Monday, March 26, 2018

Paul Van Gysegem, Chris Joris, Patrick De Groote - Boundless (El Negocito, 2017) ****½

By Stef

This review was long due. A fantastic trio album that's been listened to dozens and dozens of times during traffic jams, during smooth traffic and at home, with more time and attention. And attention and time is what this music deserves. It's a set of nine tracks of free improvisation between Belgium's veteran jazz musicians.

Paul Van Gysegem plays bass. He is a visual artist - both painter and sculptor - and a musician with roots going back to the early free jazz period in the 60s, including the organisation of avant-garde festivals. Van Gysegem released "Aorta", his first sextet album, already in 1971. He played with Lacy and Waldron, and of course also with Fred Van Hove, Belgium's first real avant-garde improv pianist. Chris Joris is a percussionist, pianist (as on some tracks on this album) and educator, incredibly knowledgeable about African rhythms and instruments. Patrick De Groote plays the trumpet. Again, he's not very well known internationally, but he was already a member of the above mentioned sextet in 1971. Together, they are around 220 years old.

Some fifty years later, they meet again to deliver this wonderful album of freely improvised pieces, four in trio format and five duets between trumpet and bass. It is exceptional for a number of reasons. First, the music is solid: determined, open-ended, sensitive, respectful, crisp, creative. Second, this is today's music, and very much so: little stories evolve with only one purpose: to co-create quality music in the moment. No need for structure or patterns, just interactive explorations that each remain focused and coherent. Third, it is so full of energy and joy: you can feel how the musicians like it themselves. There is nothing 'tired' here, quite to the contrary, it's fresh, young in spirit and approach. It doesn't sound like their zillionth performance. It sounds like they're full of enthusiasm to start something new. Fourth, it's incredibly entertaining too. Despite the limited line-up, ideas abound, and the high quality is maintained throughout. And fifth, the sound quality is also very good.

It is boundless, as its title suggests. And what a pity that their published output is so limited.

You can listen and buy it from Bandcamp.

As an addition, here is a performance by the Paul Van Gysegem Sextet, recorded and broadcasted on Belgian public television in 1971. Totally different music, but witht the same heritage. 

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