Modern Madness or Tribal Truth?

LopLop Records, Netherlands


LopLop Records, the little Dutch label that definitely can, continues to amaze with this dizzying CD of brilliantly fractured EuroJazz. OK, not a lot of blues figures here, which is already understood given the provenance, but what does show up right off is a wonderfully cockeyed mix of impressionism (Debussy, Gunther Schuller, et al) and manic African forms. "Modern Madness" showcases clarinetist Steven Kamperman and the mellifluous violin of Jasper de Clerq; while they leap in and out of the odd stop/start structure and merrie submelody, the receptive listener will notice that Pat Votrian's tuba plays the root functions one would expect from the bass fiddle. Don't go looking at the personnel list to see who's napping in the control room, though, as M.O.T. has no bassist. A nod to Dixieland? Who cares! Lengthy, convoluted, often Zappa-like themes buzz by over a carpet of literate African hand drums, rubber ducks and trap kit (courtesy of Ousmane Seye and Mike Baird) in "African Lounge": a pleasant disorientation steals over one repeatedly when listening to these magicians, reminding us of the nasty Pozdnyshev's moment of clarity in Tolstoy's "The Kreuzer Sonata": "How can I put it? Music makes me forget myself, my real position; it transports me to some other position not my own. Under the influence of music it seems to me that I feel what I do not really feel, that I understand what I do not understand, that I can do what I cannot do..."

Pardon me quoting dead white Euromales, but it's quite 'on' here for this band of gypsys. For sure I'm more cheerfully woozy when the CD is on than I am when it isn't. To continue, "Puzzles" gives center stage to de Clerq again while pianist Albert van Veenendaal strolls through unconcernedly at an outrageous angle to the nervous tuba motifs; speaking of Votrian encore, he steps out aggressively to a static bopping percussion riff on "Pigs and Cows" (imagine a barely-controlled stampede a la PETER AND THE WOLF through the recording studio. Maybe the Wolf got away again?); while "Funeral Song" visits a more Eastern European soundworld (especially in the writing for clarinet), careful modalities coursing through a cascade of Carpathian village backstreets with fateful baggage carried aloft. You really can't beat these guys, they have a very clear-headed idea of what they want to do and pull it off with a quiet bravado that's just a joy to hear. Pianist van Veenendaal is once more to be complimented on a sure touch with electronic keys and samples. They give more than they ask throughout.

I haven't heard anything on the LopLop catalog that wasn't at least worth 3 or 4 listens, and this CD is one of thebetter of the batch.

Highly recommended.

by Kenneth Egbert

New Sounds - February 2005

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