On the Spot with Eric Vloeimans
To a classical ensemble, improvising is not an everyday activity. However, in the 28 years of its existence reed quintet Calefax has yielded several times to the temptation of playing without preparation. Their performance was then often based on a form, style or other musical aspect agreed in advance, and the improvisation was usually modest, for example as part of a larger composition. Calefax, having its roots in and basing their concert repertoire on eight centuries of music history, knows only too well that most written music was derived from improvisation, and was written down only for the benefit of the musician reading the written notes. Thanks to the desire of the ensemble to analyse and again rebuild music, numerous arrangements have come into existence which Calefax has been playing all over the world for the last few decades. This practice makes of each of its members not only a performing but also a creative artist. And these are exactly the qualities that also an improviser should have. It is of great value to Calefax to continue exploring the relation between these two styles of making music, and this has led to On the Spot.
Whoever browses through music history will notice that composers from very different eras and regions have worked towards strikingly similar goals. The routine of arranging music for a more or less fixed group of instruments has revealed musical connections which might otherwise not have been noticed at all. The quintet has thus created a practice for the playing and playful musician with composerfriends from wherever and whenever. That may also be an appropriate description of trumpet player Eric Vloeimans, who for the rest is hard to pigeonhole. Vloeimans, with his almost vocal sound, is most certainly the perfect guide to lead five classical musicians into the world of improvisation. En passant he showed a lust for the richness that classical musical has to offer, and in that he relied willingly on the guidance of the quintet, without losing his individuality. Compositions were written by Kinan Azmeh and Albert van Veenendaal especially for the occasion of this marriage between two different types of music. Next to that, Ivar Berix and Raaf Hekkema had the freedom to pick anything from the extensive oeuvre of Eric Vloeimans.
The first track on the CD is a new composition based on two pieces by Vloeimans: the portrait-like Aladdin, which displays the typical characteristics of Vloeimans’ compositional style: lightness, melancholy and lyricism. Aladdin is alternated with the contemplative piece A.L.M.A., which was written as a requiem. The result is a dialogue between the two that lends the piece – now named Almaladdin – a rather classical character and structure.
Albert van Veenendaal’s composition The Third One was dedicated to his first godchild, which received the name Tirza. The music expresses Van Veenendaal’s wishes to the newborn: a delightful, joyful and varied life.
Just like the title leads one to expect, Vloeimans’ Summersault sounds like a festive somersault. Michelangelo Rossi is one of the more recent discoveries in Calefax’ repertoire: music from an era in which classical tonality, style and structure had not yet been cast in stone, as would be the case one century later in the Baroque. In his ten toccatas for keyboard instrument Rossi experimented freely, and left room for the tissue in between to be filled in and embellished by ornamentations and improvisations, and Calefax uses this room gratefully. The revolutionary harmonies of the Seventh Toccata - Rossi’s claim to fame avant la letter - are known as an insiders’ tip to the world of early music. Eric Vloeimans connects Rossi to the iconic Miles Davis classic Blue in Green through a solo improvisation, which Oliver Boekhoorn arranged to fit the sextet.
Bradshaw is the somewhat pompous name of a small electric car that Eric Vloeimans once saw at London Heathrow Airport. Some encounters can have unexpected poetic consequences.
Philosopher György Konrád once said: "We are committed to ourselves, on our way from the womb of the mother to the womb of the earth, from silence to silence ". This thought forms the basis of the composition Mal de Terre by Albert van Veenendaal, who adds: “Bound to the earth, we are more often staggering to our feet than not, brought off balance when confronted with our destiny. But then, melancholy and nostalgia – the beautiful duduk-solo by Oliver takes us by the hand – at the same time are the emotions that expose us to our most inner selves. And it is an openended piece, so....”
Of Sebastian Aguilera de Heredia, one of the most prominent Spanish composers of the sixteenth century, a cheerful potpourri will sound, bearing the suitable title Ensalada (salad). This music stands rough handling. To compensate the trumpet, which is played rather manly in this piece, Oliver plays on an original Catalan street instrument, the tenora.
Syrian clarinet player Kinan Azmeh knows what it is like to maneuver between different styles, from Mozart to jazz with an Arabic slant. In several projects he worked together with both Eric Vloeimans and Calefax, so that he knew whom he was writing Wedding for. Oliver here again plays on the (Armenian) duduk.
Robert de Visée was employed by the French ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV as a lute player. The chacone is the final part of his Suite for Lute in G. The piece sounds one tone lower, and was perfect as a ‘farewell piece’ on this CD. In the final bars, and extra talent of the Calefax reed players is combined with the fading trumpet sounds of the departing Eric Vloeimans. On to new horizons!
© Raaf Hekkema 2013
translation: Pelgrom tekst & vertaling