Click here to [close]

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Sanne van Hek, Hugo Antunes & Nicolas Chkifi - The Magistrat Sessions (Self, 2020) ***½

By Stef Gijssels

Brussels-based portuguese bass player Hugo Antunes has been releasing what he calls his 'bootlegs' on bandcamp: recordings of gigs or rehearsals or impromptu performances that did not undergo much editing and post-production. 

We can be grateful to him for posting this album, a two hours - actually 125 minutes - trio performance with the late Dutch trumpeter Sanne van Hek and Belgian drummer Nicolas Chkifi, recorded during a session in the drummer's basement in 2012. Four of the tracks were recorded on the first day and five tracks on the third day of the improvisation. What happened on the second day is not clear. 

The availability of this album made me rejoice because it is one of the few albums on which Sanne van Hek performs with such clarity. 

Sadly, Sanne van Hek passed away on April 9 of this year at the age of 41. Her personal musical output as a leader is quite limited, with the "Black Napkins", her trio with Jasper Stadhouders on guitar and Gerri Jaeger on drums, reviewed in 2009 as one of the highlights. She got her initial formal music training on bass and drums, and only switched to trumpet at the age of twenty. She performed in modern jazz bands with the Magic Malik Orchestra or even mainstream with Rebekka Ling, but her real interest lay in sonic and electronic explorations. I saw her perform a few years ago, and despite the quality of the performance, I more than once wondered why it was even needed to use her horn, because many of the sounds could have been created without the physical effort of blowing into her instrument, but I guess that's the whole point of art, to make one wonder. Her most ambitious project in this sense was with her Sannety ensemble: "Network of Stoppages", celebrating the 100 years of Marcel Duchamp's painting with the same title (now at Moma).

But back to Antunes' Brussels bootleg ... The sound quality is of course not as you might expect from a fully produced album, even to the extent that the first piece is cut off quite abruptly at the end. The balance between the three instruments is very uneven. But all that is counterbalanced by the intensity, the fun of the performance and the quality of the performance itself which keeps the attention going. Van Hek does not have the technical skills of Susana Santos Silva or Lina Allemano, but she shares the same authenticity and audacity of approach, a straight from the heart inventive combination of expressivity, exploration, intelligent development and good listening skills. Despite the basement performance, each piece stands on its own and appears in full (except for the first track). I am not sure how happy she would have been with the result: she was a perfectionist, even switched completely to electronics in the last year. 

Listening to the full album for the third time now, you can tell the trio were enjoying their own musical interaction. As a listener you can also feel this, and there is much to enjoy too. It is not a masterpiece but it has the merit to exist. It has the merit to offer us a testament for a too little known musician, a restless spirit and explorer of musical form and sound. 

I apologise to Hugo and Nicolas for not writing too much about them, but I'm sure they will understand, and I want to thank Hugo for making this music available. Music to treasure.

Listen and download from Bandcamp