Alison Bentley writes:
Belgian pianist Eve Beuvens has always had an insatiable musical curiosity. Belgium’s Gaume Jazz Festival commissioned her to write this year for their ‘Carte Blanche’ spot, where a composer can choose a hand-picked band. The result was highly original music for the newly-created Eve Beuvens and Heptatonic. It ranged from delicate piano to funk and freeform soloing; from Evan Parker-ish saxes, to Sonny Sharrock guitar from Benjamin Sauzereau.
Some of her compositions for the 7-piece recalled Kenny Wheeler. Beuvens agreed: ‘I think he’s such a big influence- he’s the father of European jazz.’ She drew on sources as diverse as a poem, and a recording of pygmy singing. Her chosen musicians on saxes, bass clarinet and flute (Grégoire Tirtiaux and Gregor Siedl)and trumpet (Laurent Blondiau) brought a breathtaking free jazz component to her compositions. Blondiau waved a mute in front of the trumpet’s bell for a subtle, evocative sound. Beuvens’ three-part written harmonies had at times the dark weight of baritone and bass clarinet or the romance flute and alto sax. Her music could be melancholy and minimal, but also prickly and vivacious. BassistManolo Cabras and percussionist Joao Lobo were a strongly supportive rhythm section.
Beuvens’ 2008 album Noordzee (IGL208) has a Northern, Nordic feel, as the title suggests. Bobo Stenson and Tord Gustavson were influences. There’s a wonderful sense of space and unhurriedness, even at faster tempos. The UK’s John Taylor is highly significant: ‘ I remember pretty well the first recording of him I heard. My brother- he’s a drummer (Lionel Beuvens)- we were really close when we were children. He went quite often to the Library for music. He was interested in Peter Erskine. And so we got the record of the Peter Erskine Trio’s ‘You Never Know‘ and we put it on a tape in our mother’s car. I think I was 15. I was listening to this tape for years and years. And then when I went to the Conservatoire… I started to do some research.’ John Taylor’s ‘..solo recording- that was a revelation. My mind went -ssst!- open and I heard many new things. He’s still a source of inspiration. And so when I heard that he was teaching in Cologne, I just did everything I could to get there.’
Beuvens travelled regularly by train from Brussels to study with Taylor and his influence is strong- the folk themes, the Bill Evans lyricism, the beautiful sound. There’s a playful spikiness in her playing too, that comes from Monk. ‘When I was a child there was a lot of music at home- jazz music. My father used to play Monk recordings and videos. And I remember that I saw videos of Monk and I found it so interesting and intriguing- I asked a lot of questions- what is he doing? That’s how I got into music and I started to play by myself, pentatonic blues scales.’ Beuvens copied what she saw Monk playing on the screen.
Beuvens didn’t start out playing classical music, as she self-deprecatingly put it: ‘I went to music school…but my teacher was really worried about my technique!’ Her style is particularly interesting, as she’s absorbed Classical influences from other jazz pianists, rather than beginning with the classical repertoire. She also studied with excellent Belgian pianist Nathalie Loriers, whose Tristano/Evans style reminded me of Nikki Iles.
Beuvens wrote most of the music for Nordzee, though other band members have contributed compositions. (Drummer Lionel Beuvens, bassist Yannick Peeters, saxophonist Joachim Badenhorst.) She loves playing standards too, and there’s an arrangement of Alone Together which fits perfectly with the rich contemplative style of the whole album. There’s an e.s.t acoustic funkiness too, on Beuvens’ Little Scorpion, and Monkish swing on her Looking for Trouble. There’s even a Jarrett gospel feel at times.
Eve Beuvens commits herself to every note. You get the feeling she’s still asking musical questions- and finding answers in her own fine music.