December 6, 2020
Guus Janssen/Wim Janssen
Home Made Music
NotTwo MW 991-2
Linked by blood or talent two European piano-drums duos heighten the significance of their recitals with an astute mixture of (Jazz) standards and originals, with chief point of demarcation whether the improvisations are brief or extended.
Recorded in an Arnhem living room, Home Made Music’s 11 selections confirm the responsive creativity of pianist Guus Janssen and drummer Wim Janssen from the Netherlands – no surprise considering they’re brothers who have played together since childhood. With a higher profile than his sibling, with whom he plays in his trio, Guus has also worked in the ICP Orchestra. Known for his role in ensembles ranging from the Globe Unity Orchestra to his long-running trio, Berlin-based pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach is one of the doyens of European Free Music who has played with countless drummers over his nearly 60 year career. Unlike the Janssen brothers who are close in age, the pianist’s partner on Liminal Field is 45 years his junior. Now a Berliner, Norwegian Dag Magnus Narvesen has worked with the likes of Harri Sjöström and Aki Takase.
Probably the best instance of the Janssen brothers’ ESP occurs on the extended “HiHat Kary's Trance” with wood-echoing keyboard clipping and clapping at the top, the foot-patting theme come into focus with Wim Janssen’s soft-shoe-like drumming. Using passing chord emphasis to shake out narrative variations, in three-legged-race-like fashion, the pianist joins his brother to rappel up the scale, ending with Gus Janssen jiggling the highest pitches from the keyboard. The two also add gritty asides to keep the CD’s ballads from becoming too precious but using relaxed formalism to make sure staccato numbers don’t fly off into the stratosphere. Tension building with acerbic key pressure, indicates the latter strategy on “PF”, though key slides and interlocking tone variations plus drum rattles preserve forward motion. Meanwhile repetition of a specific pattern on “Paloma” preserves the balladic mode, while a Latin tinge from the piano, moving up to tremolo accompaniment keeps the track lively.
Besides an appropriately exciting rendition of Herbie Nichols “House Party Starting” to kick off the proceedings, the Janssens also toy with some motifs that also compel von Schlippenbach and Narvesen. The concluding “April” for instance is a contrafact of “I’ll Remember April” and the pianist works out spiky variations on the theme in the middle, besides playing it with straightforward swing at the top and bottom. As for “Azuur”, it’s invested with Monkish jumps and stops from the pianist with cymbal and Mylar colorations from the drummer. Ranging through rubbery glissandi with plinks and resounding, theme variations at double speed are heard before a slapping exit.
Often turning to interpretations of the Monk cannon over the years in many configurations, von Schlippenbach does the same with Narvesen. This is spelled out on “Morphing Monk”, but there are other Monk echoes elsewhere on the disc. Moving beyond perceptive evaluations, the pianist uses sonic detours and melodic references in his solo, bringing in older influences such as stomps and stride to characterize his recasting. Clunking tones from the bottom of the soundboard, he later works in multi-note pulsations from Narvesen’s “Sic Transit” to complete his respectful recasting of the master works.
Swelling, crab-like movements across the keyboard characterize von Schlippenbach’s playing on all tracks, pulling out the narrative with kinetic cross pulses and a hard keyboard touch. When he speeds up his playing references relate to Cecil Taylor’s contrasting dynamics or the pounding rhythm of Jimmy Yancy’s boogie woogie. Meanwhile the drummer dynamically smacks and shudders where necessary, brining steady pulsations to back up delicate theme variations, or in response to more dissonant key-stopping and inner string vibrations, creates lug-loosening and cymbal scratching counterpoint.
Building up to the concluding 22 minute “Brass Tacks”, the two creatively run through almost suite-like sequences which encompass active pitter patter and keyboard slaps, busy drum ruffs, bangs and sticking, finally interpolating the familiar melodies of “All the Things You Are” and Eric Dolphy’s “Sweet, Something Tender”. The key to communication is that despite heavy bass chord banging from the pianist or drum rolls, pops and jitters, each section flows seamlessly. Relaxed and deliberate elaborations share spare with drum rumble and piano patterning without fracturing the narrative.
Associates on extended pieces or brothers on many, take your pick between these notable duos – or listen to both.
Track Listing: Home: 1. House Party Starting 2. Slow Step 3. Azuur 4. HiHat Kary's Trance 5. Paloma 6. Zeeweg 7. Very good weather today 8. PF 9. Zwik 10. Tune for F 11. April
Personnel: Home: Guus Janssen (piano and toy piano) and Wim Janssen (drums)
Track Listing: Liminal: 1. Relay Extempore -Trackside Duologues I/Kinga 2. Reveries in Monochrome - Trackside Duologues II Strings and Barrels 3. Morphing Monk - Variations over Light Blue, Work, Trinkle Trinkle and Skippy/Sic Transit 4. Brass Tacks - Vantage Ad Lib/All the Things You Are/Trackside Duologues III/Something Sweet, Something Tender/Eisenbahn Epilogue
Personnel: Liminal: Alexander von Schlippenbach (piano) and Dag Magnus Narvesen (drums)