Music Reviews

Trumpet Treasures

Angelo Verploegen and Jasper van Hulten: The Duke Book (Just Listen Records)

Jazz performance is sometimes compared to a tightrope walk. A dialogue between a horn player and a percussionist, with no piano, guitar or bass to provide the harmonic foundation, is like a tightrope walk without a net. On their recent album “The Duke Book”, a set of duo performances of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn compositions, flugelhorn player Angelo Verploegen and drummer Jasper van Hulten make the risk-taking seem effortless.

The selection of tunes, from the well-known classics “Satin Doll”, “Caravan”, and “Take the “A” Train” to the lesser-known “Blues in Blueprint” and “Smada” from the 1962 Columbia Records album (and audiophile favorite) “Blues in Orbit”, provides a framework for new arrangements and plenty of room for individual expression.

The absence of a piano gives percussionist van Hulten plenty of space to play in an orchestral style and explore the palette of percussive tone colors. Small details like the delicate brush work that opens “Blues in Blueprint”, the Cuban dance rhythm in “Satin Doll”, and the floor toms played like kettle drums in “Come Sunday”, draw the listener into the intimate musical setting.

A hidden gem of atmospheric jazz from the dawn of DSD

Ellington/Tizol’s “Caravan” is recast by Verploegen in a subtle arrangement that delays the appearance of the original theme until nearly the end of the performance. It’s a bravura choice that a less experienced musician wouldn’t have risked. Verploegen plays a flugelhorn made by the Dutch instrument designer Hub van Laar, whose instruments are used by the Dutch trumpet virtuoso Eric Vloeimans. The flugelhorn is pitched in the same key as the trumpet, but possesses a deeper timbre and rounder tone that Verploegen explores in the lyrical passages of “Come Sunday” and “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing”.

Though he’s playing from the Ellington book, Verploegen avoids emulating the characteristic riffs and clichés of Duke’s trumpet soloists. Like many players who came of age in the 1980s, a time when free jazz had retreated to the margins and the “Young Lions” had reintroduced earlier jazz currents into neo-bop repertoire, Verploegen synthesizes a range of stylistic influences. He improvises with great confidence and dexterity, easily meeting the challenge of tracking the chord changes without a backing instrument. If you’re familiar with the pieces, you can “hear” the implied chords beneath Verploegen’s and van Hulten’s solo phrases and duo interplay.

Engineer Jared Sacks’s DSD256 recording positions the two players in the sumptuous reverberant acoustic of MCO, Hilversum.

“The Duke Book” is a delight for audiophiles and highly recommended for all jazz lovers.

Toïs, Angelo Verploegen, Tjitze Vogel, and Bram Wijland: Forbidden Fruit (Turtle Records)

Have you ever searched the NativeDSD website and noticed a checkbox labeled DSD Exclusively available as DSD download (Never available on SACD)? Try clicking on it. What displays is an ever-growing list of albums recorded in DSD, DXD, or analogue transferred direct to DSD, that were never issued on SACD.

“Forbidden Fruit”, a jazz trio album by the group Toïs, consisting of Angelo Verploegen, trumpet and flugelhorn, Tjitze Vogel, standup bass, and Bram Wijland, percussion, was recorded by engineer Bert van der Wolf at the dawn of the DSD era in Doopsgezinde Kerk, Deventer, the Netherlands. The sonics of that venue are known to listeners of Jared Sacks’s classical music SACDs and DSD albums on Channel Records. The spacious acoustic and long reverberation time paints a “glow” around the instruments; trumpet phrases hang in the air; plucked bass notes fill the soundstage, and cymbals shimmer.

The selection of standards by Ellington, Gershwin, Porter and Legrand is balanced by original compositions from Angelo Verploegen and bassist Tjitze Vogel, and a “new standard” from Branford Marsalis.

Duke Ellington‘s “I Got it Bad and That ain’t Good” takes the unexpected approach of a musical argument between trumpet squalls and clattering drum fills. It’s a humorous performance that upends listener expectations. In the Gershwins’ “S’Wonderful” Verploegen dispenses with the verse melody and jumps into a muted trumpet solo on the bridge line, another unexpected revision of a classic standard. The traditional elements of bebop structure are all in place; nimble horn solos; the leader dropping out to showcase the rhythm section; “trading fours”; familiar signposts on the long road from the music’s origin in the early 1940s.

Echoes of pianist-composer Horace Silver reverberate through Verploegen’s striking composition “Brad’s Feast”. Following a well-crafted open horn trumpet solo, guest guitarist Ed Verhoeff spins a silky toned melodic improvisation.

The Cole Porter classic “What is This Thing Called Love?” opens with a dexterous bass solo over fleet brushwork from Bram Wijland, only gradually revealing the familiar contours of the song’s melody. Counterpoint guitar chords give this arrangement foot-tapping rhythmic drive.

A bridge between “Forbidden Fruit” and “The Duke Book” is the Juan Tizol-Duke Ellington composition “Caravan”, which appears on both recordings. I encourage listeners to create a playlist with both versions side by side for ease of comparison. On “Forbidden Fruit”, Verploegen reconceived “Caravan” as a study in restless energy; on “The Duke Book”, he revised that conception into a radically new arrangement. That probing curiosity and drive to experiment in new directions is the measure of a master musician.

Eric Vloeimans: Oliver’s Cinema (Buzz)

A Dutchman, a Belgian and a German walk into a bar…

If it is true that the finest Belgian ale is brewed by contemplative monks, it must follow that the best music is produced by contemplative musicians.

Oliver’s Cinema had its genesis in a visit by Dutch trumpeter Eric Vloeimans to a Belgian bar, where, over a pint of the local, he listened to a CD of accordionist Tuur Florizoone. A duo was quickly formed, then expanded into a trio with the addition of German cellist Jörg Brinkmann. Each of the three players contributed original compositions to assemble a performing repertoire unique to the ensemble. The inclusion of film soundtrack pieces from “Cinema Paradiso” and “Rosemary’s Baby” suggested to Vloeimans a cinema-themed title for the project, which, coincidentally, is an anagram for his name. 

Fourteen short pieces survey a range of moods from the playful to the contemplative, to the elegiac. The album has been described as a ‘soundtrack for imaginary films’ but that shorthand characterization doesn’t really do it justice. The pieces are thoughtfully arranged frameworks on which the players develop melodic improvisations in folk-classical mode: waltz, musette, klezmer, and Near-Eastern themes weave together in a seamless fabric.

The opening piece, Vloeimans’ “Aladdin”, begins with a lilting melody in 4/4/4/5 rhythm played by the cello on plucked strings. Cellist Brinkmann is equally adept carrying a bass line or bowing elegant, legato phrases. The accordion enters, a blend of keyboard and button registers, layering the accompaniment with chords and single-line melodies. Finally we hear the Hub van Laar trumpet that provides Vloeimans with a broad palette for shaping his tone. The facility with which Vloeimans can bend notes suggests that he’s using one of van Laar’s quarter-tone models with the extra valve; but in a video of the group, Vloeimans can clearly be seen playing a three-valve instrument. Perhaps both instruments were used in the recording. 

Oliver’s Cinema is perfect late-night music, best matched with a Belgian abbey ale—triple, of course.

While the album can be enjoyed in shorter or longer listening segments, the whole set is more than equal to the sum of its parts. Bert van der Wolf’s recorded sound projects the ensemble into your listening room in a close perspective appropriate to the intimate mood of the performance, with generous ambience haloing the instruments. The recording venue is not named in the liner notes, but it sounds more like a studio soundstage than a church or concert hall. Low-level details, the occasional click of the accordion keys or breathiness from the trumpet, are audible mostly at higher playback levels.

Eric Vloeimans: Umai (Challenge Jazz)

The familiar comparisons that jazz writers use to describe a musician’s sound are often inadequate to the task. Because there are so many trumpet players who sound more or less like Miles Davis, and piano trios that were inspired by the Bill Evans/Scott LaFaro/Paul Motian Trio, these kinds of comparisons may or may not be useful to communicate the distinctive qualities of a contemporary jazz musician.

Dutch trumpet master Eric Vloeimans manages not to sound exactly like any particular forebear, and that is no small accomplishment. Rather than compare him to his illustrious predecessors, it’s more useful to focus on what makes him different: his compositions. The original works on Umai fall on the lyrical-romantic side of modern European jazz. Fans of Kenny Wheeler and Enrico Rava will not be disappointed by this set of tunes. Vloeimans possesses an impish spirit;

There’s a current of musical humour running through his works that will have listeners tapping their feet and smiling.

Sympathetic support from a multinational rhythm section of Italian bassist Furio di Castro, (the late, great) British pianist John Taylor and American drummer Joe LaBarbera, highlights Vloeimans’ thoughtful and economical solos.

Umai was recorded by Chris Weeda at Studio Leroy in Amsterdam, Netherlands in 2000, around the same time as he recorded two other early SACD sessions for Challenge Jazz: Enrico Pieranunzi: Plays the Music of Wayne Shorter and Enrico Pieranunzi: Improvised Forms for Trio. All three albums demonstrated, early in the SACD era, that recording in a well-controlled studio environment in native DSD captured a more natural sound than the recordings from ECM of the same era. The drums, bass, trumpet and piano are all well-positioned in the room and blend harmoniously in a realistic presentation.

A generous 72 minutes of intelligent music makes this release worth a space on the jazz shelf.

More Trumpet Treasures reviewer Mark Werlin shared with you 4 reviews of Jazz albums available at NativeDSD, highlighting the players Angelo Verploegen and Eric Vloeimans. Here you will find a few more Trumpet Treasures selected by the NativeDSD staff.

Written by

Mark Werlin

Mark is a videomaker and music reviewer who writes about jazz and new creative music, in DSD, for NativeDSD, and All About Jazz. He has a special interest in new music produced by independent audiophile labels. His videos of solo musical performances were featured in a U.S. Library of Congress program.


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