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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Fred Van Hove - Fred Van Hove at 80 (Dropa Disc, 2019) ****½

By Nick Metzger

Fred Van Hove at 80 is comprised of an 80 page book along with three CDs of new music by the Belgian pianist (one of them in trio with Hamid Drake and Parker, the other two solo affairs). Most readers of the blog know Van Hove from his groundbreaking work with Peter Brotzmann & Han Bennink (who were frequently joined by trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff) in the 60's and 70's, most notably 1968's "Machine Gun", 1969's "Nipples", the subsequent "More Nipples" from the same sessions, as well as the 1970 trio album "Balls". But that really only begins to scratch the surface of what this magnificent musician has accomplished in his career. The book includes wonderfully rendered photography and informative essays in a very concise and robust package that is a treat to hold and look at. It's a limited edition release so get at it while you can.

As stated previously the first disc finds Parker and Hamid Drake accompanying Van Hove at deSingel in Antwerp in February of 2017 is fantastic. I'm a big fan of Drake as well and his playing here provides a powerful, shuffling, and poignant counterpoint to Van Hove. Parker chisels away at the ether, spinning turbulent shapes, breathing them to life, and sending them adrift to mingle with the vibrations stirred by his fellows. Van Hove issues jagged stabs of notes interspersed with sustain-heavy passages, building up great billowing clouds of discordant overtones that he just as quickly disperses, like a genie being drawn back into the lamp. The 45+ minutes go by very quickly, but in a grandiose manner, lots of peaks and valleys, players drop out and reappear within the logic of the moment, each contributing to something greater than the sum of its parts. Fantastic.

The second disc captures a Van Hove piano solo at the Nona Arts Center in Brussels in April of 2017. The improvisation covers a range of tempos and atmospheres, displaying fully the pianist's concepts and technical prowess. Sometimes meditative and insular and at others multi-directional and dense, Van Hove chases down his muses and wanders through extended musical landscapes unhindered by parapets of time, wearing proudly his fealty to instant composition. On the third disc Van Hove commands the massive pipe organ at the Bozar Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels in a solo piece that is both meditative and riveting. The piece is extremely dynamic and multi-faceted and you're unlikely to hear much, if any, pipe organ music quite like it (perhaps with the exception of Van Hove’s 1981 FMP release “ Church Organ ”). The sounds are both melodious and atonal, and at times almost aquatic. The organ had been out of commission for 60 years before being restored and updated, and was re-inaugurated in September 2017, only a couple of months before this performance. Of the updates made, one was to add touch sensitivity to the keys which allows for a much more nuanced performance and which suits Van Hove's style very well.



Hinrich said...

Dear Nick,
very nice to read this review in addition to all the wonderful insights into the other outings of Evan Parker. Good to see that you also liked this box. As with the organ CD, I have to admit that with every listening I found more enjoyable parts. My hesitation probably has more to do with my expectations regarding the organ than with the music itself. Although I listen to a lot of pretty strange music, the organ is admired as a mighty and majestic instrument - as long as it is used to play Johann Sebastian Bach. But I will continue to try overcoming this prejudice.

Nick Metzger said...

Hi Hinrich, looks like we had similar thoughts. I'm a pretty big fan of his Church Organ album and was happy to see him dedicate a disc to the instrument. Definitely not for the faint of heart, but good stuff. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the collection as well,and think your write up is excellent.