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Michiel Stekelenburg - Catharsis

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    Posted: 03 Apr 2024 at 1:13pm

recording of the week,Michiel Stekelenburg - Catharsis

by Matt Groom 

Dutch guitarist, composer, and educator Michiel Stekelenburg has carved a distinct niche in the modern jazz landscape. Born in Bossche, Stekelenburg’s musical roots trace back to rock music as much as jazz —an influence that permeates both his playing and compositions. His journey began with the well-received debut album Hypnos in 2011, followed in 2016 by the equally celebrated Layers (which managed to hit #1 on the iTunes Jazz charts at the time). Catharsis, Stekelenburg’s latest project fuses jazz, rock, and even some classical elements, all held together by Stekelenburg’s intricate and soulful arrangement and mesmerising guitar work, but it’s the thematic foundation sets this project apart.

Stekelenburg says in the liner notes “This album is more than just a collection of pieces; it is a journey through my soul, a quest for balance between my inner world and the expectations of the outer world. I invite you to join me in exploring the boundaries of emotion and identity together. May this musical journey not only resonate with you but also awaken your own sensitivity.” Titles serve as the starting point for composition, allowing Stekelenburg to explore the delicate balance between vulnerability and strength. As a grown man reflecting on life, he grapples with deep sensitivity—an inner storm that finds expression through his music.

Catharsis redefines the traditional septet sound. The listener can expect passionate solos, ethereal textures, and dynamic rhythms. The brass section, harmoniously designed, plays a pivotal role alongside the guitar. Each track takes the listener on a journey through different worlds, where accompaniment and melody intertwine. From the introspective “Heartwork” to the evocative 'Chasing Shadows', Stekelenburg’s compositions evoke emotions that resonate far beyond the notes.

The opening track sets the tone for the entire album. “As One” introduces us to Stekelenburg’s melodic sensibility, his guitar work weaving intricate patterns, inviting listeners into a harmonious world where instruments converse like old friends. The brass section adds warmth, and the rhythm section grooves with, precision.

Sam Thomas’s saxophone spins intricate narratives throughout the album, his tone balancing vulnerability and strength, mirroring the thematic core of Catharsis. Tom Ridderbeekx’s piano work adds depth and colour, and in tracks like 'Flow' his harmonies do indeed create a sense of fluidity, like water seeking its course. His interplay with Stekelenburg is certainly a highlight of the project. Jesse Schilderink’s trumpet pierces through the ensemble, with his improvisations in 'Tempest' standing out particularly for me, evoking genuine emotional turbulence. And Van Hulten’s drumming is the heartbeat of Catharsis; his rhythms shift seamlessly from contemplative to fiery, grounding the ensemble. 'Morning Song' best exemplifies the subtlety he is capable of.

'Heartwork' is a soulful exploration of human emotions, with Stekelenburg’s exquisite guitar solo a heartfelt conversation with oneself leading to a cathartic release. The interplay between the saxophone and piano mirrors the ebb and flow of inner struggles (For a second I did wonder if “Heartwork” might be a jazz cover of the famous tune by death metal legends, Carcass, but this was not to be). 'Chasing Shadows' takes us on a nocturnal journey, with Thomas’s haunting sax melody dancing with the guitar, creating an atmosphere of introspection. The rhythm section maintains a steady pulse, like footsteps echoing through dimly lit streets.

As the album nears its end, 'Renewal' emerges like a beacon of hope. Stekelenburg’s composition feels like a sunrise after a storm. The guitar strings resonate with resilience, and the ensemble builds to a triumphant climax. It’s a reminder that catharsis can lead to renewal—a cycle of growth and transformation. Michiel Stekelenburg masterfully balances vulnerability and strength in each track. His guitar becomes a vessel for spiritual release, inviting us to explore our own personal emotional landscapes. 


Michiel Stekelenburg

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Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Matt Groom - Head of Jazz

from www.prestomusic.com

Edited by snobb - 03 Apr 2024 at 1:13pm
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