Belgian pianist Fred Van Hove (b. 1937) is one of the architects of European free music, though his profile Stateside is unfortunately rather minimal. An early associate of German reedman Peter Brötzmann and bassist Peter Kowald, Belgian reedman Cel Overberghe and Dutch drummer Han Bennink, their collective performances in art galleries and pubs following the May ’68 riots is (or should be) the stuff of legend. Following the dissolution of the trio Brötzmann/Van Hove/Bennink, the pianist and sometime organist/accordionist founded Musica Libera Belgicae (MLB) and Musica Libera Antverpiae (MLA), as well as performing frequently solo and with a variety of duo partners. Most of his recordings have been released on European labels like FMP, Saravah, BVHaast Nato, and the Belgian imprints Vogel, Kamikaze and WIMprotwee – other than Atavistic’s reissues, his previous US appearance on disc are a pair of recordings (solo and trio) for the Dallas label Nuscope. Van Hove doesn’t often play with American improvisers, either, but on Burns Longer, his piano and accordion are heard in a whorl of a trio with bassists Damon Smith and Belgian Peter Jacquemyn on three massive free improvisations.
One is reminded of the shattering duets that Béb Guerin and Earl Freeman wove around Clifford Thornton’s cornet on “Speak With Your Echo (And Call This Dialogue)” (Ketchaoua, BYG, 1969) although Kowald and Buschi Niebergall similarly girded Van Hove’s flights in the context of Herr Brötzmann’s larger groups. For the sake of differentiation, Smith is on the right and Jacquemyn is on the left, the latter’s chunkiness and vocal growls a powerful contrast to Smith’s fleet minefields. Van Hove brings a churchy resonance to his instrument as well as splintering stabs and Jaki Byard-like runs. The oft-reviled accordion in tandem with a blistering bull fiddle duo is a heaving generator of madcap energy.
Burns Longer is the second digital release on Balance Point Acoustics and thus grants a bit of fuzzy geography to the proceedings – this music can be taken nearly anywhere and heard in any country where computers and purchasing downloaded music are a possibility. As full as the music is here, it is without an object and thus clouds the notion that digital releases are totally ephemeral. One wouldn’t expect the live punch of wood, strings, horsehair and plastic to translate across an iPhone and ear buds, but the mastering flair of Ryan Edwards has brought this trio, both hulking and spry, to an amazing and portable life. The music itself is nearly relentless, steaming ahead when Van Hove’s accordion heaves and whines while Smith and Jacquemyn saw and kick up surrounding dust. If you’re looking for a fine entry point into Van Hove’s world or are a rabid fan of his work, Burns Longer will not disappoint, especially taking into account the fine and rare company he’s in.
released September 9, 2013
Fred Van Hove - piano, accordion
Damon Smith & Peter Jaquemyn - double basses
Cover by Peter Jacquemyn
Design by Alan Anzalone
Recorded by Michel Huon
Easter Sunday, 2008 at Archiduc in Brussels
24 bit mastering by Ryan Edwards