Magnificent opening Jakob Bro recordings four days in Flagey, Brussels

Geschreven door: Dick Hovenga

 (vertaald door: Nausikaä de Blaauw )

• fotografie door Patrick Van Vlerken

Label: ECM Records

These are going to be very special nights at Studio 1 in Brussels over the next few days. Guitarist Jakob Bro has chosen this venue to record as much new work as possible, for a new album covering four evenings (and two days during the daytime). Four evenings of new music only, with the audience (it goes without saying all four evenings have sold out within no time…) witnessing how this process of creating a new album is not just very special, but quite exceptional and an ultimately intimate opportunity.

The fact that Bro also has American drum legend Brian Blade in his new trio, in addition to friend/bassist Anders Christensen, Brian who flew in on the day of the first concert, makes this trio’s first concert completely fresh. The fact that this trio is on stage together for the first time, makes it even more special. And when Bro challenges himself, we are also happy to do so and report back, night by night.

No wonder the hall is flooded with people, well before the concert starts (no last-minute here), and the applause welcoming the musicians on stage is exuberant immediately. Something is about to happen here. Tonight you don’t have to wonder why anyone likes jazz. No other musical movement knows the phenomenon of improvisation as well as jazz and it remains unbelievable that these men who have never played together will make music tonight and understand each other completely. In fact, right away they sound like they have been playing together for years, although we know better. Of course it’s still trial and error, and sometimes you see happy faces when something comes out really well, and during the performance you feel the chemistry loosening up more and more. What great new music Bro has written. Opening with a new piece he wrote just this morning, with merely a few guidelines of Andersen to work with. Blade, on the other hand, is completely blank. With his experience and great ear, he immediately produces some finelyfocused percussion skills. A new lustrous Bro trio is born.

In part this is because, for example when comparing him to Thomas Morgan, the bassist Bro has played with for so long, Andersen plays electric bass and at times is almost groove-oriented. His playing is edifying, with smoothly flowing bass lines that lay out a clear structure in the compositions. Blade, very aware of where Bro’s repertoire has plotted itself so far, is waiting a bit tonight, it seems. His fine drumming still has that restraint that generated so much tension in Bro’s Met opmerkingen [N1]: Je hebt Google Translate gebruikt, of niet? Ha ha ha. compositions of yesteryear. There is no doubt that this is going to change in the coming evenings, playing with Anderson.

Bro is and remains Bro. His playing is atmospherically layered, ever so adventurous, and recognizable among thousands. It remains a mystery to me how he is able to create this unique guitar sound. Virtually no pedals (anymore), instead a cabinet filled with electronics he keeps adjusting constantly. In this (wooden) room his playing sounds more beautiful than ever. His new compositions are once again rich and varied. Folk and rich melody structures remain a basic element in his music, yet in combination with the right musicians, he always manages to add new overtones to his compositions.

The opening composition is an instant Bro classic, as is a composition now entitled Song #2 (of course, we later point out the Blur-connection while chatting about the concert and, by the way, the audience even requested this second new composition for the encore). Bro’s version of Paul Motion’s Untitled#2 is already beautiful, as well as a surprisingly more solid composition that remains untitled for now.

So very exciting to hear almost an hour and a half of new music, still in full development. And I am curious to find out whether we will be hearing new music again and again during the coming evenings, or new versions of pieces that have already been played in turn. Bro indicated before that he has written a lot of new music and is also writing new music in Brussels, to try out. Flagey and the fantastic circumstances offered by the complex, as well as the everpresent helpful group of people, provide the perfect place for this.

The first of four Jakob Bro recording concerts was a magical one, can’t wait for the coming evenings.