Live at Hasselt
NoBusiness NBCD 54

Despite the instrumentation banish any thoughts of Quat sounding like a freer Modern Jazz Quartet. Although three of the four players are old enough to known of the MJQ’s reach, any idea of a replication of a MJQ-like band featuring Milt Jackson and John Lewis with both Connie Kay and Kenny Clarke, vanishes as soon as the first note is hit. Rather than faultlessly performing pleasant miniatures this Belgian-German quartet is committed to pure improvisation, where perfection may only arrive by accident. On Live at Hasselt, the four loosely organized instant compositions trifle with random breakdowns as much as accomplishment, making the journey as vital as the destination,

At the same time, veterans like Belgian pianist and accordionist Fred Van Hove plus German percussionists Martin Blume and Paul Lovens have been involved with Free Music since the 1960s and 1970s so that the chances of sustaining high-quality performances are multiplied. Younger Els Vandeweyer, a Berlin-based Belgian-born vibraphonist, is the unfamiliar person here, but her extensive training in so-called classical and Jazz musics allows her to fit as cleanly in this company as Kay did when he joined the second version of the MJQ following Clarke’s departure.

Vandeweyer’s pin-pointed tones and cascades oscillate among echoes of the vibes’ ancestral architecture. Eschewing percussiveness, with the instrument’s motor muted her rapid tremolo runs often echo with tones reminiscent of a marimba. Elsewhere singular, unsustained pops relate back to the harpsichord’s construction. At the same time as someone who has been a freelance musician since 1964, Van Hove can rarely be outshone in any context. Throughout these selections there are junctures during which he unexpectedly unleashes his keyboard command. Although initially flowing from Cecil Taylor’s experiments, his blend of contrasting dynamics, staccatissimo glissandi and key pressure attains its own individuality. Here the structure established is as edifying as it is probing. His bent notes and wide-ranging keyboard fanning aren’t all that unconventional in the 21st Century either. The dramatic “H1” for instance counters – or is it mocks? – the vibist’s delicate single bar whacks with internal string plucking and stretching before Van Hove cranks up his key hunt-and-pecking to full dynamism. Then on “H3”, he redirects the repetative cacophony, which encompasses Vandeweyer’s marimba-like shading and the drummers’ sharp spanks, with systematic tremolo tones from the accordion. The resulting sonic composure is seconded by tick-tocks from the percussionist, leading to a final ambience of moderated tranquillity

Unlike the practised MJQ and similar chamber-improv ensembles that traffic in serenity, Quat also exposes sequences of staccato, polyphonic and polyrhythmic impulses. As these inventive expositions are compartmentalized into a series of heartening climaxes the strength and skill of this configuration is confirmed.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. H1 2. H2 3. H3 4. H4

Personnel: Fred Van Hove (piano and accordion); Els Vandeweyer (vibraphone) and

Paul Lovens and Martin Blume (percussion)