Monday, September 23, 2013

Vandeweyer, Van Hove, Lovens, Blume, Quat, Live at Hasselt

A foursome that includes vibes and piano may initially put you in mind of the Modern Jazz Quartet. It's a natural reaction for those who have absorbed the jazz canon going back at least that far. But though there is a certain kind of quietude at times in common with MJQ, the quartet Quat doesn't occupy the quasi-formal bop-classical-tonal-composed-head territory of the earlier group. Listen to Quat's CD Live at Hasselt (No Business NBCD54), however, and you will find there is much going on in an intimate interactive setting that the MJQ also excelled at, though the Quat quartet firmly occupies a modern free improv context. Quat comes through with four middle- to long-lengthed improvisations that surely bear repeated listens.

Who is Quat? It is a European free jazz ensemble that includes Els Vandeweyer on vibes, Fred Van Hove on piano and accordion, and the two percussion-drum team of Paul Lovens and Martin Blume. They are in excellent form here, running the gamut between the new music end of free music and the more expressionist improvisation side, jazz if you will, and everywhere in between.

Ms. Vandeweyer, not someone I have been exposed to much, has a post-Hampelian all-overness that works very well with Van Hove's comprehensive keyboard scatter and cluster approach. The Lovens-Blume pairing works very well with the two-person melodic frontline, laying back a tad and laying down dense but often quiet washes of exotic and virtuoso-istic sound colors.

There is a very effective balance between the four that gets maintained throughout. All four voices meld in continuously permeating, endlessly varying abstractions of sound.

I found the subtlety of the music to take several listening sittings to embrace. Once the foundational listens were done with I started hearing the whole as a creative and sequential inevitability.

This is high-ambition freedom music. They do not veer into multi-stylistic referential moments (save for a brief moment when Van Hove's accordion has an almost folksy but still free-new connotation) but stay pretty firmly within a special zone that advances the abstract sound world that perhaps more typifies the European improv school than is the case with their American counterparts. They do it so well, though, that you fall into the music more than wonder what else there could be. What is, is in the best sort of way.

MJQ it isn't. It's Quat. Beautiful sounds. Recommended.

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