September-16th-2003, 06:07 AM
skirting the issue
Pascal Schumacher Quartet - Antwerpen 15/09/2003
Before talking about the concert itself, I'll take this opportunity to publicise my blog. I know many of you have been simply dying to read my non-JC english prose (as opposed to my french prose, which is found in abundance on Citizen Jazz), so here you are.
On the blog itself, the following review is augmented by a couple of photographs and is followed by a few other reviews.
Pascal Schumacher - vibraphone
Jef Neve - piano
Christope Devisscher - bass
Teun Verbruggen - drums
My oh my... Three words for last night's concert: energy, energy, energy.
I already knew and appreciated the talents of the Belgian rhythm section, but this was my first encounter with Schumacher, who is from Luxembourg (I didn't ask, but probably no relation to Michael and Ralf, despite a passing resemblance).
I may be over-stating the merits of this concert, as I was sitting within striking distance first of the vibraphone, then of the drums, but rarely have I seen young Belgian jazz musicians play acoustic jazz with this combination of energy, enthusiasm, joy and technique. Take away the lacklustre ballads, of which there were few in the incredible first set, too many in the second: these four guys (their collective age would be somewhere around 100) haven't yet mastered the art of dynamics necessary to make the ballads work. That leaves you with roof-raising, no-holds-barred playing on five or so long tunes. The pleasure they took in their music-making was evident, both visually, in the exchange of looks and smiles, and musically. This quartet is recording in November and I hope that this energy and joy can be captured on tape.
Pascal Schumacher was a very pleasant revelation. I pretty much never see vibraphone players, yet I've seen three in a little over a week: Belgian drummer Jan de Haas (vibraphone is his second instrument) and Frenchman David Patrois. Schumacher was the most fun of the bunch. When using two mallets, he successfully played fast bop-blues lines with soulful touches. I don't know what the dynamic range of the vibraphone is, but I would have liked to have heard a bit more space in his phrasing.
Teun Verbruggen refuses to settle into anything for too long. While paring down would lead to increased clarity and deeper groove (but maturity can wait!), his overflowing ideas and rhythmic shifts are a joy to behold. In the first piece, Satieology by Schumacher, Verbruggen moved easily between 3/4 and 4/4, sometimes super-imposing them. Later on, even when not formally called for, different rhythmic formulas tumbled forth.
Christophe Devisscher suffered from the "seen but not heard" syndrome that affects so many acoustic bassists, but contributed an enjoyably knotty, spikey and inscrutable composition called Chu Chu's Groove. While the bass remained fairly steady, the drums were even more unsettled than usual, with the melodic elements veering towards the abstract.
Jef Neve (interview, in French) was the man last night, for me. I have and enjoy his debut CD, Blue Saga (review (in Fench), which you can purchase at his website when the second pressing is done), but as a sideman he simply took his playing to another level. On a Joe Henderson composition, Neve provided a long, thoroughly awesome solo which started out in a mid-tempo, spare, funky, bluesy and percussive style and built up towards uptempo bop lines brimming with inventivity and playfulness. On another tune, his climax consisted of splintered chordal pounding. Which is not to say that great intelligence and structural elegance where not in play: they were, in spades. On the standard You and the Night and the Music Neve improvised in a Keith Jarrett fashion, throwing out lots of short, semi-abstract boppish lines, with attentive support provided by the rhythm section.
September-16th-2003, 12:20 PM
mke, I'd like to see your blog. so far none of the links has worked for me.
on this one I get: "No response, maybe the server is doen, Try later"
September-16th-2003, 01:02 PM
Your blog worked well for me and I'm interested. Maybe I'll meet You sometimes in the future, the distance should not be the problem.
September-16th-2003, 02:31 PM
skirting the issue
Uli and Hermann, thanks for checking it out.
The link works for me, so try again later.
September-16th-2003, 04:35 PM
Thanks a lot for the review. I never expected to read something about a musician from Luxembourg here There is only a couple of jazz musicians in my country, the bestl known being trumpeter Erny Hammes who plays in the Maynard Ferguson Orchestra.
I must admit that I've never seen Pascal Schumacher live, so I can't comment on his music. Like many European jazz musicians, he has a very eclectic activity and also does teaching
November-20th-2003, 09:52 PM
skirting the issue
Pascal Schumacher Quartet - Brussels, 20/11/2003
Pascal Schumacher - vib
Jef Neve - p
Christophe Devisscher - b
Teun Verbruggen - d
A few days before going into the studio to record their first CD, the quartet went through a trial run in the d'Imprimerie studio's quite nice lobby/bar/performance space. Attentive readers will remember the previous concert I saw of this group. Here, being a trial run, the mood was a bit different: they had decided to try out short versions of the tunes and were thus able to get through 11 compositions. Results were a bit mixed: the energy never reached the explosive levels I witnessed at the Hopper (then again, I'm not sure how well the acoustically bright room would have supported them), but the ballads, such as Schumacher's "Ancil," benefitted greatly from more concentrated and coherent readings. Because of the shorter lengths, the trademark thunderous climaxes were perhaps rushed and ended up feeling a bit forced and mechanical rather than natural and organic releases.
There were, however, a number of highlights, such as Devisscher's "Goodbye Little Godfather," which opened with Verbruggen playing drums with his fingers and Neve strumming the piano strings, all this so softly that you could also hear him tap his fingers against the top of the piano. I badly needed to cough, but held it in so as not to risk breaking the mood. Then came the concert-ending "When Spring Begins," a happy and dynamic poppish Neve composition, on which, half-way through his solo, Schumacher dropped two of his four mallets into the piano to play fast but highly melodic lines, wonderfully supported by Neve's simple pop/gospelly/bluesy chords. Neve's solo started off with one hand providing the basis for 3-way amusement, with many breaks for bass or drums. Earlier on, on "Pink Coffee," another Neve composition, the pianist showed a bit of his "entertainer" side, standing up in throes of ecstasy, then crashing back down on his bench as the solo ended. To end the first set, the quartet played a very surprising re-arrangement and re-harmonisation of "Summertime" (a warhorse if ever there was one), adding a new motif that continued through much of the arrangement. My hope for the recording sessions and subsequent CD, is that they strike a good balance between those songs that benefitted from the concision displayed tonight and those that need to be stretched out and blown to bits, energy-wise. It is great fun watching this group play together, as they are all visibly happy to be making music together, and I hope that that spirit can be transferred to tape.
After the first concert, I commented that "Teun Verbruggen refuses to settle into anything for too long," but tonight he was far less jumpy - and it worked just as well. A great pleasure was being able to actually hear Devisscher, as he is an impressive player. You'd never guess he started out in heavy-metal bands!
Jef Neve told me that he was planning to record his second CD in February (the follow-up to the excellent Blue Saga) and mentioned some interesting-sounding experimentation the trio is working on (Jef: have you heard Michel Bisceglia's "Second Breath"? And have you talked with Pierre Van Dormael?). While he's an extremely exciting pianist, his composing skills continue to impress me just as much, as they are tuneful, original and interesting. A short new tune played tonight called "Blues For Mr. S" (I didn't think to ask who Mr. S was) sounded much like a Bad Plus tune, and Jef grudgingly admitted as much. I am extremely curious to hear what he has in store. As I always say: 300 Japanese fans can't be wrong!
February-9th-2004, 08:03 AM
skirting the issue
More PSQ news.
Nefertiti, you might be interested to know that Pascal's first CD as leader (with his quartet) is coming out next month on Igloo Records.