clear high points. The entire trio is strong, but it's van Rullera leader in his own right with a surprisingly large discography for someone so relatively young (having just turned 40 this year)who was the most eminently impressive member, a true virtuoso who never sacrificed spontaneous compositional focus in his solos for excess technical wizardry.