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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Jelle Roozenburg & Han Bennink Live At Galloway Studio (SON, 2024)

By Sammy Stein

My Dutch is limited, so when I got the blurb about a recording from JIN Vinyl Club and Sound of Niche Productions, I was finding it hard to read (until Desiree from the label took pity and sent it in English at my request), but my attention was caught by some things: Han Bennink for one thing, and vinyl, live recording, and limited edition.

Sound of Niche (SON) is a collaboration between the Galloway Studio and Lay Bare Recordings. They aim to produce high-quality vinyl albums by original artists. They have struck gold with their first recording and release. Han Bennink needs little introduction as one of the foremost drummers of the current age. He can turn his talents to other instruments but is known mostly as a drummer. Bennink has played with most luminaries of the jazz world and also lesser-known musicians in collaborations that span the decades. Jelle Roozenburg has yet to solidify his place as a legendary jazz musician but is on the journey that so many have travelled before. He is a composer and participator in many different projects and ensembles, including the New Rotterdam Jazz Orchestra, Bonsai Panda, Showbills, and more.

The title says it simply on this first release from SON - Jelle Roozenburg & Han Bennink Live At Galloway Studio. The album features Bennink swapping ideas with Roozenburg, swapping ideas, changing rhythms, dropping vocal lines in the mix as and when it feels right, and creating music that is the stuff of improvisational dreams. Live, in the moment, and inspired.

The album was recorded in one take in front of a live audience, at Galloway Studio, Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and produced for JIN Vinyl Club (part of Podium JIN: Jazz & Impro Nijmegen) with a limited edition of just 300 vinyl copies. JIN Vinyl Club organizes adventurous and unique live concerts in the Nijmegen Galloway Studio and big names from jazz are combined with young talents, recorded live in one take, and released on vinyl in a limited hand-numbered pressing of 300 pieces. Such an undertaking could have been folly, but their first high-quality pressing looks set to become a collectors’ item.

There is tension, intimacy, quality, and above all, intuitive improvisation in this recording. Bennink affords Roozenburg space and freedom to make his guitar expressive, while effortlessly re-acquiring the spotlight at others and re-directing the momentum toward his percussion. He does this effortlessly because Bennink has the ability to pick up the slightest alteration in rhythm and set off with it as his own. A stand-out track on this nine-track album is ‘All or Nothing At All’ where the two musicians are in deep sonic immersion, with each introducing individual takes on the repeated theme.

Throughout tracks, there are also classic and familiar rhythms, from swing to a sassy, rocking beat which Bennink thumps out with enough energy to fill any room. While it is Bennink who captures the ears with his diversity, Roozenburg throws many challenges to the veteran drummer, each of which is either ignored or returned with what feels like glee. Roozenburg develops some of the tracks, the guitar’s warping notes carrying emotive quips and at times working his themes across Bennink's sustained rhythm pattern which he sets up and continues until the guitar works something equally rhythmic across the top. Roozenburg is a revelation and times, particularly on ‘Prairies Cowboy’ and in other sections, where his fast-fingered delivery is impressive.

The album is a fascinating exchange of rhythms, ideas, and noisesome delight. There are glorious moments when the listener cannot help but marvel at the complexity of rhythms that co-exist in Bennink’s head. He seems to create patterns and rhythms with lives of their own. Sometimes his playing feels like an eavesdrop, particularly on ‘De Sprong O Romantic Der Hazen’ (rough translation is ‘The Leap of Romantic Hares’), where he sings nonchalantly along to his intricate rhythms. The artwork is Bennink’s too. With just 300 copies, this is a find for any vinyl, jazz, or improvised music enthusiast.