REVIEW: Fred Van Hove and Roger Turner at Cafe Oto

Fred Van Hove and Roger Turner duo, Cafe Oto
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved 

Fred Van Hove and Roger Turner
(Cafe Oto, 7th December 2015; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

In a sublime masterclass of invention and improvised interaction at Cafe Oto, Belgian pianist Fred Van Hove and master percussionist Roger Turner delivered the profoundly complex with a truly elegant touch.

As one commentator has put it, Van Hove is one of ‘The Holy Trinity of the European avant-garde’, having performed extensively in an explosive, unstoppable trio with Peter Brötzmann and Han Bennink in the 70s, which made around a dozen records, and were beautifully captured on video in 1974 in Hannover, as well as numerous solo and collaborative ventures.

His solo performance in 1971 still sounds remarkably fresh and conveys a sense of the unique style, creativity and technical accomplishment which he brought to this very rare outing at London’s Cafe Oto, with Turner, following their inaugural duo concert the previous night in Brussels.

In two engrossing sets bursting with invention, Van Hove’s powerful, yet softly understated approach perfectly complemented Turner’s vividly coloured pyrotechnics. Always thinking ahead, Van Hove generated layers of mellifluous, expressive keyboard patterning and imposed a near-symphonic structure on his wide-ranging peregrinations to which Turner responded with dazzlingly articulated punctuation as he drew on an arsenal of split-second, expressive responses oozing tactility, delicacy and ingenuity.

Whilst hinting at melodic discourse, summoning up ghosts of songs and symphonies without title, Van Hove’s explorations were much more about a lifetime of engagement with the piano and the very nature of the piano itself. Van Hove skilfully camouflaged the physical demands of his keyboard work, all washes, shaded swathes and intricate runs, with Turner, the blacksmith inventor, reading the signs to a tee, hitting metal with ear-ringing intent, and dragging hand cymbals over skins to induce animal-esque calls.

And there was genuine encore – Turner had already donned his jacket before they realised they had to return to the stage, in response to the audience demand, to complete a dramatic, mesmerising performance, one of the outstanding concerts of the year; and Cafe Oto are again to be complemented on hosting a concert of such a high calibre as part of their tremendous Autumn/Winter 2015 programme.

Categories: miscellaneous

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