Anytime you hear the words improvisational and jazz side by side, the odds are pretty good they’ll soon be accompanied by one or more of feverish, frenetic and frenzied. It’s true that the music offers more range than its given credit for. But you’ve got to dig pretty deep.
Belgium’s Kabas will make you glad you did. Their wide-open, understated approach to the genre – not to mention their practiced musicianship – delivers a surprisingly accessible package.
The band has paired two excellent recordings in a double-CD release.
Live at SMUP features Carlos Godinho on percussion, Luis Vicente on trumpet, Jan Daelman on flute, Thijs Troch on piano, Nils Vermeulen on double bass and Elias Devoldere on drums.
The 18-minute-plus opener features the core Kabas lineup. Godinho and Vicente sit in on tracks two and three. Despite their low-key approach, these three live performances pack a punch. All the ingredients are there for an intensely difficult listen. Somehow, they manage to maintain the former without sliding into the latter.
Negen features the same lineup listed above, minus Godinho. Not surprisingly, these studio recordings are more polished. That serves the material well. If the interplay between the band members is somewhat less organic than on the live recordings, that’s more than made up for by the album’s superb production.
Three minutes into the second disc’s “Hamerkopter,” Vicente delivers a trumpet performance that will add a new dimension to your appreciation of the instrument. He is the focus of attention again on “Cilindro Pendulo,” a track he carries with real style.
Daelman’s flute has a similar stand-out quality. His contributions to “St. Print 3(2)” and “Fogofaze” are bright and energetic.
Ultimately though, it has to be said that the band is the thing. It is the combination of these terrific musicians, and their unique take on improv jazz, that makes this double-CD package a success.