UNIVERSAL JAZZ 18/11/2016
A honking horn, a hanging but swinging back-beat and hurried spoken lyrics pushing heavy on the word “fever” – it’s a great beginning for this album that finds the sweet-spot between jazz and hip-hop. Out of Belgium, via New York, the fusion of Tom Barman from art-rockers, dEUS, and saxophonist Robin Verheyen is fresh and ultra-cool. They have recorded with their touring band of the last year and come up with a jazz equivalent of Les Negresses Verte. On Soliloque, they channel the spirit of Serge Gainsbourg’s later, spoken records, quoting his typical wordplay all over the place (“zero, hero”, “cons se cons”, etc).
The album grooves deep, like a top-notch dance-tent band yet carrying the rhythmic sensibilities of a jazz band. Vocals that visit French as well as English add vignettes of street life and late night ponderings of the mysteries of the heart. The sax doesn’t hurt, giving that expression you find in old Blue Note records. The drums, however, mark this out; elastic and mobile, they shift around the beat while always leaving it in place. The rhythm section tells me this is proper jazz – it’s just that I don’t care – it is MUSIC. It grooves and it feels cool, it carries some nice tunes (Airplane Song, for example) and is lyrically picturesque. Robin opines: “At big festivals, people are yearning for a good groove. If nothing else, that’s what we have to offer. If the groove is deep, people don’t wonder: Hey, these guys are playing jazz. It’s music.”
Click onto Controlled Demolition for a drumming masterclass in swinging beat, where vocals add percussive impulse and sax squonks it further on. Or try Egyptian Night, the closer, for a low-down jazz groove and melodic exploration of a mood. This is NOT jazz light but it is jazz for people who don’t seek jazz out- it just IS. It does what it does and you don’t need to stroke your beard. Nodding your head is inevitable though.