Bart Maris & Peter Vandenberghe

Getting Lost in Tiny Spaces
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From the time in 1928 when Louis Armstrong recorded alone with Earl Himes, to the most recent CDs of Wadada Leo Smith and Vijay Iyer, the trumpet-piano duo has been one enormous measurement of creative musicians’ skills. A combination of a two-person sack race, preliminary sparring march and jungle survival, such meetings strip away the comfort available from additional players and depends on split-second coordination so as not to unbalance the encounter. However it must be executed with the same innovative smarts as if other musicians are present.

Ghent natives, pianist Peter Vandenberghe and Bart Maris who plays trumpet, piccolo trumpet and flugelhorn here, test their limits on the 13 tracks that make up Getting Lost in Tiny Spaces. The pair, who has worked together over the years in large ensembles such as X-Legged Sally and Flat Earth Society, comes up with a sympathetic formula despite obvious differences. The pianist, who also teaches improvisation at the Ghent Conservatory, is known for his composing and arranging, while Maris, who is credited with composing most of the CD’s tracks, is best known as a performer, working with a dizzying array of associates in Belgium and elsewhere.

Skirting atonality, Part of the duo’s approach deflects from near-dissonance to expositions reflecting swing tempos. Vandenberghe’s plucking and strumming of inner piano strings, and authoritative emphasis on low pitches to weightlifter-strength emphasis defines his commitment to the unexpected at junctures. However it is Maris who more commonly buttresses the tunes with unusual effects. The extended title tune for instance features growling brass noises and brass-against-microphone abrasions that contrast with the soundboard, action and capotes allusions drawn from the keyboard by Vandenberghe. Repetative voicing from both, blend continuous piano variations and speaking-in-tongues brass dynamics into a coherent message. Likewise “El Solitario” is built up from spittle-encrusted half-valve effects over expected piano pumping so that despite most phrases being masticated to their core, it still manage to suggest that a familiar melody is buried within the theme.

Other tracks are restrained enough to be like futuristic chamber Jazz that doesn’t upset, but doesn’t patronize either. “Tiny Space (Bijloke)” for example oozes along consistently like toothpaste-spurting from its tube and ends with lyrical muted brass tones mated with a chromatic, formalist take on the exposition. Buff flugelhorn grace notes plus chunky piano glissandi make “Iseo” positively balladic, while Vandenberghe’s sizzling plinks on “Goi” are positively pretty. “Dronkemanslied”, the concluding track speaks to both of these impulses as Maris’ moderated timbres and Vandenberghe’s hard-changing chording oppose one another then meld into a connective theme that is almost foot-tapping as well a consistently changing.

With no fear of getting lost in tiny spaces, Maris and Vandenberghe prove, like their distinguished forbearers that they can create a memorable disc without anyone else’s help.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Chromato (1) 2. Chromato (2) 3. Brescia 4. Tiny Space (Bijloke) 5. Iseo 6. Tiny Space (Kraakhuis) 7. Goi 8. Chromato (6) 9. El Solitario 10. Petit Faucheux 11. Petit Faucheux (Le Reste) 12. Tiny Space (Quatre Mains) 13. Dronkemanslied

Personnel: Bart Maris (trumpet, piccolo trumpet and flugelhorn) and Peter Vandenberghe (piano)