REVIEW: Julien Tassin Trio at Sounds Jazz Club, Brussels

Julien Tassin Trio at Sounds
L-R Julien Tassin, Nicolas Thys, Dré Pallemaerts

Julien Tassin Trio
Sounds Jazz Club, Brussels. 23 December 2017. Review by Gail Tasker )

I turned up at the Sounds Jazz Club in the Ixelles district of Brussels with barely an inkling of who was playing, or what type of music was taking place. It turned out to be a trio led by Julien Tassin on guitar, Nicolas Thys on double bass, and Dré Pallemaerts on drums. The band managed to inject life and vitality into the staid format of the conventional  jazz trio in a way that made the night memorable and completely absorbing. They played two sets of Tassin’s original compositions, of which the style can only be described as occupying the liminal space between rock, blues, punk, jazz, and electronic music. The music was raw yet atmospheric, and allowed Tassin to show the true versatility of his playing.

Jazz trios usually showcase each individual’s playing somewhat equally, and are intriguing in the level of intricate communication and symbiosis between the players. The power dynamic was quite different in Tassin’s case. For most of the pieces, the rhythm section would set up a solid, 4/4 beat with a simple bassline, acting as an accompaniment. This allowed Tassin to experiment with improvising over the chord changes, with a focus on rhythm.

The sets were extremely varied, moving between the noisy washes of punk rock sounds to more typical straight ahead jazz. Song names like Working Class and Last Call From the Factory, referencing the "post-industrial" town of Charleroi where Tassin is from, definitely set him apart as a more politically-minded musician. A highlight of the performance was a barely-recognisable blues. It began with dissonant, clashing guitar chords contrasting with rattling drum rhythms and out-of-time bass playing. This built up into a wave of anguished guitar riffs and hectic rhythm interplay. All of a sudden, the band collectively reverted to walking bass and a basic 4/4 beat with Tassin playing a simple, bluesy pattern over the top whilst looking out towards the audience with an almost euphoric smile.

There was a definite electronic element to the proceedings. Tassin had various pedals attached to his guitar, and towards the end of the set, began to use them more and more frequently with distortion, delay, and looping. The final tune was a solo performance, where at one point Tassin removed his guitar and fiddled with his pedal board, transforming from a guitarist to a DJ.

I had been looking around the venue in pleasure, noticing the impressive selection of Belgian beers and intimate yet relaxed atmosphere. Towards the end of the night however, Tassin announced that the club may be nearing its end as the owners have decided to sell it. I truly hope that the club manages to continue  - it  has been in existence for 30 years - so that bands like the Tassin trio can keep on performing there.

LINK: Sounds Jazz Club website

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