The two best mainstream/world jazz CDs ever made by Belgian female pianists have much in common. And believe me, both albums are of world class level. They have a common approach in their search for absolute perfection in the combination of strong compositions with emotional power and instrumental virtuosity. Furthermore, both albums display an openness to the world which is characteristic and probably a prerequisite for obtaining these results. Myriam Alter is of judeo-spanish origin (sephardic) and was educated in an environment where Spanish, Italian, South-American and classical music were part of the daily environment. And Nathalie Loriers creates a band consisting of musicians of Italian, Yugoslavian-Jordanian, French-Algerian and Belgian origin. Belgium, the melting pot of the world ...
Myriam Alter - If (Enja Records, 2003) *****
This album offers an astonishginly sustained melodic beauty, elegance and precision of phrasing, rhythmic refinement, ... in sum, brilliant. This is mainstream jazz at its best : recognizable yet creative, emotional without being overpowering, intimistic with musical vision. One of the most surprising aspects of the album is that the classically trained pianist has replaced herself on her own album by another pianist, Kenny Werner. According to her, he is a better piano-player and she a better composer, and yet that doesn't really convince me, although the result is succesful in any case. The other musicians are also among the best : Dino Saluzzi on bandoneon, John Ruocco on clarinet, and the Masada rhythm section : Greg Cohen on bass and Joey Baron on drums. This ensemble brings the musical equivalent of a Belgian chocolate : high quality ingredients, it melts in the mouth, and it is very sweet but with a powerful, solid taste, the result of a crafty and virtuose process. And once you've eaten it, you just want more of it. Yet the most important difference here is that here it is the listener who completely melts inside, because of the heart-warming nature of the music. Sure, this album is miles away from free jazz, and I apologize for it, but I also have my sentimental side which appreciates top level mainstream jazz. And this album definitely fits into that category. Esthetic, refined, elegant, emotional, light, ...
Nathalie Loriers Chemins Croisés - L'Arbre Pleure (De Werf, 2006) ****
Another Belgian album, "L'Arbre Pleure", that almost equals the quality of Myriam Alter's "If", comes from the Belgian piano-player Nathalie Loriers and her band Chemins Croisés ("crossroads"), with Gianluigi Trovesi on clarinet, Karim Baggili on oud, Philipppe Aerts on bass and Joël Allouche on drums. The line-up of the band and its name already indicate that many influences will be at work in the music : European, Arabian and American (jazz, you know). The comparison with Alter is a valid one, in the sense that the compositions are strong, the musicians (and then especially Trovesi and Loriers) excellent, with a very strong musical unity and emotional tension underpinning the whole album. The tone is not as melancholic as Myriam Alter's "If", and once in a while some joy seeps through, as in "A Pas Feutrés" (referring to her cat?) or "Mister Lee". The nice thing about this album is that the natural evidence of the melodies and the interplay hide the compositional and rhythmic complexities beneath, and indeed you should not notice these as a listener, you should just undergo it and enjoy it. And that's the only word I can think of for you : enjoy it. Excellent!
Listen to Sound Samples :
Kalila Et Dimna
L'Auberge Des Femmes