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Featuring: Django Bates (p), Petter Eldh (b), Peter Bruun (dr)
Aktuelle CD: The Study Of Touch, November 2017
Django Bates, who once vowed never to front a piano trio on grounds that there were enough in the world, found his resolve weakening in 2005 when he began teaching at Copenhagen’s Rhythmic Music Academy. “I was walking along its corridors when I heard a drummer and a bass player playing in an ensemble in one of the practise rooms, and thought ‘If I ever changed my mind about piano trios I’d definitely want to use those two guys’”. Before long, the idea became irresistible, and Bates, bassist Petter Eldh and drummer Peter Bruun met to play together on a weekly basis. “We did that for a whole year, just improvising, and it was fantastic.” In response to a commission from Copenhagen Jazz House, Bates then wrote arrangements of music by or associated with Charlie Parker, one of his earliest heroes, and recorded them with Eldh and Bruun for an album called Belovèd Bird, issued on Django’s own Lost Marble label. “It was incredible to me how quickly we could learn written music together, after all the free playing: I’d never experienced that process in that way.” Imaginative arrangements of Parker began to alternate with Django’s own tunes in the repertoire of Belovèd, as the trio was now known, “to see how the two composers would play with each other.” On The Study of Touch, recorded at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio and produced by Manfred Eicher, the band’s origins are acknowledged with a single Parker miniature, an incisively realized version of Bird’s tune “Passport”. Almost all of the rest of the programme is from Django’s pen: “It felt like it was time to let Parker go, and to go back to being the composer in the band myself.”
The new album, Bates explains, is shaped around its title tune. “The Study of Touch had been performed a lot, in many different contexts [including a premiere at The Proms at the Royal Albert Hall] and I really wanted to document it. And it also seemed a good name for an album, so we started to build pieces around it to tell a story. And they could be old pieces or newer pieces, it didn’t really matter to me, because our music is always changing and evolving.”
The first new piece created for this set was “Slippage Street”, written to “counterbalance the beauty of The Study of Touch”: it was composed “picturing the trio in Rainbow Studio with Manfred as our audience. I really wrote it for him to listen to,” says Bates.
The album opens, however, with an older composition, “Sadness All The Way Down” which “starts at the very top of the keyboard and works its way down to the very bottom, but with a lot of subtlety in the journey.” It’s a piece that gives notice of the special qualities of Belovéd. “I play a lot more in Belovèd than I do in my other projects, which often have a huge density of sound. Nothing is lost, nothing is hidden in the trio. Everything I play has a space to have a meaning.” His cohorts help to shape that space in their own, idiosyncratic ways, Eldh with his polyrhythmic approach to the bass, Bruun with his almost painterly sense for coloration. These are highly original players. “What Petter and Peter bring to this music of mine is a refusal to play what I’ve written. It’s difficult for a composer to learn that this can be the best way, and hard to explain why it works. I write very detailed music, there’s no lack of detail, and I have my dream sound in mind. Then these guys, each of them, adds at least one other layer of their own. And they bring their own personalities to the music, and then it really takes off…” As the BBC Music Magazine has written: “The rhythm section of Bruun and Eldh does a staggering job of matching and anticipating Bates’ synaptic-fast soliloquies.”
The music is in movement throughout, all the way to its concluding piece, “Happiness All The Way Up” which swiftly bubbles out of the piano’s deep regions and leaps beyond the top notes with what Django describes as “a kind of pentatonic harp sound”, ending the album in an optimistic spirit.
Django Bates has credited the variety of musical influences in his work to his childhood, his father being a collector of jazz, African, and Romanian folk music. A founder member of the collective Loose Tubes, his bands have included Human Chain, Delightful Precipice, and stoRMChaser. Bates has also appeared alongside Bill Bruford, Dudu Pukwana, Wynton Marsalis, Michael Brecker, Tim Berne, and Ronnie Scott. He has written for The Dutch Metropole Orchestra, The Brodsky Quartet, Joanna MacGregor, Britten Sinfonia, Royal Shakespeare Company, the Duisburg Philharmonic, the Norrbotten Big Band, and many others. Django made his ECM debut in 1985 with the band First House, and in the early 1990s recorded with Sidsel Endresen’s group, appearing on the albums So I Write and Exile. Bates was appointed Denmark’s first professor of rhythmic music at Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen, Denmark, a position he held until 2011 when he left to take up a position as professor of jazz at the Berne University of the Arts in Switzerland.
Peter Bruun began playing drums at age three at Rythmic Childrens School in Vesterbro in Copenhagen, gateway to “a life-long immersion into drums, music and composition”. At 18 he entered Copenhagen’s Rhythmic Music Academy, discontinuing his formal musical education after three years to study on his own while travelling through India and Brazil. In addition to his work with Belovéd, Bruun plays in a number of other bands including All Too Human, with Marc Ducret, Kasper Tranberg and Simon Toldam, and the Samuel Blaser Trio.
Swedish-born bassist Petter Eldh started his musical life as guitarist, switching to double bass in his early teens. As with Django Bates, it was the music of Charlie Parker which sparked his interest in jazz. He currently plays across a broad range of contemporary jazz and free improvising contexts including the group Enemy with Kit Downes and James Maddren, Speak Low with Lucia Cadotsch and Otis Sandsjö, Amok Amor with Peter Evans, Gard Nilssen’s Acoustic Unity and more.
„Wer einen Bird-Song pfeifend durch London streift, um Gleichgesinnte zu finden, der muss schon ein seltsamer Vogel sein. Lang ist’s her, doch Charlie Parker treibt den britischen Pianisten Django Bates bis heute um. Auf „confirmation“ (Lost Marble LM007/ Rough Trade) dekonstruiert er im Trio mit feinem Humor drei Stücke des des legendären Bläsers und kontrastiert sie aufs Vergnüglichste mit eigenem Material in entzückend freiem Duktus.“
hifi & records, Sven Thielemann, 4/2012
„Nun hat der Pianist Django Bates einen ganz unverhohlenen Parker-Tribut eingespielt, und zwar in Kopenhagen, der europäischen Hauptstadt der Bebop-Verehrung. Django Bates und Bebop? Bates ist bekannt für skurrile Bigband-Musik und aufmüpfige Experimente, aber nicht gerade für die Pflege historischer Jazzstile. Doch auch bei ihm war Charlie Parker immer gegenwärtig: „Die wundervollen Umrisse seiner Soli und Kompositionen und seine frei flutenden Unterteilungen der Time waren immer in meine eigene Musik eingebettet“, sagt der Engländer. Und wenn er sich nun den Themen widmet, die Bird einst so unvergesslich spielte, kommt dabei – nicht wirklich überraschend – eben auch wieder Django-Bates-Musik heraus.
Belovèd Bird ist eine brandheiße Klaviertrio-Platte mit einem exzellent aufspielenden Bandleader. Das Material ist Charlie Parker – seine Melodien, seine Phrasen, sein Tonfall –, die Themen und Formen jedoch sind aufgebrochen in ein Kaleidoskop von Rhythmen und Episoden. Oft erklingt eine komplette Parker-Linie, aber der Rhythmus wechselt alle zwei Takte und das Thema durchläuft eine Vielzahl von Stimmungen. Einzelne Phrasen werden als lyrische Kürzel isoliert, zu delikaten Miniaturen entwickelt, schräg in sich selbst verzwirbelt oder einfach als Startsignale für Improvisationen gebraucht. Parkers futuristische Essenz.
So explosiv, wie der Bebop einst auf die Szene sprengte, so explosiv fliegen bei Bates die Parker-Kürzel auseinander ins Unbekannte. Jeder Thementeil explodiert in etwas Neues, Eigenes, als werde Parkers Musik nicht im Zusammenhang, sondern Takt für Takt buchstabiert: „Zerpflücke eine Rose und jedes Blatt ist schön“, schrieb Brecht einmal. Rhythmus pocht da gegen Rhythmus, Phrasen werden ins balladenhaft Langsame verzerrt oder zu verhuschten Läufen gestaucht – respektlos aus Respekt. Und immer wieder entwickelt sich fortgeschrittener Trio-Jazz mit Latin- und Free-Elementen, mit parodierten Blockakkorden und mitreißenden Improvisationen. Be-, be-, bebop!“
hifistatement.de, Hans-Jürgen Schaal
„Django Bates is equally confident as his all-acoustic piano trio stretch and pull at music associated with Charlie Parker – a childhood inspiration. Bates‘ dazzling technique and quickfire imagination sometimes lead him to fidget, but this album is joyfully focused on giving well-worn themes a new life. Peter Bruun and Petter Eldh on bass and drums follow the imaginative brilliance telepathicaly, caressing ballads, juxtaposing rythms and creating order out of chaos.“
Financial Times, Mike Hobart
B&W Photo by Laura Pleifer
Photos by Nick White