de Jong - van Veenendaal - Purves - Hasebos
Midday Moon

(Brokken Records)

There's a whole class of albums that immediately make the listener "feel good" thanks to their sounding very enjoyable and pleasant that in time reveal themselves to be very rich with intelligence in both composition and execution, those qualities having been obscured at first by their being enjoyable and pleasant. Midday Moon appears to be a perfect specimen of that category.

Though not unheard-of (provided I remember correctly), the instrumentation chosen by the quartet that's featured on this album is definitely of the not-so-common variety: violin, (prepared) piano, drums/percussion, and marimba. Timbrally fresh, this combination of instruments is greatly enriched by the woody character of the marimba (which makes the whole sound more ethnic/chamber-like, compared to the jazzier-sounding metal vibraphone), and by the fact of the piano being prepared (which sometimes makes the piano sound quite similar to a zither or to a "percussive soundboard"); there are also good-sounding drums, which often pair thin cymbals with big drums; though the violin player obviously received thorough classical training, the violin timbre is often on the thin side (it's a compliment, by the way), at times reminding me of the late Leroy Jenkins.

The fact of (music) languages spoken here being many, plus the fact of the instrumental roles being often uncommon, doesn't hurt, either. Nice instrumental connection among the players, the recorded sound is also good.

Violin player Tineke de Jong is "first among equals" here; this is the first time I've heard of her, but her curriculum is long and varied; she wrote the majority of the pieces on the album. By now I'm quite familiar with Albert van Veenendaal's (prepared) piano, which I've listened to quite often, with pleasure, in the last few years. I'm afraid I have to admit I've never listened to the other quartet members: Alan Purves, on drums and percussion; and Hans Hasebos, on marimba.

As per the album's liner notes, jazz standards are one of de Jong's passions, also one of the musical terrains she explores in the company of van Veenendaal's piano. The album features three jazz standards: the world-famous Night And Day by Cole Porter; Day Dream, penned by Ellington and Strayhorn; and Harlem Nocturne by Earle Hagen (a composition I first heard on Lounge Lizards' first album). To me, the spirit of these performances sounds quite unlike the one chosen by the Instant Composers Pool Orchestra - which doesn't obviously imply that those featured here sound in any way scholastic or revivalistic! Night And Day is appropriately rich with colours, piano and violin as its main characters, then a fine piano solo, and some "pushy" drums rich with different timbres. Day Dream has maybe the richest orchestration and arrangement on the album, the quartet sounding like a "pocket orchestra", and an excellent work from the drums, with nice, resonant-sounding skins. Harlem Nocturne appears in a brief, svelte version, the familiar theme appearing at the end.

Jazz is only one of the album's elements, however. Listen to the album's literal starting point, Midday Moon: an (uncredited) electronic sound intelligently works as a "canvas" over which a piano ostinato and a chamber-flavoured theme performed by piano and violin appear, the electronic pulse now in the background; now the piano sounds jazzy, here's the marimba, then swinging drums; there's a "dry" solo from the violin, its most rarefied moment having the electronic sound back again, paired to the "zither" from the prepared piano; now it's back to the theme, this time the line being performed by violin and marimba, with a fine drums performance on cymbals and drums.

Sunday On Saturn almost sounds like "chamber funk", with the prepared piano in a rhythmic role alongside marimba and drums, then there's a theme played by violin, the instrument then performing a "bluesy" solo over a... calypso! (well, almost).

Arctic Blues has a "dry", "minimal", development, with a repeating phrase from the violin, big drums played with mallets, a resonant piano, and an electronic pulse (is it the "Arctic wind"?).

A Man, A Love is slow, with tempo by piano, drums, marimba, a violin theme, a fine piano solo, and a nice, subtle, solo part by (I think) a glockenspiel.

Three tracks were penned by van Veenendaal. Premonition, for solo piano, quite minimal, trebly sounding, reminded me in some ways of Wayne Horvitz. Friendly Fire has a bigger-sounding, percussive prepared piano (or are they two, overdubbed, pianos?). Pebbles And Rocks is a brief duet for piano and violin.

We Are Seeing Things - Hans Hasebos here on percussion - starts as a kinda "Bo Diddley beat" which soon adds Cuban rhythms. A strange track, this one, very fine, with timbales a go-go.

Definitely resembling a jig, Celtic Boop has the violin in a duet with many (overdubbed) penny whistles, all played by Alan Purves. Appropriately "light", this track is the right choice after the dense track that came before.

With a fine, musical progression, the brief I Told It On The Mountain, for solo violin, brings the album to its logical close.

Beppe Colli

Beppe Colli 2009 | Aug. 6, 2009