RUBICON QUARTET

RUBICON QUARTET’s ‘Crosscurrents’ album continues to receive exposure and praise for its unique character. Canada’s JAZZWORD, led by the mighty pen of Ken Waxman, wrote a lovely review on the interaction between two generations of free impro musicians. The album is of course still available here and here.

“Tonal cross fertilization with collaborative strategies of several generations of European improvisers means that these session hold interest throughout. The main difference is between following a mix and match among countries and ensembles or seeing how quartet members from one country but different ages, articulate particular intonation.

The Rubicon Quartet is split between two participants in the first wave of Belgian Free Jazz and two contemporary players. The younger ones are guitarist Dirk Serries and pianist Martina Verhoeven, both of whom have worked with sympathetic associates like Colin Webster. The Flemish veterans are trumpeter Patrick De Groote, who after a hiatus now plays with Chris Joris; and alto saxophonist Cel Overberghe, also a painter, known for his association with Fred Van Hove.

Crosscurrents is also more all-encompassing since each Rubicon Quartet member plays on every track. Serries’ rustling guitar strokes and Verhoeven’s vibrating pumps or clicks usually maintain the narratives or engage in round robin dialogue with the horns. Sometimes in harmony, but more often in contrapuntal resistance, Overberghe’s near screeches flutter with the same intensity as De Groote’s brassy overrides. Additionally one or both regularly confer with guitar strums and/or pedal-pushed keyboard echoes. Not every exchange is spiky however, with “Airs Out”, for instance, taking on a balladic tinge as breathy reed slurs and capillary swells evolve chromatically beside paced timbres from the piano and guitar.

Most tracks are more discursive, but without upsetting the general andante interchange flow. Kinetic asides and wood slapping from the pianist and clanging strums or string pops from the guitarist are expressed, but the veterans’ round-robin creations are more pronounced by sheer volume. Aggressive, speedy bugling mixed with intermittent key percussion and reed honks characterize “A Figurative Flow”, while the concluding “Caught a Flying Ghost” may be the closest track to 1960s Energy Music. Not only does the tune begin with rough brass splatters fastened onto pounding piano runs and clanging guitar strums, but in its penultimate sequence Overberghe suddenly extrudes a cousin to Albert Ayler’s “Ghosts” that with flattement and split tones maintains ragged pitches to the end.” Jazzword – Canada

Our online label event

On March 20th we celebrated, under the strange circumstances of the ongoing pandemic, an online label event. An event only made possible by the support of the Flemish government. JAZZ A PARIS wrote a nice report on our online festival.

“Une soirée spéciale d’improvisation libre a été organisée le 20 mars par New Wave of Jazz  et diffusée en direct sur FaceBook et YouTube. En ces temps de confinement, il n’était malheureusement pas question que cela se passe en public ni que les musiciens voyagent pour se rencontrer. C’est ainsi que les cinq concerts se sont déroulés en Belgique et à Londres : le premier en solo, les quatre autres en duos.

Le musicien en solo est Alan Wilkinson, particulièrement remarqué dans un trio rugueux et incandescent avec le batteur Paul Hession et le bassiste Simon H. Fell. Quelques albums en attestent, mais sa notoriété ne s’arrête pas là. Je vous invite à consulter sa page Bandcamp https://alanwilkinson.bandcamp.com

Il nous offre là deux solos, le premier à la clarinette basse, le second au sax alto. Dans le premier, ce sont les entrailles de la clarinette basse qui sont fouillées, des sons multiples, des harmoniques instables, des granulations changeantes autour d’une même note, un quasi drone creusant des tréfonds graves et d’où s’échappent quelques suraigüs. À mi parcours, Alan Wilkinson retrouve en partie sa rage coutumière, sa verve, ses déchirement rugueux et véhéments pour finir en explorant de courts segments presque mélodiques, répétés, triturés pour en extraire des matériaux encore enfouis. 

Au sax alto, des quasi interjections, des attaques brutales, des phrases ultra courtes, des sons rugueux, quelques vrilles obsédées, des suraigüs irrépressibles, de rares accents voilés, presque doux mais le plus souvent, le sax est un combat. Il finit sur un cri abrupt.

C’est enregistré par Colin Webster, l’un des musicien de la soirée, et par Taran Singh à qui l’on doit une belle émission d’actualité discographique : Taran’s Free Jazz Hour http://www.taransfreejazzhour.org diffusée en Grande Bretagne, en France, en Belgique  et aux USA, émission bilingue disponible sur son site, en podcast, sur YouTube etc. Un merveilleux activiste.

Pour la suite, déplacement à Anderlecht pour le duo piano-bugle (puis trompette ). Un jeu en forme de questions-réponses où Patrick de Groote lance ses attaques fulgurantes auquel le piano de Martina Verhoeven fait écho ou qu’il vient ponctuer. Une séquence tonique faite d’éclats, de cris éraillés d’un coté, de grands tremblements, de ruissellements ou de quasi percussions de l’autre. Comme un espace sculpté au couteau. Lorsque de Groote se saisit de sa trompette, lorsqu’il décide de se passer de la sourdine, le son gagne en brutalité, en largeur du spectre de timbres, en attaques véhémentes. Il retrouve le bugle d’abord avec sourdine, puis sans pour ces échanges serrés avec le clavier. Enfin quelques éruptions avec la trompette, bouchée ou pas avant de nous quitter.

Benedict Taylor avait participé à l’album d’Ivo Perelman « Strings and Voices Project » . On le retrouve en excellente compagnie avec Tom Jackson à la clarinette. Subtilité et fluidité de d’un coté, gourmandise insatiable et flexibilité de l’autre, ils nous offrent des espaces d’intenses plaisirs, de tourbillons enfiévrés, des phases d’accalmie aux strates multiples, des entrelacements fascinants. Un moment fort.

Un autre duo, à cordes cette fois, réunit Peter Jacquemyn (b) et Dirk Serries (g). Ils nous entraînent d’emblée dans un flux intense, rageur. Une contagion des phrases, des impulsions. Puis des pépiements saisissants sur la basse, des crépitements exacerbés sur la guitare, tout un vocabulaire surprenant nous mène dans une sorte de transe . Quelques grands coups d’archets graves et lents ouvrent une phase nouvelle du dialogue. À déguster.

Retour à Londres avec le duo Colin Webster (as) & Andrew Lisle (dm). Nous avions déjà croisé la route du saxophoniste avec l’album « Saxophone Anatomy ». Il anime par ailleurs un label consacré à l’improvisation (Raw Tonk) . Ici, on retrouve ses phrases très courtes, aux limites parfois de l’interjection, son engagement de tous les instants, l’urgence de son propos. Il est servi par une batterie qui déverse ses éboulements ininterrompus, parfois en reprenant le phrasé du sax. Ils ont bien des choses à dire dans leur 30 minutes de musique !

Ces 2h30 de musique attestent d’une très belle vitalité de la scène de l’improvisation, en dépit des circonstances contraignantes actuelles. Elle souligne aussi une certaine connivence entre les deux rives.”

First reviews

We just received the first reviews for our 3 new releases. Netherlands’ VITAL WEEKLY wrote down some impressions. Don’t forget to pre-order your cd bundle at the irresistible price of 35 EUR (shipping included) here or here.

“Keeping things small this time, with only three new releases by A New Wave Of Jazz from Belgium and on the first one, there is electric guitar player Arvind Ganga, of whom I heard before and Riccardo Marogna, on tenor saxophone, bass clarinet and electronics. He is one half of Sho Shin Duo (Vital Weekly 1019), but I didn’t review that one. I do vaguely remember being present at an event where Ganga and Marogna were also playing, but did I see that? I honestly don’t remember. They are from the city of The Hague and have been active in the city’s improvised music scene with some occasional release. They have seven tracks here, recorded in The Hague in 2018, use T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ as a “touchstone”,
whatever that may constitute, and the interaction between both players is great. While the music is all improvised, and there is no escaping that fact, there is an interaction between them that results, at times, in some mysterious music. In ‘Oed’ und leer das Meer’ (“a phrase borrowed by Eliot from Wagner’s ‘Tristan Und Isolde'”) there are a few of these moments, and that’s just opening tracks. The electronics used doesn’t take the sound of the instruments into something entirely different, but add another layer of sound to the existing sound. Both players aren’t afraid to employ a more traditional tune, chord or melody in their work together and, right next to uses metallic brushes upon snares and pieces of tin foil rattling against the wind instruments. It is that mixture of what we know and the venture into the unknown that makes this a very fine release.

My first encounter with the music of Pierre Gerard wasn’t something I enjoyed very much (see Vital Weekly 1243), as I have very little interest in the super silent approach to music (Lopez’ early work, Bernard Günther et al), so I was a little reluctant to play his latest work. I am not sure, but this might be the first time that a release by this label doesn’t mention any instruments. The previous one used “guitar, electronics, object, abstract voice with _ into environment”, so who knows, maybe here too? There are five pieces here, of which four are over eleven minutes and the longest fifteen, with in the middle a brief piece of three and a half minute. The role of silence on this release is a lot smaller than on the first one I heard (Gerard has more releases, but mostly in very small editions). Also, I would think he just plays acoustic guitar here. Gerard plays what I would call ‘small music’. Up close to the microphone, he plays the strings individually, most of the time and very occasionally there is a small strum. This is music that is akin to that of Taku Sugimoto, but, oddly enough, with less silence (!) between the notes and fits what could be perceived as Wandelweiser music. Small, individual sounds, seemingly randomly played on the guitar, without any hurry, without much drama, and very minimal, without being repetitive. I have no idea if Gerard plays his music with some Zen-like notion, even when the silent approach of before seemed to hint at such a thing, this release too is best be enjoyed with the mind being as empty as possible, sit back and let it all just happen, not in the ambient sense, full-immersive drone sound, but as quiet events taking place and enjoy this with a general sense of quietness.

And something completely different is the double CD by label boss Dirk Serries on acoustic guitar and Alan Wilkinson on bass clarinet, baritone & alto saxophones and voice. The latter just a bit. This is from these three releases the one that is the most firmly based in free improvisation/free jazz, even more than the one by Ganga and Marogna, which seems
to have a level of control and discussion. Here the discussion is the music between two players. It is quite a radical release, with things being very acoustic but with some distance, unlike Gerard’s music, which seems very close and intimate. The first contains eight studio recordings and the second a live recording from January 2020 in London. There seems to be some difference between the studio and the live approach of the duo. In the studio there is some control, some reservation perhaps and in the live situation they find it easier to go all the way, especially Wilkinson has an expressive voice here, and Serries has, at times, problems to keep up; no doubt, also because of the different volume levels that both instruments can produce. Maybe in the studio, the balance can artificially be corrected? Comparing both discs, I am slightly in favour of the studio disc, and precisely for that reason of being able to hear both instruments on a more equal level, but also because of the
variation in approaches here, ranging from wild to intimate and chaotic to almost structured, with both players having excellent control over their respective instruments.” Vital Weekly – The Netherlands 

The Art Of The Solo II

On February 2nd and 3rd this year the flawless SUNNY SIDE INC. studio in Anderlecht (Belgium), where most of our releases are being recorded, brought together an array of interesting solo musicians. From more straightforward jazz and classic to the more extreme free improvisation. DIRK SERRIES was invited to perform a solo piece on February 3rd. The whole event was streamed live on facebook but now we published his contribution on our youtube channel. Visit the Sunny Side Inc. studio here or browse through our catalogue for those albums which were recorded there. Enjoy.

Three new releases

We are delighted to share the news we’re releasing three new albums on our label.  Now in pre-order till April 30th, 2021 for a beautiful bundle price of 35 EUR (incl. postage worlwide). Order here or on our bandcamp.
Check them out here below.

ARVIND GANGA AND RICCARDO MAROGNA – BALLADS FROM THE WRECKED SHIP (cd)

Arvind Ganga and Riccardo Marogna are no strangers to letting their imagination run free. Both are part of the small but creative scene of The Hague in the Netherlands, the former a guitarist continually expanding his stylistic and sonic range, the second one a musician, curator, researcher and instrument builder also looking for new modes of expression.  Using T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land as a touchstone, the musicians create a highly unusual interconnection with electric guitar, woodwind instruments, objects and electronics. One that is as spontaneous and imaginative as it is hypnotic and focused. “Oed’ und leer das Meer,” a phrase that Eliot borrowed from Wagner’s Tristan Und Isolde, gets an apt musical fit here, one that reflects the desolation and emptiness of the ocean with a carefully balanced interaction that withholds its destructive powers, hiding behind layers of semi-ritualistic trance, only to (threaten to) derail in the second half.  Elsewhere, the lines become more jagged, the temperaments more restless, with the instruments taking on animalistic properties, reacting to each other in unpredictable ways and adding tension by distorting clarity or grotesquely inflating intimate whispers. The physical meets the ethereal and the abstract completes the ‘figurative’. It moves beyond harmony, melody, rhythm and preset structures, sculpting with unusual shapes and sounds instead. And it forms a cohesive whole; free and unpredictable, yet filled with the satisfying agreement of a meaningful discussion. It grants Ballads From The Wrecked Ship that enviable balance, one that matches imagination and impact with natural candor.” Guy Peters 

Arvind Ganga Electric guitar, objects Riccardo Marogna Tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, electronics Recorded at Helicopter, The Hague (NL) on November 9th – 10th 2018. Mastered at the Sunny Side Inc. Studio, Anderlecht (Belgium)

PIERRE GERARD – PIECES OF APPARATUS (cd) “Pierre Gerard is the kind of artist whose work you discover by accident or association. The man has produced a substantial discography, but for the most part it was released on smallish – by now often defunct – labels or by himself, usually in very limited editions. Several of those homemade releases appeared in runs of only 21 copies. You might call him a minimalist, free improviser, or reductionist, but most of all, an intuitive creator. He is also a visual artist, which might explain his attention to gestures, assemblage and a careful sense of architecture, even in his free improvisations. It is often said that minimal music is as much about what isn’t there as it is about what is. While that might be true, you also risk, by stressing the process of omission, to devalue the impact and expressive power of what is actually there. Ideally, it is a two-way interaction, with both silence and sound providing context, contrast and a meaningful dialogue. Pieces Of Apparatus is a pertinent example in case.” Guy Peters 

Improvised & recorded in January 2019 by Pierre Gerard. Mastered at the Sunny Side Inc. Studio, Anderlecht (Belgium)

ALAN WILKINSON & DIRK SERRIES – ONE IN THE EYE (2cd)
  “Sound is abstract, so why not embrace that, and focus on the range of sounds, extended techniques, density, dynamics and the here and now. With its suggestive ‘song’ titles and variety of approaches, One In The Eye is an interesting example to consider. Despite some earlier creative encounters, a few of which were previously released by this label, Alan Wilkinson and Dirk Serries interact with an openness that fully embraces this ‘arena in which to act’. Verging from a pugilistic physicality to restrained sound exploration, the album demonstrates a willingness to try out diverse approaches. It combines studio recordings with live material, captured not even two months apart, and even though the live improvisations are more extended, the album is a remarkably cohesive one. With Serries on acoustic guitar, it also requires both musicians to adapt. Wilkinson can produce quite a voluminous racket, but here he is a remarkably versatile improviser, often working with rhythm, repetition, extended techniques and dynamics, displaying an indebtedness to some of jazz’s old school heroes while delving into sheer abstraction as well. And you will love his Howlin’ Wolf impression! The musicians obviously relish the possibilities of the moment, working with their material and instruments, but also with each other’s responses. Their method doesn’t offer classic examples of transparent dialogue or imitation (God forbid!), but instead works with simultaneous action that occasionally might be abrasive, but also uses space, flow and consensus. And that’s why One In The Eye, despite its fickle character, is an event that most of all impresses with its unreserved glee; the joy of making music together, from scratch.” Guy Peters  

Alan Wilkinson bass clarinet, baritone and also saxophones, voice Dirk Serries acoustic guitars Disc 1 : performed, recorded, mixed and mastered at the Sunny Side Inc. Studio, Anderlecht (Belgium) on November 29th 2019. Disc 2 : live in concert at A New Wave Of Jazz festival, Hundred Years Gallery (London, UK) on January 22nd 2020, recorded and mixed by Martin Clarke. Mastered at the Sunny Side Inc. Studio, Anderlecht (Belgium)