|Jef Neve in 2014. Photo credit: Jerroen Willens|
Jef Neve is about to make a rare solo appearance in London. He explained the background to Sebastian:
Pianist Jef Neve, in his late thirties, takes on a punishing touring schedule and keeps a number of projects on the go. Since October 2014 he has performed sixty times in his home country, Belgium, and has toured in Japan, Canada, Hungary Germany, France, Spain, Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Kenya. He is also active as a film composer, and is about to start working on the music score for a Dutch TV series. He works in a trio, and with larger units.
A major focus, however, is his work as solo pianist. The solo album, One, issued in 2014, and recorded partly at Abbey Road and partly at a studio called La Chapelle in Malmedy, close to Belgium’s border with Germany, has proved highly successful. At Kings Place on 10th March he will present material from One, together with some newer material.
Solo piano has been a major focus particularly in the past 3-4 years. “I’d played now and again since beginning of career, but really started to enjoy it from 2012 onwards. I consider myself more of a composer than a pianist, and I wanted to have more freedom. Playing in a band sometimes I had to limit myself. So I was happy ro explore. I started to play solo concerts, and to enjoy them”
Does he play tunes or does he merge them? “In general I dont link tracks, because I want to tell the audience where the inspiration for each one comes from, so no, I don’t link them up…but I think the tracks become longer every time. Sometimes I can go for up to 15 minutes .”
The most popular track on the album in terms of radio play has been Solitude (video above). Neve is finding inspiration from other media than sound and music. This track has its origins in a composition commission from the contemporary dance company based at the Theater aan de Stroom in Antwerp’s Linkeroever. Choreographer Michael Lazic had a ready-made story. Neve explains. “It’s the story of a father and a son. The father shows the sone movements, the first steps in his life. Then the dance evolves and the son invents own movements, and challenges the wisdom and authority of the father. It ends in a symmetrical dance.” As an accessible piece of music, it has taken on a life of its own : “It’s one of most accessible tracks. People have told me emotional stories after hearing it,” says Neve.
Another of the tunes which has emotional resonance for Neve, and which has to some extent defined the whole solo piano endeavour is the cover of Joni Mitchell A Case of You. Neve remembers starting recording the solo album and it was this track with which he suddenly found an authentiicity in his playing. “The story for me is that I was insecure . There is nowhere to hide when youre playing.” Something hadn’t felt right in the first session of the recording. The producer remarked to him at the break: “It sounds like you are trying to show off, it doesn;t sound right. Just take a break just play the song that really means something to you.” Back at the piano, Neve felt tears welling up, all kind of poignant memories seemed to come to the surface. He recorded A Case of you, desperately trying to ensure that the sound of his sobbing didn’t get onto the recording. It was the first successful take to find its way the album.