Daily Archives: January 19, 2009

Friedrich W. Sixel review


Peter Van Huffel / Sophie Tassignon – Hufflignon (CF 126)

The CD “Hufflignon” truly reflects – as the title suggests – a synthesis between the musical minds of Peter van Huffel, the established Canadian saxophonist, and Sophie Tassignon, the extraordinary Belgian vocalist. Nine of the 10 tracks on this release are by Sophie (6) and Peter (3), while one of them takes off from a theme by Vivaldi, namely his “Cum Dederit” which I believe has been taken from his “Nisi Dominus”, (Ps.126), in G-major, RV op. 608.

The music on this release is clearly different from other Jazz presentations. The melody lines, the syncopation and the crystallization of sounds particularly in the tutti are so innovative that “Hufflignon” simply takes Jazz to an entirely new level.

Most of the 10 tracks begin with the statement of an often times simple theme, taken up by someone else in the group and then carried into largely unexpected, yet surprisingly plausible directions. Right from the first track, it becomes clear that trombone and bass, i.e. Samuel Blaser and Michael Bates respectively, are much more than mere accompanists in this quartet; they are contributors of equal musicianship. Their unique play is an integral element in the creation of musically identifiable structures out of what might otherwise strike some listeners as threatening chaos. In fact, all four instruments of “Hufflignon”, and that includes Sophie’s voice, go their own individual ways, but they do so by carefully listening to one another. So each one in the group is a trigger for, and a connector between free flows of musical streams. Occasionally, though, this free flow comes close to the traditional “Liedform” of ABA, e.g. in “Duo (Kobenhavn)” and in “I love you, too”. In a very unique way, this also applies to pieces that take off from almost pre-musical noises, lead then to slowly evolving melodies and end up again with noises reminiscent of aching if not crying. On the present CD the example for such a structure is “The Sad Imposing Tree”.

On average, the pieces are rather short. The longest one is “Duo (Kobenhavn)” with a bit over 7 minutes, while the shortest one is, ironically (?), “The Hours” with 2’, 35”. Given that in many branches of music, and also in Jazz, pieces drag on and on, although everything necessary is said and done, I see the brevity of the tracks on “Hufflignon” as an expression of the desire to be concise. Let us remember that the presentation of a musical idea takes Richard Wagner oftentimes 20 to 30 minutes, while Bach does the same (and more) in just 5.

The music of Peter and his friends does not even remotely make an attempt to preach. It does not advocate or propagate any philosophy or ideology. For example: this music does not preach freedom, this music is freedom. While it unfolds, it celebrates the simultaneity of individuality and togetherness. To the extent that each of these four musicians enjoys to hear and to appropriate what the other one(s) is doing, they enact in their music what unity in diversity is all about. We need more of that and need it in every aspect of life. So: when do we get the next installment from “Hufflignon” ?

All About Jazz review by Troy Collins


The Flatlands Collective – Maatjes (CF 127)
Named for the geographic similarity between the American Mid-West and the Netherlands, the Flatlands Collective is a mid-sized ensemble of Chicago-based musicians operating under the leadership of Dutch saxophonist and electronics manipulator Jorrit Dijkstra. A seamless integration of nostalgic European melodies, futuristic minimalism, and spontaneous free jazz, Dijkstra’s cantilevered compositions unveil layers of detailed nuance on Maatjes, the sophomore effort of this international collective.

The ensemble’s core line-up is virtually unchanged since their debut, Gnomade (Skycap, 2006). Clarinetist James Falzone, trombonist Jeb Bishop, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, and bassist Jason Roebke make return appearances, with drummer Tim Mulvenna replaced by Frank Rosaly. Some of the Windy City’s finest improvisers, these internationally astute Chicagoans handle Dijkstra’s mercurial Dutch aesthetic with empathetic aplomb, trafficking in a wild and wooly blend of harmonious free improvisation.

Dijkstra’s multifaceted writing employs elements of free improvisation, yet generally embraces conventional tonal centers that are more melodious than dissonant. Inspired by the seminal work of Steve Reich, Terry Riley, and LaMonte Young, “Partially Overdone” and “In D Flat Minor” each explore a different aspect of the minimalist tradition. The former unfolds at a glacial pace, ushering in waves of dense, chromatic overtones. The later knits interlocking segments into a hypnotic contrapuntal theme, spotlighting the leader’s intervallic alto—enhanced by a buzzing sheet metal mute.

Unveiling opulent harmonies, “Micro Mood” revels in the honeyed melodies of the old-world while “The Gate” and “Druil” each paint atmospheric tone poems; one portrays San Francisco at night, the other Dijkstra’s homeland.

Exploring more assertive territory, “Phil’s Tesora” features a rousing anthem that careens with rock-like intensity over quicksilver rhythms, while the muscular dirge “Mission Rocker” vacillates in pitch and dynamics. The rambunctious improvisation “Maatjes 2” is even more intense, pitting acoustic and electric instruments against one another in a torrid bout of call and response.

While all of the members of the collective make stirring contributions, it is the leader’s fervid alto and analog synthesizer that make the greatest impressions. Dijkstra pairs his Lyricon synth with Lonberg-Holm’s EFX pedals, conjuring undulating waves of feedback and crackling noise loops, most notably on the groovy Sun Ra dedication, “Scirocco Song.”

Tuneful yet adventurous, Maatjes reveals the missing link between Chicago jazz and the famously capricious Dutch jazz scene. Dijkstra’s Flatlands Collective is a vision of the future of jazz, today.