Angelo Verploegen, Ed Verhoeff, Eric van der Westen – When Night Falls
(Just Listen Records JL026. Album Review by Julian Maynard-Smith)
From the first track’s gentle suggestion to Close Your Eyes it feels clear that we’re being invited on a journey through a night of our own imagining, starting with Dancing in the Dark and progressing through Makin’ Whoopee, It’s a Pity to Say Goodnight, Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars, The Night We Called it a Day, Stardust, Stella by Starlight, Moon River, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square and finally – after a night of imagined dancing, intimacy and perhaps heartbreak – we’re back to daybreak with Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise.
And here’s why it’s important to listen to an album without reading the sleeve notes first, so we can answer ourselves truthfully: did I really pick up on the musicians’ intentions for myself, or was I unduly influenced by what I read first? For this trio of flugelhorn, guitar and double bass, intuition and intention matched – the journey motif was deliberate. Ditto the choice of only vocal standards, the implied lyrics sculpting the mood despite their absence. And ditto the intended sense that we’ve surreptitiously slipped into the front row of an empty venue to eavesdrop on a live performance that just happens not to have an audience, an effect aided by the natural acoustics of Studio 150, a former Lutheran church in Amsterdam.
Rather than doubling on trumpet, Verploegen wisely sticks to flugelhorn throughout: he brings to its naturally darker and mellower sound (approaching the tone of a French horn) a breathy, coppery softness that perfectly suits the album’s intimate nocturnal mood. Eric van der Western plays a vintage Gibson ES-175, a hollow-bodied electric guitar renowned for its warm jazz sound (Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Herb Ellis and Pat Metheny have all played one), switching to flamenco guitar only on a contemplative Quiet Night of Quiet Stars. And van der Western’s understated playing on a 7/8 scale double bass from the early 1800s brings a warm woody resonance to the sound palette.
A beautiful blending of timbres, and of minds as well. These three Dutch musicians first played together back in 2001, and that longevity shows in how their trio performances are empathetic three-way conversations. Providing contrast without ruffling the overall mood, we also have duets (bass-flugelhorn on Stardust, guitar-flugelhorn on Moon River) and solo flugelhorn for the whole of A Nightingale Sang – a solitary birdsong at dawn to welcome the closer Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise.
A lovely album for when the lights are low.