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

Dave Holland and Evan Parker line-up for Vortex Fundraiser ahead of new album

Dave Holland and Evan Parker line-up for…

Two of British jazz's biggest names – former Miles Davis...

Read More.....
Get The Blessing’s ‘Bristopolis’, Dame Evelyn Glennie and Pee Wee Ellis for Bristol Jazz & Blues Fest

Get The Blessing’s ‘Bristopolis’, Dame E…

The programme for the sixth edition of the Bristol Jazz...

Read More.....
Courtney Pine, Zara McFarlane and Evan Parker added to full Cheltenham Jazz Fest line-up

Courtney Pine, Zara McFarlane and Evan P…

The full programme has been revealed for this year's edition...

Read More.....
Daring Dutch drummers Han Bennink and Joost Lijbaart for UK dates

Daring Dutch drummers Han Bennink and Jo…

Heavyweight Dutch jazz bands Quartet NL and Under the Surface...

Read More.....
GoGo Penguin bring the beats to the Roundhouse

GoGo Penguin bring the beats to the Roun…

GoGo Penguin, the Blue Note-signed Manchester piano trio whose fusion...

Read More.....
Sugimoto Activity Surge: Studio News and UK Dates

Sugimoto Activity Surge: Studio News and…

Phantasm of fragmentary restraint, Japanese guitarist Taku Sugimoto, jostles with...

Read More.....
Vula Viel electrify Elgar Room

Vula Viel electrify Elgar Room

What do Swaledale in North Yorkshire and Western Ghana have...

Read More.....
Courtney Pine heads-up Jazz For Labour in Leatherhead

Courtney Pine heads-up Jazz For Labour i…

Having blown up a storm at the inaugural 2015 Jazz...

Read More.....
Andrew McCormack's Graviton Hit The Ground Running At Ronnie's

Andrew McCormack's Graviton Hit The Grou…

  The acoustic at Soho's iconic venue changes quite considerably according...

Read More.....
Jaimie Branch, Moor Mother and Jeff Parker Among the Acts at Austin's Sonic Transmissions Fest

Jaimie Branch, Moor Mother and Jeff Park…

  Texan Templars of outlier audio releases, Astral Spirits, have combined...

Read More.....
Zakir Hussain Crosscurrents, Parliament-Funkadelic, Tony Allen, Moses Boyd and Nubya Garcia announced for Love Supreme

Zakir Hussain Crosscurrents, Parliament-…

The first tranche of names to appear across the Love...

Read More.....
Saxophonist Roberts Braves The Outlands

Saxophonist Roberts Braves The Outlands

US saxophonist and composer Matana Roberts, arguably best known for...

Read More.....
Helena Kay leads Women In Jazz celebration at 100 Club

Helena Kay leads Women In Jazz celebrati…

Ella, Nina, Billie, Dee Dee – figures so distinguished that...

Read More.....
Alex Hitchcock/Tom Barford Quartet's Twin Tenor Frontline Fires At The Verdict

Alex Hitchcock/Tom Barford Quartet's Twi…

The twin tenors tradition has a long history, stretching back...

Read More.....
Award-winning bassist Gary Crosby OBE recovering following a stroke

Award-winning bassist Gary Crosby OBE re…

Jazzwise received this statement from Trudy Lister of Tomorrow's Warriors...

Read More.....
Clark Tracey and Brotherhood of Breath - The Music Of Chris McGregor Among The Manifold Delights At South Coast Jazz Fest

Clark Tracey and Brotherhood of Breath -…

Last week saw the highly successful South Coast Jazz Festival...

Read More.....
Caine Sprouts Chamber Music Chomps At Ambitious Brussels Fest

Caine Sprouts Chamber Music Chomps At Am…

  One of the Brussels Jazz Festival's best gigs came three days...

Read More.....
Nubya Garcia, Maisha and Triforce surf new wave of UK jazz at We Out Here album launch

Nubya Garcia, Maisha and Triforce surf n…

Like all the best creative scenes, London's emergent and youthful...

Read More.....
Høiby And Kinch Lead Brits Charge At Brussels Jazz Fest

Høiby And Kinch Lead Brits Charge At Bru…

There were three dominant artist groupings during the Brussels Jazz Festival...

Read More.....
Video Premiere: Fire! Take Hold With 'The Hands'

Video Premiere: Fire! Take Hold With 'Th…

Check out Martin Malm’s psychotropic Brakhage-influenced flicks for ‘The Hands’...

Read More.....
Earth, Wind & Fire confirmed for Love Supreme Jazz Festival 2018

Earth, Wind & Fire confirmed for Lov…

The organisers of this year's sixth edition of the Love...

Read More.....
Simon H Fell: Raggedy And Rhapsodic At Kings Place

Simon H Fell: Raggedy And Rhapsodic At K…

The image that graces the souvenir booklet of Kings Place's...

Read More.....
Theon Cross and Shirley Tetteh join Courtney Pine for Inner City Ensemble

Theon Cross and Shirley Tetteh join Cour…

Following the announcement that multi-award winning saxophonist and composer Courtney...

Read More.....
Paul Towndrow presents Charlie Parker with Strings for Glasgow concert series

Paul Towndrow presents Charlie Parker wi…

Fresh interpretations of the landmark Charlie Parker with Strings recordings...

Read More.....
Hugh Masekela (04/04/1939 – 23/01/2018)

Hugh Masekela (04/04/1939 – 23/01/2018)

As South Africa continues its development in the post-apartheid era...

Read More.....
South Coast Jazz Festival Crests The Big Wave

South Coast Jazz Festival Crests The Big…

  Now in its fourth year, the South Coast Jazz Festival...

Read More.....
Julian Lage brings Appalachian jazz apocalypse to Pizza Express

Julian Lage brings Appalachian jazz apoc…

Perhaps it's a canny coincidence that's there's a tune on...

Read More.....
Marlene Verplanck 1933-2018

Marlene Verplanck 1933-2018

  On stage, Marlene Verplanck stood quite still, diminutive and always...

Read More.....
Sons of Kemet burn at New York’s Winter Jazzfest

Sons of Kemet burn at New York’s Winter …

Winter Jazzfest is a big deal in New York City...

Read More.....
Alexander Hawkins/Elaine Mitchener Quartet captivate at Kings Place

Alexander Hawkins/Elaine Mitchener Quart…

The conventions of a jazz performance are so well established...

Read More.....
Baptiste Curates Capital Coltrane Day

Baptiste Curates Capital Coltrane Day

Award-winning saxophonist and Jazzwise 2017 end-of-year-chart podium-maker Denys Baptiste curates...

Read More.....
Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan, Andy Sheppard, Nigel Kennedy and Roller Trio added to Cheltenham Jazz Festival line-up

Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan, Andy Sheppar…

Things are hotting up for this year's 22nd edition of...

Read More.....
Cloudmakers Five make it rain with new album and tour

Cloudmakers Five make it rain with new a…

Vibrant vibes-led group Cloudmakers – the long-running trio featuring vibes...

Read More.....
Scottish saxophonist Helena Kay wins Peter Whittingham Award

Scottish saxophonist Helena Kay wins Pet…

Emerging Scottish saxophonist/bandleader Helena Kay (pictured) has been announced as...

Read More.....
Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy talks about Classic Album Sunday sessions at Jazz Café

Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy talks about Class…

Camden Town's revamped Jazz Cafe presents series of album playbacks...

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

Thinking of you high priestess, happy birthday Nina Simone @jazzfm @vortexjazz @EZHMAG @KirkdaleBooks… https://t.co/fq0ilQ3BbU
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
Many happy returns Craig Taborn @ECMRecords @ProperJazz @Tzadik_label @screwgub @impulselabel https://t.co/kNs3EDDmwj
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

Sign up to the Jazzwise monthly E-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