Animus Anima and Mattias De Craene III get Belgian Jazz Meeting buzzing

Belgium is a crossroads country, with its capital Brussels not only the European Union's heart, but a national mid-point between Dutch-speaking Flanders to the north and the rest of French-speaking Wallonia. As the Belgian Jazz Meeting, held in the capital for the first time, notes in its programme: "the slightly surreal construction that our small country represents... has always been fertile soil for the whimsical genre that jazz is". Over three days of Trappist beer-oiled networking between international guests and notably idealistic managers, PRs, DJs, promoters and musicians, and a dozen diverse gigs, Belgium's position as an outsized jazz powerhouse was amply confirmed.

The Belgium Jazz Meeting began life as the Flemish Jazz Meeting, and Mik Torfs, from Flanders' Jazzlab initiative, reflected on a nation with two cultures which are growing apart. "There are separate Culture Ministers and a completely different cultural policy in Flanders and Wallonia," he said. "The Flanders government is much more positive towards jazz, small initiatives and more experimental things." Wallonia is far less generous with grants, a situation partially improved by concerted pressure from the new jazz umbrella body Museact. Torfs has watched other differences deepen. "Five or six years ago, all musicians met here in Brussels and played together, and all the bands were a mixture. But since then it's grown apart, because of increasing differences in culture, and grants. Now there are very strong scenes in Ghent and Antwerp, and so Wallonian musicians don't play with those in Ghent any more."

belgian-jazz-meeting

Animus Anima (pictured top), who I'd recently seen play driving jazz-rock at the Gaume Jazz Festival deep in rural Wallonia, focused on their more contemplative new concept album Residencé sur la Terre. Padded conga-beats and muted-trumpet animal cries lent atmosphere to rolling psychedelic drift. A long conversation with their saxophonist-composer Nicolas Ankoudinoff as the bar closed late on the final night revealed the struggle of pressing his band onward for a decade, as Belgium's small scene keeps musicians stretched thin over many bands and neighbouring countries. Belgium is a little village, others noted, which you have to break out of to survive. Another saxophonist, Manuel Hermia, spoke feelingly to me after being presented with the €10,000 Sabam Jazz Award of the opportunity it offered to keep a consistent line-up together long enough to grow. His trio Hermia/Ceccaldi/Darrifourcq (below) earlier showed a lucidly imaginative, woozy intensity, as he met drummer Sylvain Darrifourcq and cellist Valentin Ceccaldi's ominous, pulsing textures on an intricately loaded high-wire at dizzying speed.

Mattias De Craene III (below) dealt in a similarly heady atmosphere. An upturned spotlight turned dry-ice red as saxophonist De Craene plotted an exploratory path over mantric double-drum thunder. LinusRuben Machtelinckx's baritone guitar and banjo and Thomas Jillings' tenor sax and alto clarinet – also suited a late-night campfire or shadowy bohemian café with their pastoral, inviting intimacy. Steiger occupied nearby territory, with proggy keyboards, jerky time-signatures and a sense of avant-classical conceptual composition, though their pieces pressed on into shapelessness. Jozef Dumoulin's solo Fender Rhodes improv electronica was abrasively ugly too often for my taste, but spoke his own language. The rubbery polyrhythmic pulse of 'BRZZVLL' was their best feature, while veterans Trio Grande offered more in instrumentation – a Jew's harp's Spaghetti Western twang, Belgian bass-drum and sousaphone, for instance – than their stiff, antic playing.

Mattias-De-Craene-III

Compared to a UK scene whose current pathfinder is the dance music-inflected Shabaka Hutchings, Belgian jazz still looks to rock for external energy. Dans Dans guitarist Bert Dockx gleefully shredded over the floating heaviness of bass and drums, suggesting a grunged-up Link Wray rumbling in an early 1960s British ballroom. Drifter's muscular jazz-rock anthems seemed less interesting than Lorenzo Di Maio's guitar/bass reverie and high-energy, sharp-edged, expansively optimistic sound. Antoine Pierre Urbex, an octet deploying a bank of brass for big band punch, also opted for the epic. 

"The musical differences between north and south are cultural," Torfs added, offering context. "The south looks more to France, and for some reason is much more straight jazz, like Lorenzo di Maio and Urbex, and also tends towards rock. In Flanders we have much more experimental things going on with electronics and modern classical music, and look northwards to the Scandinavian countries – Linus really have that Scandinavian atmosphere, and even play with Norwegian musicians. There's also a tendency towards rock, like Dans Dans." For all he's said of two tribes pulling apart, their connection continues in jazz's open community. "Because we're a small scene, even if the influences are different, these guys play together, and they mix it into something really Belgian."

– Nick Hasted

– Photos by Massimo Municchi

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Breaking News

Orphy Robinson gets Gibraltar rocking beyond Borders

Orphy Robinson gets Gibraltar rocking be…

British vibes virtuoso Orphy Robinson is artist-in-residence at the year's...

Read More.....
Vijay Iyer Sextet and Julian Lage jive to Jazz Cafe

Vijay Iyer Sextet and Julian Lage jive t…

Having reopened its doors in January 2016, following a multi-million-pound...

Read More.....
Jon Hiseman 1944-2018

Jon Hiseman 1944-2018

One of the UK's foremost drummers and bandleaders, Jon Hiseman...

Read More.....
Airto Moreira's Afro-Samba Anthems Raise Roof At Ronnie's

Airto Moreira's Afro-Samba Anthems Raise…

  No greater sign of changing times comes than in this...

Read More.....
Ayanna Witter-Johnson and Binker & Moses head to Harrogate

Ayanna Witter-Johnson and Binker & M…

The Harrogate International Festival, which has been running for over...

Read More.....
Voting Now Open for 2018 Parliamentary Jazz Awards

Voting Now Open for 2018 Parliamentary J…

Voting is now open for the 2018 Parliamentary Jazz Awards...

Read More.....
Lost John Coltrane Quartet Album surfaces on Impulse!

Lost John Coltrane Quartet Album surface…

A previously unreleased session by the classic John Coltrane Quartet...

Read More.....
Etienne Charles Triumphant At The Tabernacle With Timely Blend Of Defiance And Celebration

Etienne Charles Triumphant At The Tabern…

  This venue has deep historical resonance for black music in...

Read More.....
Jean Toussaint All-Star 6Tet Shine Bright At Ronnie Scott's

Jean Toussaint All-Star 6Tet Shine Brigh…

  'All-star' is a term mostly out of fashion these days...

Read More.....
Horn Doyenne Holsen Hones Minimalist Drones For Hubro Album Launch

Horn Doyenne Holsen Hones Minimalist Dro…

The Norwegian brass-band tradition, which first evolved in that country...

Read More.....
Vandermark and Nilssen-Love Blow Down Brighton's Green Door

Vandermark and Nilssen-Love Blow Down Br…

  The streets of Brighton have been overflowing with music fans...

Read More.....
Tully Takes The Prize To Ronnie's

Tully Takes The Prize To Ronnie's

  What better way to celebrate the conferring of an honour...

Read More.....
Rebirth Of The Cool: Shabaka Hutchings, Thundercat and Nubya Garcia lead a jazz takeover at Field Day

Rebirth Of The Cool: Shabaka Hutchings, …

  After years of going to jazz gigs and being the...

Read More.....
Anthony Braxton's ZIM Sextet go exploring at Cafe OTO

Anthony Braxton's ZIM Sextet go explorin…

  With the death of Cecil Taylor a few weeks ago...

Read More.....
New British Jazz Generation Blasts Bath With Spiritual Baptism

New British Jazz Generation Blasts Bath …

Bath Festival applied radical surgery to their roster of festivals in...

Read More.....
PYJAEN Prosper At Peckham's Ghost Notes

PYJAEN Prosper At Peckham's Ghost Notes

Catching bands at the beginning of their journeys is so often...

Read More.....
Sons of Kemet, Ashley Henry and Yussef Dayes groove at the Great Escape

Sons of Kemet, Ashley Henry and Yussef D…

Since its beginnings in 2006, Brighton's festival of new music...

Read More.....
Zara McFarlane and Jazzmeia Horn among highlights at St Lucia Jazz Fest

Zara McFarlane and Jazzmeia Horn among h…

In recent times this event has had a tenuous relationship...

Read More.....
Rainforest Reveries: Crawford and Simcock In Arboreal Praise For Powys As Birdsongs Take Flight At Hampstead Arts Fest

Rainforest Reveries: Crawford and Simcoc…

Released last month on Basho Records, Birdsong/Cân yr Adar fuses...

Read More.....
Claire Martin, The Printmakers and Jamie Cullum line-up for 606 Club 30 years at Lots Road Festival

Claire Martin, The Printmakers and Jamie…

Chelsea's salubrious jazz den, the 606 Club, is to mark...

Read More.....
Collective X line-up for Love & Protest at Stratford Circus

Collective X line-up for Love & Prot…

Genre-defying London-based group Collective X, led by singer Alya Al...

Read More.....
Love Supreme summit at London's Roundhouse

Love Supreme summit at London's Roundhou…

A blazing afternoon sun, beer-drinking crowds, and smooth electronic beats...

Read More.....
The Lage Lund Trio, Julia Hülsmann and Christopher Dell inspire at Jazzfest Bonn

The Lage Lund Trio, Julia Hülsmann and C…

During its unlikely spell as the post-war capital of West...

Read More.....
Stanley Clarke, Dave Douglas and Avishai Cohen heat up EFG London Jazz Festival

Stanley Clarke, Dave Douglas and Avishai…

The line-up for this year's EFG London Jazz Festival, which...

Read More.....
Breakin' Convention raise roof with jazz-indebted dance riot at Sadler's Wells

Breakin' Convention raise roof with jazz…

  Founded in 2004 by 'choreopoet' Jonzi D and still curated...

Read More.....
Bärtsch's Mobile Go Minimal Amid Homegrown Diamonds At Estonian Summit

Bärtsch's Mobile Go Minimal Amid Homegro…

  Every music festival has its logistical problems – from gremlins...

Read More.....
Courtney, Kamasi, Frisell and Sheppard thrill the flock as VEIN hits rich seam at Cheltenham

Courtney, Kamasi, Frisell and Sheppard t…

It's a small town, Cheltenham, and the jazz festival is...

Read More.....
WorldService Project's propulsive politics mix punk and Python for satirical japes at Jazz In The Round

WorldService Project's propulsive politi…

"Five disillusioned anti-Brexit punk soldiers...", is how Dave Morecroft, commander-in-chief...

Read More.....
EST Symphony and Akinmusire energise and engage at Espoo's April Jazz

EST Symphony and Akinmusire energise and…

It's 10 years since Esbjörn Svensson's death on 14 June...

Read More.....
Ray Blue Rings True With Pan-Atlantic Quartet At Pizza

Ray Blue Rings True With Pan-Atlantic Qu…

  What better way to celebrate International Jazz Day than with...

Read More.....
Tom Ibarra, Stoney Lane Records store and Family shows complete Cheltenham Jazz Fest line-up

Tom Ibarra, Stoney Lane Records store an…

The doors are almost open for this year's edition of...

Read More.....
Esperanza and Nubya energises while Dame Cleo mesmerises at Jazz FM Awards

Esperanza and Nubya energises while Dame…

  Last year's Jazz FM awards was a memorable occasion, with...

Read More.....
Pat Metheny, Ezra Collective, Esperanza and Nubya Garcia among winners at fifth Jazz FM Awards

Pat Metheny, Ezra Collective, Esperanza …

The winners of this year's Jazz FM Awards were announced...

Read More.....
OFFBEAT Jazz and Cinema Fest goes French

OFFBEAT Jazz and Cinema Fest goes French

A new weekend-long jazz on film event, the OFFBEAT Jazz...

Read More.....
Avishai Cohen Quartet deliver testaments to truth and beauty at Ronnie's

Avishai Cohen Quartet deliver testaments…

The first of two sold-out gigs by the Avishai Cohen...

Read More.....
Black Spirituals Let Axe Fall For Swansong

Black Spirituals Let Axe Fall For Swanso…

Admirers of the scorched earth strategies of Last Exit, Fushitsusha...

Read More.....


Subcribe To Jazzwise

Advertisement

Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

@LukeTurnerEsq World Cup Warriors - "I love the World Cup, when are England playing?"
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
Orphy Robinson gets Gibraltar rocking beyond Borders https://t.co/oV8Z6NHmti https://t.co/Jk2b8iMDcu
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

© 2016 MA Business & Leisure Ltd registered in England and Wales number 02923699 Registered office: Jesses Farm, Snow Hill, Dinton, Salisbury, SP3 5HN . Designed By SE24 MEDIA