A while ago, I heard through a fantastic Pittsburgh City paper article and the Pittsburgh Jazz Fan meetup about Dutch jazz trumpeter Eric Vloeimans coming to Pittsburgh to perform as part of an “international progressive jazz trio” including himself, German Florian Weber on piano, and Syrian Kinan Azmeh on clarinet.
I had never heard of these musicians before, but the article intrigued me enough to do some research, and Abby and I ended up attending his concert.
I did research
One of the great things about this era, I think, is that you can learn something about musicians’ work before deciding to invest in attending a concert. Things were much less certain before the whole Internet; you had to be deeply connected to some community of people that gave you information and advice, and it was harder to randomly hear about and explore new things.
Upon checking out Eric Vloeimans’s YouTube channel for samples of his work, I decided that I was intrigued by his music, and I loved his contrasts, moving between loud, wild improvisation and a soft lyrical style, but always with beautiful tone. Also, I liked that he comes from the classical world and is interested in all kinds of music and brings it all together to create his own style.
Attending the concert in Pittsburgh
Abby mostly thinks jazz is chaotic, so I didn’t know whether I could convince her to go to the concert with me, but found this lyrical side of Vloeimans to show her:
So I got a pair of tickets, and Abby and I went to the trio’s concert in the First Unitarian Church. Attendance was, as I expected, sparse. Sadly, this kind of music is not so popular here in Pittsburgh. On the plus side, the small audience made the whole experience feel very intimate.
Overall, I loved the concert. This being a jazz program with many different experiments, of course there were moments or ideas that did not work for me, but overall, I was inspired by what the three created together on the spot, working with all they had from pre-agreed themes and technique, and the demands of the moment.
The concert warmed up with a lyrical piece that showed off Vloeimans’s classical training.
Things got going right after that, with the second piece starting out with an atonal intro by Weber on piano, and then rhythmically ended up being some kind of tango. Vloeimans is a very physically expressive performer. He started stamping his feet in rhythm while playing, and at some point both Weber and Vloeimans were going at it physically, adding vocalizations to the mix. Great energy and fun!
Azmeh on clarinet then played a lovely duet with Vloeimans on trumpet. I could see how attentive they were to each other as they created a dialogue on the spot, combining turn-taking with simultaneous improvisation. It was an unusual combination of sound to me, the clarinet-trumpet duet. Azmeh also being classically trained, you could hear the working out in real time of subtle contrapuntal and harmonic ideas.
Then all three played together as a trio. This used a backdrop of minimalist repetition and literally made their performance sound like a train ride of industrial sounds.
Then came Azmeh with a long clarinet solo as intro into a piece that unfolded finally into a trio. I loved the meditative and exploratory quality of the solo.
Then came something very animated, which sounded like it was based on Cuban rhythms, but also somehow sounded Asian. Things got really animated, and Weber started hitting at the piano, and of course Vloeimans was stamping his feet.
After that, something that sounded Jewish. Weber prepared the piano and made it sound tinny.
Finally, they closed with telling a story about an encounter with Hindustani music in India, and then launching into music created as a result of that inspiration.
It was a great evening of music.
(Update of 2014-08-06)
I was looking up the trio again and found this video that gives a good idea of some of the kind of thing they did when they were in Pittsburgh.