Trio BraamDeJoodeVatcher (BDV)

Change This Song
BBBCD8

Michiel Braam’s Wurli Trio
Hosting Changes
BBBCD9

Having confirmed his reputation as one of the Netherlands’ most accomplished composers and arrangers with his Bik Bent Braam big band and sextet, Amsterdam-based pianist Michiel Braam continues to experiment with other configurations

Using material from his already extensive book, Braam struts his stuff in these contrasting CDs. Change This Song by BDV features his variant on the standard jazz piano trio, filled out by veteran bassist Wilbert DeJoode and American drummer Michael Vatcher. While this band has played together since 1989, Hosting Changes highlights a new group with Pieter Douma on semi-acoustic bass guitar, Dirk-Peter Kölsch on drums and percussion and Braam playing the Wurlitzer 200A.

Although the Wurli’s trio’s rhythmic power and cheerful subversion of rock conventions is appealing, tradition wins out with the co-operative BDV operating at a higher level. Coming across as a Dutch variant of Medeski, Martin & Wood, the Wurlis never sink to mere jam band status. But when tunes such as “Sh, Asthenic Gong” are almost 9½ minutes of jittering, splashes and echoes from the keyboardist plus pops and rattles from the drummer, while first Douma, than Braam, doodles on top of an ostinato drone, the lack of hard-edges is apparent.

This limitation is cast in even bolder relief, when compositions can be compared in different versions on both CDs. “Nightsong Aches”, Hosting Changes’ “bonus track” for instance, is nearly funereal. It’s an atmospheric, moderato interpretation that depends on cymbal shimmers and busy drum rattles to liven up the performance. Inchoate bass lines and muted piano chords suggest that the fade at the end was more a musical than a technical decision.

In contrast the BDV elaboration of the same piece, while floating on scene-setting descending chords, features vibrated and sul tasto arco bass strokes commenting on the piano’s melodious pacing. Before DeJoode’s double counterpoint with Braam degenerates into excessive solemnity though, Vatcher’s rambling patterns and paradiddles not only lift the mood, but additionally presage the allegro composition, “Gosh, Ethnics Gan”.

Also performed by the Wurli 3, this staccato piece serves as another telling contrast between the two bands. Conceived of as a full-up trio effort by BDV, the drummer’s blunt attack amplifies a sophisticated backbeat, while DeJoode’s part of the equation ricochets between string-scraping flageolet harmonics and taut walking. Meanwhile Braam’s power chording includes splashy octave runs and cascades of splayed notes.

Lead off track on Hosting Changes “Gosh, Ethnics Gan”, is all Braam, with his bouncy organ-like wriggles and twists focused on repeated note clusters and pulsing glissandi. Only Kölsch’s popping drum beats seem to make any other impression before the head is finally recapped.

Then again this tune sounds better than some of the other Wurli excursions. Here and there the prolonged elasticity of the Wurlitzer’s notes turn tremolo runs to throbbing pitch sequences, while the rigidity of the rhythm section almost moves some pieces into Pop-Rock instrumental territory.

Over on Change This Song, however, paddling keyboard notes, double slapping drum rolls and ruffs and woody bass thumps combine to keep the compositional interpretations operating on a high scale. Mixing reflective blue notes, chordal downbeats and some deliberate rickety-tick anachronisms, Braam evidently feels he has the proper rhythmic support to let loose and play rubato.

Fervent Braam fans may find hitherto hidden delights buried among the slower parts of Hosting Changes. Taken on its own the CD may not be that unpalatable. But compared with Change This Song – a mature expression from a simpatico trio – the superiority of one over the other becomes apparent.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Change: 1. Angsts, Once High 2. Hotch As Ginseng - Snitch An Egg 3. Soh 4. Songs Each Night 5. Can Ghosts Neigh? 6. Congesting Hash 7. Nightsong Aches 6. Gosh, Ethnics Gan 7. Hatching Segno’s 8. High Agons Scent.

Personnel: Change: Michiel Braam (piano); Wilbert De Joode (bass) and Michael Vatcher (drums and percussion)

Track Listing: Hosting: 1. Gosh Ethnics Gan 2. Congesting Hash 3. Ah, Gents Coshing 4, Haggish Consent 5. Can Ghosts Neigh? 6. Sh, Asthenic Gong 7. Agog Shin Stench 8. Songs Each Night 9. Nightsong Aches

Personnel: Hosting: Michiel Braam (Wurlitzer 200A), Pieter Douma (semi-acoustic bass guitar), Dirk-Peter Kölsch (drums, percussion)