PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Jost Lijbaart (Under The Surface Scottish Dates 22-24 Feb 2018)

Under the Surface
Photo credit: Juan Carlos Villarroel

Under the Surface is the latest group to visit the UK as part of the Jazz Promotion Network’s Going Dutch project. The trio’s spokesperson and drummer is Joost Lijbaart, who has toured over here with saxophonist Yuri Honing and has been a prominent player on the Dutch scene over the past twenty-five years. The group also features guitarist Bram Stadhouders, whom some readers might know from his work with Norwegian singer Sidsel Endresen and the Norwegian percussionist and ice concert maestro Terje Isungset, alongside a relatively new Dutch talent, vocalist Sanne Rambags. Five questions from Rob Adams:

LJN: How did Under the Surface come together?

JL: Beaux Jazz, a project that offers young musicians an opportunity to collaborate with more experienced players, selected our singer, Sanne Rambags, to be part of its Next Generation strand. The idea is that the younger musicians are given carte blanche to create something with players who are already established. So Sanne selected the guitarist Bram Stadhouders, who I knew a little bit, and myself, giving us three musicians from different generations.

LJN: What were your first impressions?

JL:  The minute we started to play I felt we had something special. There was a review of our gig at Rotterdam Jazz International on London Jazz News that picked up very well on Sanne’s almost shamanistic style of singing, like’s she’s calling up ancient spirits. I thought she had something really interesting there and with Bram’s sense of space, we were creating something I’d had an idea of doing for quite a long time yet it was very natural, unforced.

LJN: Is the music you make completely spontaneous?

JL: It’s mostly spontaneous. Before we recorded our album I went walking in the forest near where I live and tried to imagine recreating the atmospheres in different parts of the forest. I also spent quite a lot of time in my rehearsal room working on rhythms and working out what percussion instruments, aside from the drum kit, would work best. Sanne sometimes brings a poem, like John Donne’s No Man is an Island or texts by American Modernist poet Wallace Stevens, that suggests rhythm and we’ll use these as a basis. It’s not free jazz, more spontaneous composition worked up from sketches.

LJN: What has been the highlight of the band so far?

JL: There have been a few but one that particularly stands out is being invited to play at the Festival on the Niger, in Mali. This led to festival appearances in Mexico, China and India but it also gave us the opportunity to play with kora player Mamadou Sidiki Diabaté, the younger brother of kora master Toumani Diabaté, and that turned out to be a very compatible group and a really enjoyable experience. World music promoters seem to have taken to what we do and that’s opened doors we never really expected to open.

LJN: We’re hearing quite a lot about Dutch jazz at the moment, especially with the Going Dutch project going on throughout this year; what are your impressions of the scene?

JL:  It got a bit quiet for a few years but for the past five to eight years there’s been quite a buzz about the scene generally. There are a lot of young players coming through, people like Kapok, who I think toured over here recently, and there are a couple of pianists, Kaja Draksler and Dominic J Marshall, who are not Dutch but live in Amsterdam and are getting attention as Dutch residents. It’s good for someone like me because I might not have got to work with Sanne and Bram if there weren’t these young musicians and projects like Beaux Jazz and Going Dutch that bring them to the fore.

Rob Adams is consulting to the Going Dutch project, and has helped Jost Lijbaart to put the group’s short Scottish tour together.

Under the Surface Scotish Tour Dates

The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen on Thursday, 22nd February
Eyemouth Hippodrome, Friday 23rd February
The Blue Arrow, Glasgow, Saturday 24th February

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