Paul Van Gysegem/Chris Joris/Patrick De Groote

Boundless
elNegocito eNOR065

Spanish explorer Ponce de León’ 1513 discovery of Florida when purportedly searching for the fabled fountain of youth fades in importance at least musically when you consider the achievements of Ghent bassist and visual artist Paul Van Gysegem. On this, his newest CD, Van Gysegem appears to have discovered both musical themes as promising as Florida tuned out to be as a settlement … and the fountain of youth. Well only figuratively. At 81, Van Gysegem is playing with the same fire and invention he demonstrated in 1971 on his first LP, Aorta, a classic of Belgian Free Jazz. After more than 50 years of musicianship, it appears Van Gysegem has more-than-expected insights into maintaining creativity.

His partner on every track but one on Boundless is trumpeter/flugelhornist Patrick De Groote, also part of the sextet that recorded Aorta, and who returned to active playing in 2005 after a 30 year absence. Adding the youth element on five of nine tracks is drummer, percussionist and pianist Chris Joris, a mere 64, who has worked with many Belgian musicians as well as French reedist André Jaume and American tuba player Bob Stewart. Joris who began his career as a pianist, spectacularly colors “Frinket” with graceful chords whose palimpsest-like impact indirectly regularizes the pumping double bass and trumpet blasts. Alternately, concentrating on hand percussion his conga-like resonations work into a sinewy duet with Van Gysegem’s wood hammering on the bull fiddle, producing more resemblance to lumberjack-hewed logs than a “Leaflet” on the track of that name.

With De Groote excelling in tropes encompassing buttery flugelhorn decorations on “Windward”; trumpet lines that can be hand-muted and sweeping as on “Hakketak”; or brawny braying on “Talking”; the group’s versatility is triangular as well as triumphant. On the last tune for instance, the brass man’s graceful elaborations reach their zenith to such an extent that Van Gysegem’s spiccato leaps on the strings to the highest and expressive pitches are needed to maintain an animated dialogue.

With theatrical-like thrusts, the trio wraps up the final “No Comment” with enough extended techniques for all concerned to produce the equivalent of an effects laden Imax film with a cerebral plot. This straightforward but layered sequence overlaps brass plunger tones, rhythmic wooden stick shoved among bass string reverb and popping thumps from Joris so that it showcases unexpected timbral paths even as it strengthens the theme.

The concluding comment – and it’s anything but “No Comment” – is that on the evidence here age hasn’t adversely affected anyone on this memorable session. Furthermore, if this musical fountain of youth business keeps germinating, who knows what the future may bring to improvised music?

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Boundless 2. Hakketak 3. Windward 4. Leaflet+ 5. Talking 6. Frinket* 7. Flash 8. Celestics 9. No Comment

Personnel: Patrick De Groote (trumpet and flugelhorn); Paul Van Gysegem (bass) and Chris Joris (drums, percussion, ngoma hand drum+ and piano*)