Bram Stadhouders is not the first musician to take inspiration from the work of J.S. Bach and he will, undoubtedly, not be the last. Whenever jazz musicians talk about classical music Bach is always mentioned and the Baroque style seems to suit reinterpretation in the jazz style. There is a booklet that accompanies Suite X and in it Stadhouders explains some of his thinking behind this release:
I want to use this project to explore my own particular take on the phenomenon of Baroque music, without actually trying to write Baroque music or just play it in a jazz style. I suppose it’s a flirtation with the Baroque, a nod in its direction, and an investigation of my relationship with the era from the perspective of my personal musical identity as a jazz improviser.
I wanted to merge the fabulous Baroque instruments with electronic sounds, jazz rhythms and free improvisation. In addition to rhythm, I also took inspiration from the more gentle and serene Baroque and renaissance music.
The album opens with the captivating melody of ‘Dyx’. The delivery is slow and spacious with nicely played runs on the harpsichord and a warm tone on the horn, a delightful fusion of the Baroque with a contemporary Scandinavian jazz hue. ‘Ax’ has the stringed instrumentation leading on the main theme which is expanded on as the sound fills out. The depth of tone broadens as the horn once again takes the music towards the more contemporary jazz styling first mentioned in relation to the opening track.
‘Duxc’ has a freer jazz feel about it where the Baroque is less prominent, to my ears, and a harder, electric rock edged sound is brought to the fore. Drummer Onno Govaert does a very good job anchoring the rhythm and providing a through line around which the other musicians add their own voices. ‘Trix’ takes us back to the Baroque/Jazz fusion that opened the album. ‘Trix’ is of slow tempo, elongated notes, washes of cymbal supplemented with brief interludes from the harpsichord. This tune takes its time to develop and even when the sound does become a touch more expansive it is all delivered in an understated manner that I found mesmeric.
‘Lax’ mixes an electronic like ostinato against a flowing horn line punctuated by trumpet and guitar which gives this track its energy. This is a very nicely layered melody producing a multitude of tonal variations that blend to produce the most fascinating sound and, for me, the standout track on the album. ‘Prix’ features Bram Stadhouders on guitar and the harpsichord of Raphaël Collignon with bass and drums in support. Nathan Wouters plays a wonderful extended bass solo on this track that includes a resonant bowed section.
‘Ix’ has an angular, probing, stop start production where nothing seems to quite fit together and yet manages to convey moments of beauty through what I believe to be the theorbo (a lute like instrument). ‘Mox’ has a soaring horn sound over a repeating pulsating phrase. The drums then kick in with a short crisply played patterns above which the soundscape grows, ebbs and flows. This tune has a sci-fi film vibe about it with an energy that develops as the volume at which the piece is played increases. Everything then dies away leaving the sound of the horn hanging in a reverberant state.
Suite X finishes with the album’s longest track, Rox’. We are firmly back in the Baroque styling with sackbut et al. The guitar of Bram Stadhoulders attaches the modern musicality to this pastoral sounding number. The tempo is sedate but there are moments of drive and controlled power. The horns are played with a rich warm tone with the strings providing an oriental styled sound. As the piece moves towards its conclusion the sound dynamic becomes more jazz fusion with Baroque undertones; another excellent multi-layered production.
In many ways found this a difficult album to review. The album is challenging but rewarding: the difficulty I had is down to my lack of musical knowledge and the language needed to better describe what I was hearing. The use of unusual instruments meant that I was not always sure as to what I was listening to but knowing that I was enjoying what I heard – and perhaps that is all that is required. This is a wonderfully fascinating album, which I did not really begin to appreciate until the third or fourth play through, and for those who enjoy the classical/jazz fusion I would suggest that is a release that will hit the mark.
Musicians: Bram Stadhouders – guitar; Onno Govaert – drums. B.O.X are: Pieter Theuns – theorbo; Lambert Colson – cornetto; Jon Birdsong – cornetto & trumpet; Bart Vroomen – sackbut; Nathan Wouters – double bass; Raphaël Collignon – harpsichord & organ.
Tracklist: 1. Dyx. 2. Ax. 3. Duxc. 4. Trix. 5. Lax. 6. Prix. 7. Ix. 8. Mox. 9. Rox.