Tag Archives: Michael Bates

March / April tour dates for Hufflignon

If you’re close, don’t miss it.

Huffligon is:
Peter Van Huffel – saxophone
Sophie Tassignon – voice
Samuel Blaser – trombone
Michael Bates – bass

Tuesday, March 24th – B-Flat, Berlin, Germany
Friday, March 27th – AMR, Geneva, Switzerland
Tuesday, March 31st – Altefeuerwache, Mannheim, Germany
Thursday, April 2nd – Stockwerk Jazz, Graz, Austria
Friday, April 3rd – Unterfahrt, Munich, Germany
Saturday, April 4th – Jazz Studio Nuernberg, Nuernberg, Germany

All About Jazz review by Wilbur MacKenzie

cf-126Braff / Blaser Duo – YaY (Fresh Sound-New Talent)
Peter Van Huffel/Sophie Tassignon – Hufflignon (CF 126) 

Trombonist Samuel Blaser has been making a name for himself for the last few years, building a reputation for inventive improvisations and inspired virtuosity. He has been in constant motion, splitting his time between New York and his adopted Germany, having found his way to the States via a Fulbright Scholarship. He has been active as a composer and bandleader, with a wonderful quartet release on the Between The Lines label and more material on the way from Clean Feed. Blaser is also active as a sideman, working with artists as disparate as Dub pioneer Lee “Scratch” Perry and the legendary avant-big band the Vienna Art Orchestra. Blaser’s proficient and creative playing is featured on two great recent discs, one led by saxist Peter Van Huffel and the other featuring the duo of Blaser and Brazilian pianist Malcolm Braff.

One might expect a piano/trombone duo to be dominated by lyricism and melody, with perhaps little more than a passing flare for rhythmic intrigue. However, on YaY, detailed rhythmic framework takes the listener down an unexpected but assured path, full of momentum and drive, while never straying far from tonality. Braff was raised in Dakar, Senegal and the multifaceted rhythmic layering of West African music distinguishes the duo’s approach. Blaser and Braff evoke percussion traditions on pieces like Braff’s title track and “Yele,” while nodding towards American jazz and gospel music on tunes like their very buoyant take on Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” and Blaser’s soulful “Uncle Sam”. Braff’s prepared piano and Blaser’s extended trombone vocabularies expand the textural palette, while at the same time highlighting the rhythmic aspects of the duo’s interactions. At times, the sonic density and variance in texture are so striking, it sounds like there are more than two musicians. The interactions remain nuanced and intricate, with sublimely delicate moments balanced with a general penchant for pursuant momentum.

Saxophonist Peter Van Huffel and vocalist Sophie Tassignon’s new release, Hufflignon, features compositions by both musicians, brought to life by an unusual quartet of trombone, woodwinds, voice and contrabass. Huffel and Blaser are often teamed up with intricately-voiced melodies, while bassist Michael Bates alternates between foundational support, textural bowing and thoughtful melodic statements. Tassignon’s singing is quite versatile; on more structured pieces like “Thoughts And Memories” and the opener, “Dégringolade,” she exhibits horn-like melodic and rhythmic dexterity, while at other times her voice wanders through a labyrinthine maze of amorphous syllabic abstractions. Two examples of the latter approach include “Landscape (morning)” and “The Sad Imposing Tree,” both of which provide wonderfully abstract sound worlds. That isn’t to say that the music is at all dualistic; rather, the abstractions and melodies react nicely together, creating a unified sonic environment that moves freely between steady pulse and more introspective arrangements of sound. Tassignon’s piece “Nervous Breakdown” veers closer to the careening chamber improvisation of the Paul Bley/Steve Swallow-era Jimmy Giuffre 3, with a dexterous solo from Blaser. Van Huffel’s playing throughout is richly nuanced, with melody and texture seamlessly integrated to create colorful and evocative statements.

All About Jazz review by Vittorio Lo Conte

cf-1261Peter van Huffel – Sophie Tassignon – Hufflignon (CF 126)
Peter van Huffel, sassofonista canadese e la cantante belga Sophie Tassignon hanno deciso di mettere su un quartetto e di andare in studio, a New York, firmando un lavoro riuscito, meditato e con un attento equilibrio dei suoni.
La Tassignon padroneggia sia il repertorio antico (un’appassionata versione di “Cum dederit” di Vivaldi) che i vocalizzi sperimentali sdoganati da cantanti come Lauren Newton. Gridi, mormorii, tutto, ma proprio tutto, il possibile della voce umana viene esplorato in modo logico, in dialogo con un sassofono che ha imparato ad esprimersi con un lirismo intenso e con i due compagni d’avventura: il pulsante basso di Michael Bates ed il trombone di Samuel Blaser dai mille borbottii, ma anche abile ad inseguire momenti molto puliti con Peter van Huffel.

Si gradiscono la struttura dei brani, la logica ed una cantante che sa mettersi al servizio dell’esecuzione, molto abile nel rifiutare il ruolo di Primadonna, ma allo stesso tempo capace di improvvisare con molta naturalezza insieme agli altri, in discorsi che, nonostanti la lingua sconosciuta, appaiono abbastanza compiuti.

Rendono l’avanguardia quasi familiare, con gli assoli dei fiati che vanno su coordinate senza troppe note fuori registro. Ma lei, Sophie, è la vera rivelazione, un nome da cui c’è da aspettarsi ancora tanto. Verso la fine del disco, “I Love You Too,” “The Hours,” ha anche modo di firmare un paio di brani sì sperimentali, che meritano un solo aggettivo: emozionanti.

Temporary Fault review by Massimo Ricci

cf-126Peter Van Huffel / Sophie Tassignon – Hufflignon (CF 126)
Hufflignon is the result produced by a group led by Canadian saxophonist Peter Van Huffel and Belgian vocalist Sophie Tassignon flanked by trombonist Samuel Blaser and bassist Michael Bates. Van Huffel, in this instance on alto and soprano, is the owner of a sophisticated technique and a suavely faultless tone that Tassignon is all too eager to stimulate in scores including problematic dissonant lines that the couple approaches either in unison or in intertwining keenness. She doesn’t possess what one might define an immediately identifiable timbre, but is technically unyielding and, what’s best, tending to set the vocal parts at the service of the compositions instead of doing what the large part of jazz singers do, namely looking for sunny spots where worn out bebop trickery rapidly drowns the listener in thick tediousness. Blaser’s stout phrasing, in addition to his purposeful soloism, shifts the axis of the pieces towards more eccentric environments at times, while Bates’ bass is genuinely reactive to the changes in the general perspective, certifying the functionality of the quartet under any condition (never overly extreme, though). Except for a rendition of Antonio Vivaldi’s “Cum Dederit” which smells a bit of filling material (let me admit it – he’s not a composer I particularly love), the record reveals interesting manners for voice and reeds to work side by side in such a kind of framework. In spite of a not excessive degree of audacity in devising truly pioneering strategies, it constitutes a pretty convincing option against the abundance of rather irrelevant voice-based jazz recordings.

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” ?