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A Classical Ensemble with a Pop Mentality - Calefax Meets Eric Vloeimans

05-12-2022 | By Rushton Paul | Issue 121

Classical ensemble Calefax Reed Quintet yields once again to the temptation for extemporaneous performance in this collaboration with improvising trumpeter and composer Eric Vloeimans—to extraordinarily satisfying results.

On The Spot, Eric Vloeimans, Calefax Reed Quintet. Buzz | Northstar Recording 2014 (DXD) HERE

I'm not sure what I expected when I started playing this album, but I have been exceptionally well-pleased. An adventure richly rewarded.

Calefax has been playing together for over 28-years, they are supremely competent musicians. Yet their roots are in the classical music literature, more than eight centuries of it. Nonetheless, their history as musicians has been to dissect and rearrange existing music. Each of their members is not only a performing but a creative artist as well.

Eric Vloeimans is a disrupter. He is an improvising trumpeter and composer who regards the term 'jazz' as too limiting to describe his music. Between 1982 and 1988, Vloeimans studied at the Rotterdam Conservatory—classical trumpet at first, later the jazz course. In 1989 he took lessons in the US with Donald Byrd and formed part of the big bands of Frank Foster and Mercer Ellington. In the early Nineties Vloeimans was regarded as a member of a younger generation of musicians who combine bebop with influences from rock and free improvisation.

The combined sensibilities of these five musicians from Calefax and Eric Vloeimans work to create quite an intriguing synthesis of the modern, the early, the traditional, the experimental. It all just works. And the sonorities of the modern reed instruments and brass, together with the very intentional introduction of traditional instument (such as the duduk, an ancient Armenian double reed woodwind instrument made of apricot wood, and the tenora, a descendent of the shawm which was played across Europe from the Middle Ages up to the 17th century), weave a complex tapestry of sounds and textures.

I find myself fascinated by the way the group takes music of the renaissance, baroque, twentieth century jazz, modern compositions, and free extemporizing to build a compelling musical landscape that is thoroughly enjoyable today. For example, beginning on track 4, they play through the Toccata Settime of early 17th century composer Michelangelo Rossi (a daring composer in his day) with some improvisation freely allowed within Rossi's framework, transition via little less than two minute improvisation by Eric Vloeimans, and then flow into the iconic Miles Davis classic Blue in Green, molded into sextet form by Calefax member Oliver Boekhoorn. A beautiful arc of completely unrelated musical works, made into a whole here.

All of this exceptional music making is complemented by the superb recorded sound, engineered by Bert van der Wolf, founder and chief recording engineer of Northstar Recording. I've referred in other articles to the relatively few number of recording engineers whom I place in my personal pantheon of greats. Bert is one of these. His recordings continue to amaze and delight me with their utter transparency, timbral truthfulness, fine resolution and superb capture of the natural acoustic environment of the performance.

All in all, this album has been a lovely journey, an intriguing exploration, and a musical hour well spent. Hmmm, no. That's three musical hours well-spent as I've come back to listen over and over again. Highly recommended.

Also take a look at Vloeimans' other album reviewed here: More Intriguing Music From Eric Vloeimans

Images courtesy of Bert van der Wolf and Northstar Recording.