Friedrich W. Sixel review


Peter Van Huffel / Sophie Tassignon – Hufflignon (CF 126)

The CD “Hufflignon” truly reflects – as the title suggests – a synthesis between the musical minds of Peter van Huffel, the established Canadian saxophonist, and Sophie Tassignon, the extraordinary Belgian vocalist. Nine of the 10 tracks on this release are by Sophie (6) and Peter (3), while one of them takes off from a theme by Vivaldi, namely his “Cum Dederit” which I believe has been taken from his “Nisi Dominus”, (Ps.126), in G-major, RV op. 608.

The music on this release is clearly different from other Jazz presentations. The melody lines, the syncopation and the crystallization of sounds particularly in the tutti are so innovative that “Hufflignon” simply takes Jazz to an entirely new level.

Most of the 10 tracks begin with the statement of an often times simple theme, taken up by someone else in the group and then carried into largely unexpected, yet surprisingly plausible directions. Right from the first track, it becomes clear that trombone and bass, i.e. Samuel Blaser and Michael Bates respectively, are much more than mere accompanists in this quartet; they are contributors of equal musicianship. Their unique play is an integral element in the creation of musically identifiable structures out of what might otherwise strike some listeners as threatening chaos. In fact, all four instruments of “Hufflignon”, and that includes Sophie’s voice, go their own individual ways, but they do so by carefully listening to one another. So each one in the group is a trigger for, and a connector between free flows of musical streams. Occasionally, though, this free flow comes close to the traditional “Liedform” of ABA, e.g. in “Duo (Kobenhavn)” and in “I love you, too”. In a very unique way, this also applies to pieces that take off from almost pre-musical noises, lead then to slowly evolving melodies and end up again with noises reminiscent of aching if not crying. On the present CD the example for such a structure is “The Sad Imposing Tree”.

On average, the pieces are rather short. The longest one is “Duo (Kobenhavn)” with a bit over 7 minutes, while the shortest one is, ironically (?), “The Hours” with 2’, 35”. Given that in many branches of music, and also in Jazz, pieces drag on and on, although everything necessary is said and done, I see the brevity of the tracks on “Hufflignon” as an expression of the desire to be concise. Let us remember that the presentation of a musical idea takes Richard Wagner oftentimes 20 to 30 minutes, while Bach does the same (and more) in just 5.

The music of Peter and his friends does not even remotely make an attempt to preach. It does not advocate or propagate any philosophy or ideology. For example: this music does not preach freedom, this music is freedom. While it unfolds, it celebrates the simultaneity of individuality and togetherness. To the extent that each of these four musicians enjoys to hear and to appropriate what the other one(s) is doing, they enact in their music what unity in diversity is all about. We need more of that and need it in every aspect of life. So: when do we get the next installment from “Hufflignon” ?

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