PAUL VAN GYSEGEM — Paul Van Gysegem Quintet : Square Talks (review)

PAUL VAN GYSEGEM — Paul Van Gysegem Quintet : Square Talks album cover Live album · 2021 · 21st Century Modern Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Leaving aside stars of the past such as Django Reinhardt and Toots Thielemans, Belgian jazz is only fragmentarily known outside of their domestic scene. Besides classical music, most of what the outside world knows of Belgian music for the last couple decades is quirky non-conventional avant-rock bands.

Still, even for local jazz fans, seasoned bassist Paul Van Gysegem is hardly a household name. Omniscient Google says he's a sculptor and shows some examples of his art. Still, one can find out that in the magical, for jazz, year of 1971, Van Gysegem released a free jazz album on the renown French label, Fortuna, plus a few more albums during the next half-a-century.

"Square Talks" is Paul Van Gysegem's extremely rare release as a leader. Recorded live in 2019, he leads a sextet of seasoned Belgian musicians (trumpeter Patrick De Groote even played with Van Gysege on his above mentioned debut in 1971!) plus younger generation Czech ex-patriate drummer Marek Patrman.

I listened to this album during the last few days, when the weather outside was really freaky - the snow was falling day after day in the end of April, which isn't usual, even for us living in Northern Europe. It recalled for me the times when I was much younger, probably a teen, when winters were much colder and much longer. "Square Talks" music fitted pretty well to this deja vu feeling.

Van Gysegem's band doesn't demonstrate virtuosity or technical equilibristic at all. They play mature mid-tempo chamber avant-garde jazz as if it is still early 70s outside. Warm wooden bass, excellent sound and an almost non-existing anymore atmosphere of freedom, and escape with a touch of lyrical melancholy. Yeah, we all know that this world doesn't exist anymore, but what a beautiful world it was!

During some last years I found out some excellent artists, playing music without even a touch of some of the modern trends of the few last decades - fusion, hip-hop, electronics, even funk. Free-jazz, coming straight from the late 60s, plus some European chamber traditions, sometimes local folk elements. These artists are often based outside of the world's jazz capitols, as New York or London, and playing their own jazz in such different places such as Sardinia or Serbia. That absence of whole musical layers or decades of influence makes their music sound very special. Paul Van Gysegem's music works the same way, it's a nowadays recording but with a well-preserved spirit of European late 60s without being nostalgic or self-parodying at all. Not sure, if it works for those knowing about 70s from internet and movies only, probably to feel that spirit one needed to experience it in one way or another from living when it was the elixir of the day.

Those with still a strong memory will recognize it in this music quite soon , others can just try, why not?
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