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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Leroux/Van Isacker/Vanderstraeten – Als Ik Niets Meer Van De Kano Zie (Aspen Edities, 2022)

By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

Improvisation is a universal non-verbal language. For many of us it is a practice, not a music genre, one that knows no boundaries. Personally I’m really interested in the locality of an improvisational recording. I find it much more intriguing to listen to someone who improvises and lives outside of the big hubs for free jazz and free improv of the western world. It might seem trivial to many of you, but the fact that the titles and bandcamp notes are in the spoken language of the musicians add to this sense of locality.

Belgium, of course, belongs to what we call the western world with all the cultural connotations that this given facts drags along. But since the language (anything out of the English speaking world I would say) continues to form a barrier of difference, this LP only recording of one hundred copies carries the weight of bringing something new. Quite successfully I want to say.

The trio of Frans Van Isacker on alto saxophone and clarinet, Frederik Leroux on electric guitar and Kris Vanderstraeten on percussion and other objects gives us a free improvisational recording (from early 2021 making it another product of the lockdown era) of the highest order –and one of the best for 2022 so far. The musicians know each other for a long time and that shows quite clearly on the rapport of their playing.

Fragments of melody from the saxophone and the clarinette undermine deliberately the fragmented nature of their improvisations. Vanderstraeten’s percussion work balances between a polyrhythmic subtle playing and syncopated low volume drum playing. Leroux’s guitar works its way between the aforementioned two, acting like the glue that keeps all the lieces together. His playing (his contribution in general) makes me feel he is not eager to lead, his presence is equally shy as it is important.

There’s no need for anyone to lead as, on both sides of this vinyl, this is collective improvisation and the three musicians interact on an egalitarian basis. They seem to have totally embraced the egoless nature of their music, feeling so much comfort in it. The abstract nature of the cover art adds to this wonderful recording, plus that it’s quite telling, in its non-verbal nature, about the music that you will experience.

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