Blue Lines Trio
Blue Lines Trio

(Casco Records)

A fine album, which I found - completely out of the blue - waiting for me in my mailbox. It got here at the right moment, too, one of those days when one almost starts believing that by now all good music is only to be found in the past, and that the time has come to listen to those old records all over again.

A fine album, mind you, not a masterpiece or this year's Change Of The Century. But an album that will keep one interested for its duration, and that - though it can be said it moves inside a framework that's definitely familiar - will offer listeners some unfamiliar moments.

"What framework?", I hear you say. Well, if I say "jazz piano trio" I know I'll run the risk of raising expectations that can't be met, on one hand, and provoking uninterestedness, on the other. I'll just say that here the great heritage of US jazz gets cooked in Dutch sauce, and leave it at that, hoping the rest will become clearer when I discuss the pieces in detail, below.

The line-up features Michiel Scheen on piano; Raoul van der Weide on double bass, crackle box, and "sounding objects"; and George Hadow on drums. Looking at the picture that appears inside the CD cover, the drummer looks in his early thirties, while the piano player looks in his late forties, and the bass player looks in his late fifties. At first I thought I was unfamiliar with all three, but on impulse I had a look at some old CDs I own by Dutch double bass player and composer Maarten Altena released in the late eighties/early nineties (Quotl, Cities And Streets, and Code), and here he was: Michiel Scheen, looking quite young indeed.

The trio has a fine sound, the piano often played in the middle part of the keyboard, the bass work almost never to the fore but never sounding banal, the drums inevitably reminding me of Han Bennink (only when it comes to the sound of the instrument, not its role in the music).

Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Arnold de Boer, who also co-produced the album with the trio. Recorded at the well-known Bimhuis, Amsterdam. The only thing I didn't like is the way most improvised tracks end: while it makes sense on a musical level, it's just too abrupt.

Ugly cover.

The repertory features original compositions penned for the most part by the pianist; a series of improvisations, for the most part non-idiomatic but not as "free" as the modern meaning of the word could lead some to believe; and the cover of two compositions (Kop op and Dark Goeree) by the late sax player Paul Termos.

Let's have a look at the tracks.

Solid has a nervous, Mingus-like start, la Blues & Roots, with a fragment that definitely sounds as being Monk-influenced appearing at 34", 1' 03", 1' 34", with a fine surprise effect. It swings! There's a long middle part played unison, start & stop, with a thematic development that's not impossible to see. Then it's back to the Monk-like motif, the Mingus-like theme, then Monk again, then close.

Improvisation 538 starts with arco bass, quite lively. There's a piano ostinato, the drums highlighting the snare.

Kop op, by Paul Termos, starts with a "Be-Bop"-sounding theme, with a fine use of the ride cymbal and the rimshot. Then, a drum solo based on the melody played by the piano, then it's time for the piano and the double bass to come to the fore, the whole reminding me of the music of Cecil Taylor. Then it's time to go back to the piano motif, with a fine surprise effect (maybe I'm mistaken, but I thought that here the listener is not the only one who's surprised!).

Improvisation 536 has the piano playing arpeggios, snare, a pinch of double bass, the drums played with brushes.

Dark Goeree, by Paul Termos, starts with a bass ostinato, a Latin-sounding rimshot, and a piano theme that reminded me of the world-famous Herbie Hancock composition Watermelon Man. The middle part definitely sounds Monk-influenced, with strict tempo, and two-hands chord development. The end of the track has the trio back to the "Watermelon" theme.

Idols has a brief, clear theme. Piano and double bass traveling parallel, the drums having a solo at a louder volume. Then it's back to the theme, start & stop.

Improvisation 541 features "sounding objects", percussive drums, the piano sounding with "muted strings". For me, the weakest moment of the album.

Not Yet is the only composition penned by the bass player. It starts with a brief, simple, "ethnic"-sounding theme, acting as an intro. Then, a long episode featuring the piano with the "hold" pedal down, cymbals played arco, just like the double bass. The brief, "ethnic"-sounding theme acts as a close.

Ingredients 539 breathes a fine "Be-Bop" air, the rhythm section to the fore. Nice development, then it's time for a fine drum solo, quite la Art Blakey (I waited for the "Yeah!"). Very traditional-sounding, but fine.

Stumble has a melodic introduction, two hands parallel, playing chords. In a way it reminded me of Anthony Davis at the time of his album titled Lady Of The Mirrors, elaborating on "Ellington-like" material.

Improvisation 537 is a svelte, agitated, fragment.

Sigh is the closing ballad, with brushes, hi-hat, chords, quite "hesitant"-sounding, la Monk, it definitely reminded me of the Monk classic Ruby, My Dear.

Beppe Colli

Beppe Colli 2014 | Oct. 12, 2014