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Joachim Caffonnette Trio - Vers L’Azur Noir Rating: 0 out of 5 An impressive offering from this excellent Franco-Belgian trio. Caffonnette reveals himself to be a composer and arranger of considerable imagination in addition to being a technically gifted pianist.

Joachim Caffonnette Trio

“Vers L’Azur Noir”

(Neuklang Records NCD4205N – Proper Music Distribution)

Joachim Caffonnette – piano, Alex Gilson – bass, Jean-Baptiste Pinet – drums

The Joachim Caffonnette Trio is about to embark on a week’s tour of the UK, so now represents a good time to take a look at their new album, released on the German record label Neuklang Records.

Thirty year old Caffonnette is a Belgian born pianist and composer who has established himself as a regular presence on his country’s jazz scene, including a long running residency at Sounds Jazz Club in Brussels. He studied at music colleges in his home city of Brussels, where his tutors included his fellow countryman Eric Legnini. Caffonnette works regularly as a sideman and has also collaborated on theatre productions. Outside Belgium he has performed elsewhere in Europe and also in New York.

In 2011 Caffonnette formed his own quintet, a band that focussed exclusively on the pianist’s own compositions. In 2015 this group released the album “Simplexity” for AZ productions.

In 2016 Caffonnette formed his current trio and the bulk of this new release was recorded in the studio in late 2017, when the band were coming off the back of a twelve date tour. Three more pieces were documented at the Brussels jazz club Cellule 133a in September 2018. The material includes six Caffonnette originals, a version of Thelonious Monk’s “Monk’s Dream” , and two pop-rock covers, The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” and the title song from the documentary film “Sugar Man”.

Joining Caffonnette are two French musicians, bassist Alex Gilson and drummer Jean-Baptiste Pinet, both born in 1990. Each has an impressive pedigree as a sideman and both have worked extensively with a wide range of leading European and American jazz musicians.

Besides his work as a pianist and composer Caffonnette is the chairman of the Belgian jazz association “Les Lundis d’Hortense”, a forty three year old entity dedicated to the promotion of Belgian jazz which organises concerts, tours and workshops and fights for the rights of musicians.

Caffonnette’s credentials as a musician with a social conscience are also evidenced by his album notes, with some compositions being inspired by political or social events, even though the album is far from being a ‘political’ or ‘protest’ record.

Caffonnette’s playing has been compared to that of Wynton Kelly and Herbie Hancock but as this album reveals he is a musician and composer who has absorbed several influences. The pianist was classically taught in his early years before studying jazz piano with Legnini at the Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles and composition and arrangement with Kris Defoort at Koninklijk Conservatorium, also in Brussels. As his choice of covers reveals he has also been influenced by the sounds of pop, rock and the cinema.

The album commences with the Caffonnette composition “Perspectives”, introduced by the leader alone at the piano but subsequently joined by the tick of Pinet’s cymbals and the anchor of Gilson’s melodic bass. Initially the leader’s rippling piano arpeggios seem to symbolise the concept of shifting perspectives but the trio are soon getting into something knottier and more improvisatory as Caffonnette embarks on his solo, inviting Gilson and Pinet to respond. The rapport that the trio have developed since their formation is reflected in this fiercely interactive performance.

The title of “Inner Necessity” is inspired by a quote from the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944)  and the music represents another example of this trio’s vigorous interplay. It’s a fast moving piece with an agreeably contemporary feel about it as Caffonnette’s fingers dance around the keyboard complemented by energetic bass and drums. There’s also an extended drum feature for Pinet during the latter stages of the tune.

There’s a change of style and pace with the ballad “Tripoli’s Sorrow”, a beautiful but sombre solo piano performance that Caffonnette dedicates to the victims of modern day slavery. “And in the twenty-first century, slavery continues in full view of everybody. But most of us look away”.

The first cover is Caffonnette’s re-writing of the Lennon-McCartney classic “Hey Jude”, which the pianist dedicates to his partner, Judith. Caffonnette re-harmonises the tune, centring it around the thrum of Gilson’s bass. It’s a surprisingly effective treatment that actually enhances the beauty of the familiar melody and also provides the springboard for the trio’s subsequent improvisations.
It’s less arch than a Bad Plus cover and one can imagine its new dedicatee being quite delighted with this inventive, but heartfelt, re-imagining of the song.

The name of the title track is sourced from a line in a poem by Arthur Rimbaud and means “Towards The Black Azure”. Caffonnette uses these words to draw attention to the plight of migrants in the Mediterranean the thousands who “full of mad hope launch themselves towards the black azure”. The album as a whole is dedicated to castaways everywhere.
The first part of the tune is, if anything, even more sombre than the earlier “Tripoli’s Sorrow”, and is a melancholy reflection on the harsh realities of the refugee crisis. Subsequently bass and drums are added in a measured trio performance that combines sadness with a delicate lyricism.

“Sugar Man” is Caffonnette’s arrangement of a song by the American musician Sixto Rodriguez, the subject of the acclaimed 2012 documentary film “Searching For Sugar Man”, directed by the late Malik Bendjelloul. The trio’s version commences with a ruminative passage of unaccompanied piano before entering into a passage of more spirited and energetic trio interplay. The piece also includes a dexterous double bass solo from Gilson, accompanied by the leader’s sparse piano chording and the patter of Pinet’s drums.

The final three tracks were recorded live in a jazz club environment and the positive audience reactions are testament to the quality of the performances.

The first of these is “A Mawda”, dedicated to the memory of a two year old migrant girl, who was killed after a Belgian policeman opened fire on the vehicle that she was travelling in. Although elegiac at times the performance also possesses a bristling energy that becomes more pronounced as the trio stretch out. Finally this is reined in again with the gentle coda.

Documented at the same performance the trio version of “Monk’s Dream” was included on the album due to the fond memories the performance evokes among the trio’s members. Caffonnette demonstrates his bop chops on a lively, swinging, highly interactive trio performance that includes an extended drum feature from Pinet. The three musicians sound as if they’re having great fun, and that spirit of joie de vivre communicates itself both to the audience on the night and to the listener at home. Caffonnette sounds remarkably like Monk at times, and one senses that Thelonious himself would have approved.

The album concludes with the Caffonnette original “Jax And Reddy” of which the composer notes;
“In 2017, in Kentucky, a five year old boy called Jax asked for a haircut just like his best friend Reddy. The two classmates were convinced that, given their resemblance, their teacher would be unable to tell them apart, and they found this hilarious. Our twisted adult minds will smile when we learn that Jax is white and Reddy is black. It felt right to conclude this record on such a note of hope”.
Musically the performance captures the innocence and impishness of its subjects as it develops from an introductory passage of unaccompanied piano to embrace some typically brisk, crisp, playful trio interplay. This includes a show stopping set piece that sees Gilson using the body of his bass as auxiliary percussion in a particularly dazzling passage of rhythmic interaction. The performance is actually edited out before it reaches its conclusion, which is a pity.

This minor cavil aside this is an impressive offering from this excellent Franco-Belgian trio. Caffonnette reveals himself to be a composer and arranger of considerable imagination in addition to being a technically gifted musician and an inventive piano soloist. Gilson and Pinet also acquit themselves well in well integrated and highly interactive trio, and grab their soloing opportunities with relish. The music embraces a broad range of moods, styles and influences and the forthcoming tour should see the trio expanding their British fanbase following their successful UK début at Edinburgh Jazz Festival earlier in the year.

The trio kick off their tour with a return to Edinburgh but unfortunately they won’t be coming anywhere near me, which is a shame. However I’d urge anyone reading this to check them out, if you can, at one of the following dates;

2019;

Sun. 3 November - 21.00
EDINBURGH The Jazz Bar, 1a Chambers Street Edinburgh EH1 1HR / £5-6 http://www.thejazzbar.co.uk/

Tues. 5 November - 19.30
GLASGOW The Blue Arrow, 323 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow G2 3HW / £8 https://www.thebluearrow.co.uk/

Wed. 6 November - 21:00
MANCHESTER -Matt & Phreds, 64 Tib Street, Northern Quarter, M4 1LG /  free https://mattandphreds.com/

Thurs. 7 November - 19.00
LONDON - Kansas Smitty’s, 63-65 Broadway Market E8 4PH.  / £9 https://www.kansassmittys.com/     

Friday 8 November – 21.00
LUTON The Bear Club, 24a Guildford Street, Mill Yard, Luton LU1 2NR / £10 http://www.the-bear.club/ 

Sat. 9 November – 20.30
NOTTINGHAM Peggy’s Skylight, 3 George Street, Nottingham NG1 3BH /  £12   https://www.peggysskylight.co.uk/

Sun. 10 November – 20.00
HOVE The Brunswick, 1-3 Holland Road, Hove BN3 1JF / £8-10 http://www.thebrunswick.net/2019/05/joachim-caffonnette-trio-sunday-10th-nov-2019/

Vers L’Azur Noir

Joachim Caffonnette Trio

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

0 out of 5

Vers L’Azur Noir

An impressive offering from this excellent Franco-Belgian trio. Caffonnette reveals himself to be a composer and arranger of considerable imagination in addition to being a technically gifted pianist.

Joachim Caffonnette Trio

“Vers L’Azur Noir”

(Neuklang Records NCD4205N – Proper Music Distribution)

Joachim Caffonnette – piano, Alex Gilson – bass, Jean-Baptiste Pinet – drums

The Joachim Caffonnette Trio is about to embark on a week’s tour of the UK, so now represents a good time to take a look at their new album, released on the German record label Neuklang Records.

Thirty year old Caffonnette is a Belgian born pianist and composer who has established himself as a regular presence on his country’s jazz scene, including a long running residency at Sounds Jazz Club in Brussels. He studied at music colleges in his home city of Brussels, where his tutors included his fellow countryman Eric Legnini. Caffonnette works regularly as a sideman and has also collaborated on theatre productions. Outside Belgium he has performed elsewhere in Europe and also in New York.

In 2011 Caffonnette formed his own quintet, a band that focussed exclusively on the pianist’s own compositions. In 2015 this group released the album “Simplexity” for AZ productions.

In 2016 Caffonnette formed his current trio and the bulk of this new release was recorded in the studio in late 2017, when the band were coming off the back of a twelve date tour. Three more pieces were documented at the Brussels jazz club Cellule 133a in September 2018. The material includes six Caffonnette originals, a version of Thelonious Monk’s “Monk’s Dream” , and two pop-rock covers, The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” and the title song from the documentary film “Sugar Man”.

Joining Caffonnette are two French musicians, bassist Alex Gilson and drummer Jean-Baptiste Pinet, both born in 1990. Each has an impressive pedigree as a sideman and both have worked extensively with a wide range of leading European and American jazz musicians.

Besides his work as a pianist and composer Caffonnette is the chairman of the Belgian jazz association “Les Lundis d’Hortense”, a forty three year old entity dedicated to the promotion of Belgian jazz which organises concerts, tours and workshops and fights for the rights of musicians.

Caffonnette’s credentials as a musician with a social conscience are also evidenced by his album notes, with some compositions being inspired by political or social events, even though the album is far from being a ‘political’ or ‘protest’ record.

Caffonnette’s playing has been compared to that of Wynton Kelly and Herbie Hancock but as this album reveals he is a musician and composer who has absorbed several influences. The pianist was classically taught in his early years before studying jazz piano with Legnini at the Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles and composition and arrangement with Kris Defoort at Koninklijk Conservatorium, also in Brussels. As his choice of covers reveals he has also been influenced by the sounds of pop, rock and the cinema.

The album commences with the Caffonnette composition “Perspectives”, introduced by the leader alone at the piano but subsequently joined by the tick of Pinet’s cymbals and the anchor of Gilson’s melodic bass. Initially the leader’s rippling piano arpeggios seem to symbolise the concept of shifting perspectives but the trio are soon getting into something knottier and more improvisatory as Caffonnette embarks on his solo, inviting Gilson and Pinet to respond. The rapport that the trio have developed since their formation is reflected in this fiercely interactive performance.

The title of “Inner Necessity” is inspired by a quote from the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866 – 1944)  and the music represents another example of this trio’s vigorous interplay. It’s a fast moving piece with an agreeably contemporary feel about it as Caffonnette’s fingers dance around the keyboard complemented by energetic bass and drums. There’s also an extended drum feature for Pinet during the latter stages of the tune.

There’s a change of style and pace with the ballad “Tripoli’s Sorrow”, a beautiful but sombre solo piano performance that Caffonnette dedicates to the victims of modern day slavery. “And in the twenty-first century, slavery continues in full view of everybody. But most of us look away”.

The first cover is Caffonnette’s re-writing of the Lennon-McCartney classic “Hey Jude”, which the pianist dedicates to his partner, Judith. Caffonnette re-harmonises the tune, centring it around the thrum of Gilson’s bass. It’s a surprisingly effective treatment that actually enhances the beauty of the familiar melody and also provides the springboard for the trio’s subsequent improvisations.
It’s less arch than a Bad Plus cover and one can imagine its new dedicatee being quite delighted with this inventive, but heartfelt, re-imagining of the song.

The name of the title track is sourced from a line in a poem by Arthur Rimbaud and means “Towards The Black Azure”. Caffonnette uses these words to draw attention to the plight of migrants in the Mediterranean the thousands who “full of mad hope launch themselves towards the black azure”. The album as a whole is dedicated to castaways everywhere.
The first part of the tune is, if anything, even more sombre than the earlier “Tripoli’s Sorrow”, and is a melancholy reflection on the harsh realities of the refugee crisis. Subsequently bass and drums are added in a measured trio performance that combines sadness with a delicate lyricism.

“Sugar Man” is Caffonnette’s arrangement of a song by the American musician Sixto Rodriguez, the subject of the acclaimed 2012 documentary film “Searching For Sugar Man”, directed by the late Malik Bendjelloul. The trio’s version commences with a ruminative passage of unaccompanied piano before entering into a passage of more spirited and energetic trio interplay. The piece also includes a dexterous double bass solo from Gilson, accompanied by the leader’s sparse piano chording and the patter of Pinet’s drums.

The final three tracks were recorded live in a jazz club environment and the positive audience reactions are testament to the quality of the performances.

The first of these is “A Mawda”, dedicated to the memory of a two year old migrant girl, who was killed after a Belgian policeman opened fire on the vehicle that she was travelling in. Although elegiac at times the performance also possesses a bristling energy that becomes more pronounced as the trio stretch out. Finally this is reined in again with the gentle coda.

Documented at the same performance the trio version of “Monk’s Dream” was included on the album due to the fond memories the performance evokes among the trio’s members. Caffonnette demonstrates his bop chops on a lively, swinging, highly interactive trio performance that includes an extended drum feature from Pinet. The three musicians sound as if they’re having great fun, and that spirit of joie de vivre communicates itself both to the audience on the night and to the listener at home. Caffonnette sounds remarkably like Monk at times, and one senses that Thelonious himself would have approved.

The album concludes with the Caffonnette original “Jax And Reddy” of which the composer notes;
“In 2017, in Kentucky, a five year old boy called Jax asked for a haircut just like his best friend Reddy. The two classmates were convinced that, given their resemblance, their teacher would be unable to tell them apart, and they found this hilarious. Our twisted adult minds will smile when we learn that Jax is white and Reddy is black. It felt right to conclude this record on such a note of hope”.
Musically the performance captures the innocence and impishness of its subjects as it develops from an introductory passage of unaccompanied piano to embrace some typically brisk, crisp, playful trio interplay. This includes a show stopping set piece that sees Gilson using the body of his bass as auxiliary percussion in a particularly dazzling passage of rhythmic interaction. The performance is actually edited out before it reaches its conclusion, which is a pity.

This minor cavil aside this is an impressive offering from this excellent Franco-Belgian trio. Caffonnette reveals himself to be a composer and arranger of considerable imagination in addition to being a technically gifted musician and an inventive piano soloist. Gilson and Pinet also acquit themselves well in well integrated and highly interactive trio, and grab their soloing opportunities with relish. The music embraces a broad range of moods, styles and influences and the forthcoming tour should see the trio expanding their British fanbase following their successful UK début at Edinburgh Jazz Festival earlier in the year.

The trio kick off their tour with a return to Edinburgh but unfortunately they won’t be coming anywhere near me, which is a shame. However I’d urge anyone reading this to check them out, if you can, at one of the following dates;

2019;

Sun. 3 November - 21.00
EDINBURGH The Jazz Bar, 1a Chambers Street Edinburgh EH1 1HR / £5-6 http://www.thejazzbar.co.uk/

Tues. 5 November - 19.30
GLASGOW The Blue Arrow, 323 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow G2 3HW / £8 https://www.thebluearrow.co.uk/

Wed. 6 November - 21:00
MANCHESTER -Matt & Phreds, 64 Tib Street, Northern Quarter, M4 1LG /  free https://mattandphreds.com/

Thurs. 7 November - 19.00
LONDON - Kansas Smitty’s, 63-65 Broadway Market E8 4PH.  / £9 https://www.kansassmittys.com/     

Friday 8 November – 21.00
LUTON The Bear Club, 24a Guildford Street, Mill Yard, Luton LU1 2NR / £10 http://www.the-bear.club/ 

Sat. 9 November – 20.30
NOTTINGHAM Peggy’s Skylight, 3 George Street, Nottingham NG1 3BH /  £12   https://www.peggysskylight.co.uk/

Sun. 10 November – 20.00
HOVE The Brunswick, 1-3 Holland Road, Hove BN3 1JF / £8-10 http://www.thebrunswick.net/2019/05/joachim-caffonnette-trio-sunday-10th-nov-2019/


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