Duo van Otterloo van Veenendaal
No Trace

(Brokken Records)

A fine album, and one that at this time of the year could potentially solve a serious dilemma: What to choose as a present for our friends - and ourselves! - now that the Holiday Season is so near? (Sure, maybe I'm being too optimistic here, but hey... Come the Holiday Season, I start believing in miracles!)

This is a "Jazz" album, or at least, this is how it sounds to me. The instrumentation? A fine duo of piano and saxophones, playing very well together, with a shared goal. The album features ten compositions whose themes are quite accessible and "singable", the development that follows offering a transparent logic.

Albert van Veenendal is a familiar name to readers of this webzine, with many albums to his name in various situations, his prepared piano adding spices to a quite rich and varied musical language (his solo album titled Minimal Damage, released a few years ago, could work quite well as a starting point).

I'm not as familiar with the work of Rutger van Otterloo, whose work on saxophone I appreciated, a few years ago, on an album titled For A Dog, released under the name Cram, the quartet fronted by fine guitarist Corrie van Binsbergen.

All compositions on the album were penned by van Veenendaal. Total duration is what I'd call perfect: that of a vinyl album.

Fine recorded sound by van Veenendaal, edits and pre-production by van Otterloo, mixing and mastering by Marc Broer. Fine sound: clear, dynamic, never fatiguing.

With the prepared piano adding timbral complexity, when it comes to saxophones I noticed that, besides the more usual soprano and baritone, here we have the instrument called "c-melody": a kind of tenor, but with a timbre that in the upper range reminds me of an alto (pictures and notes are easily available on the Web, for those who are interested, of course).

Though the full quality of the work will only become apparent via listening, let's have a look at those pieces all the same.

No Trace starts with a piano arpeggio, slow tempo, then soprano, a melodic phrase played unison, a fine theme. A piano arpeggio opens the "B" section, with a fine development - and an overdubbing of soprano and tenor? - then a soprano solo, the piano returns, then it's back to the theme.

Wrong Exit starts with a "jerky" rhythmic cell, then the baritone, then a piano ostinato, the baritone working in the upper range, then it's time for a written melody. As elsewhere on the album, here the prepared piano is featured. Then it's back to the ostinato, then a baritone solo, and a "cut" ending.

Full Spoon Moon starts with a slow piano arpeggio, then a  theme played on soprano, with a pinch of "in a sentimental mood", the piano playing chords. Then the piece "fades".

Lighthouse starts with a theme for tenor, the piano playing chords in parallel with the melody. There's a brief "B" section, then the theme. There's a solo section where the tenor plays arpeggiated variations in rubato, then it's back to the solo piano, with echoes that reminded me of the Paul Bley-Marylin Crispell lineage. There's a "hushed" tenor, then it's back to the theme. The final section, which features the lower portion of the instruments, and fine counterpoint, also offers a long moment which definitely reminded me of The Art Ensemble Of Chicago, circa Fanfare For The Warriors.

Home For Brunch gets its inspiration from the celebrated Eric Dolphy album Out To Lunch. It features the soprano. There's an accelerando, then a unison of sax and prepared piano. While paying homage to Dolphy, maybe because of the featured instrumentation, this piece also highlights the link between Dolphy and Anthony Braxton.

34 Steps Into Reality opens with the strings of the prepared piano, high notes from the soprano, and a "still" tempo, as an intro. The piano playing chords, there's a melodic theme for soprano, arpeggios in the upper range of the keyboard. There's a fine melodic development, a solo, then it's back to the theme, then a coda for prepared piano.

Ventriloquism starts with a very "dark"-sounding piano arpeggio, then the baritone plays a theme with the piano. "Mumblings" from the baritone, the piano acting as a counterpoint, then an octave jump. The ending goes back to the "dark" theme.

On Patrol starts with the piano playing a "bossa", the soprano here in the upper range. There's a fine, light, airy, theme played unison by sax and piano, then a melodic development, the two instruments chasing each other. Then a soprano solo that takes us back to the bossa, and stop.

One Way Ticket To Tibet starts with the baritone acting as a "pedal" below the piano, then it's time for a unison of sax and piano, a "soft" theme for sax, fine melodic development with sax backing. Then the theme, played unison.

Sad & Lonely starts with a "bluesy"-sounding motif for tenor, a meditative-sounding piano as a background. There's a "hushed" B section, then a light crescendo. While piano chords are sounding, the end takes one by surprise, at a time when one is still waiting for more.

Beppe Colli

Beppe Colli 2015

CloudsandClocks.net | Dec. 3, 2015