CD review

Erik Verwey Trio – ‘People Flow’

Erik Verwey Trio – People Flow
(Self-released. CD review by Adrian Pallant)

A debut album to lift the spirits, Dutch pianist Erik Verwey’s People Flow most certainly has feel-good and interest at its heart.

Erik Verwey album coverAs composer and accompanist – and a graduate of the conservatories of Utrecht and The Hague – Verwey spent many years developing and honing his art in theatre productions. So perhaps it’s no coincidence that these eleven, almost entirely original compositions are picturesque ‘encounters with people’, fashioned with a sense of personal storytelling and communicated through varietal jazz colours and atmospheres. His piano trio is completed by compatriots Hendrik Müller (double bass) and Daniel van Dalen (drums), while considerable melodic panache is provided by guests Teus Nobel (flugelhorn) and Bart Wirtz (saxophone).

Throughout this hour, Verwey’s music remains accessible, yet views changing aspects as it skips and eddies downstream (the pianist resides by the River Amstel). So, opening Casa De Los Viecos reflects his experience of visiting the former home of the late Colombian sculptor Marin Vieco (“art on the walls, pianos everywhere, hummingbirds fly around your ears…”) in a joyous groove of ostinati, cascading lines and acciaccatura improvisation. The second number’s earnest progression and the trio‘s deft busyness pictorialise a ‘local hero’, César, who transformed his own life and also, thanks to a project he set up, that of a Colombian refugee neighbourhood; and soft piano waltz What Do You See elegantly portrays the quietness of a moonlit voyage, shimmering with van Dalen’s brushes/cymbals and Müller’s cantabile resonances. Alternating rhythms in Maartje’s Step establish a blithe yet confident promenade, a theme also apparent in An Encounter’s chirpiness – a comment on human connection and a plea for adventure.

Ellington/Strayhorn number Isfahan is the trio’s only arrangement, with Teus Nobel’s flugel buoyantly and exquisitely diverging from the anticipated strains of saxophone. The ticking-clock metre of The Fall finds Verwey cogitating on the passing of the seasons (as well as the love he has poured into this album over such a long period), and the pressing momentum again highlights the composer’s aptitude for creating musical imagery. Nature is also pondered in Nyx, an especially limpid, chromatic nocturne inviting us, wherever we are, to “sing the melody of the night”.

The album is at its most dynamic in a double feature for smooth-toned tenor saxophonist Bart Wirtz. Little Farao’s mood shifts fascinate, from the fervency of the opening figure (later reappearing with boisterous drum feature) to the track’s inner sunshine; and Full Force – a blues “with a lot of friends and all the brakes loose!” – becomes a shuffling and irresistible showstopper, Verwey revelling in his solo improv freedom. To close, the pianist’s tender ‘thank you’ to his father, Song For You (in F), suggests a meeting of Chopin and Bill Evans; and particularly when Hendrik Müller’s sensitive bass melody enters to heighten the emotion, it feels utterly sublime.

Diversity in a piano trio setting isn’t a given – but Erik Verwey, Hendrik Müller, Daniel van Dalen and guests show the way in this delightful first outing.

Supported by Sena Muziekproductiefonds (Dutch Performers House), People Flow was released 4 December 2020 and is available from Erik Verwey’s website.

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