Adventurous music and things



Pianist and composer Fred Van Hove (°1937) was involved in the Big Bang of European free improvisation (Machine Gun by the Peter Brötzmann Octet), but also became one of Europe’s finest and most underestimated improvisers. Mostly known for his 70’s trio with Brötzmann and Han Bennink, Van Hove’s trajectory over the past 4 decades has been one of the brilliant, but unsung stories of the music. The new Dropa Disc release Fred Van Hove At 80 is an effort to rectify this imbalance and give some credit where it’s due. Combining three sublime concerts that were recorded in 2017 with a 80-page hardcover book containing a rich, extended essay by Hugo de Craen and beautiful photos from the year in which the celebrations took place, Fred Van Hove At 80 is a much-needed document that no serious lover of the music can afford to miss.

3 x CD/BOOK – Edition of 300
Release: Sep 2019 – shipping as of Sept. 10th 2019

Recorded by Michael Huon at deSingel, Antwerp 4 February 2017
Edited & Mixed by Michael Huon and Koen Vandenhoudt, Brussels 2018
Mastered by Michael Huon, Brussels 2018
Live concert produced by Sound in Motion & deSingel/Jerry Aerts

Recorded by Michael Huon at NONA, Mechelen 1 April 2017
Edited & Mixed by Michael Huon and Koen Vandenhoudt, Brussels 2018
Mastered by Michael Huon, Brussels 2018
Live concert produced by NONA/Bart Vanvoorden

Recorded by Michael Huon at BOZAR, Brussels 13 December 2017
Edited & Mixed by Michael Huon and Koen Vandenhoudt, Brussels 2018
Mastered by Michael Huon, Brussels 2018
Live concert produced by BOZAR/Roel Vanhoeck

Joachim Ceulemans – Hugo de Craen

Pascal Cools

Geert Vandepoele – Hans van der Linden – Cees van de Ven

Produced by Sound in Motion vzw
Executive Producers: Christel Kumpen & Koen Vandenhoudt

Extended text by Guy Peters (Enola Magazine, Gonzo Circus, Klara … ):

American free music legend Joe McPhee, 80 this year, once wrote a composition called “Give Them Their Flowers While They’re Here”. It was a call to give credit where it’s due and honour the masters not only after they have gone, but it is also a call to live in the moment. Appropriate words when discussing the music and merits of Fred Van Hove (°1937), who was rightfully described as ‘the godfather of free music in Belgium’ by Joachim Ceulemans in his introduction to Fred Van Hove At 80.

Still, this box set is hardly your standard retrospective, as Hugo de Craen’s vivid and extended essay, full of references and meaningful detours, demonstrates. The story de Craen tells is not one of heroic determination in a straightforward David Copperfield-structure, but one that involves highly personal diary fragments and thoughts that show Van Hove as a reflective and witty character, suddenly finding himself in the middle of a kind of free music big bang with Machine Gun by that legendary Peter Brötzmann Octet, and taking things in many directions from there.

You cannot tell a story about Van Hove and not mention that trio with improvisation titans Brötzmann and Bennink and the turbulent freedom they carved out for themselves. And if Van Hove’s earlier playing was still somewhat related to the guy with his 88 tuned drums, his approach had already been different from the start, infusing the music that came across the Atlantic with classical strains, folk music themes from his earlier life and, famously, the sound of bells and carillon of the Antwerp cathedral.

When Van Hove went solo after the break-up of that trio, de Craen stressed he rediscovered the piano, and went after some creative ideas that furthermore prove his singularity as an improviser and performer. He worked with films, refined his solo performance, and instigated brand new working relations, some of which were fruitful, but short-lived, while others turned into a story of their own. His trio with Annick Nozati and Johannes Bauer is one such example that one day deserves its own tribute, just like the chapter on Musica Libera or WIM (Working Group for Improvising Musicians), whose importance cannot be overstated.

Van Hove’s discography is eccentric and diverse, yet at the same time it is all Van Hove music, infused with the finely detailed complexity of the man’s character. And if his quest to extract the sounds that are between the notes from the piano seems impossible in theory, it often sounds as if he is doing just that: uncovering gliding areas that are blindingly new and wholly personal at the same time. The three Fred Van Hove At 80 concerts that are gathered here are different – a solo piano performance, an organ concert and a trio with masters Evan Parker and Hamid Drake – but taken together, they paint a portrait that gives you an idea of who Fred Van Hove was and is.

The solo music of Van Hove, here on piano and organ, enters wide-open vistas, dream-like states, using knotty digressions that always ensure it transcends mere mood music. Van Hove’s music is always of and in the moment; rooted in the past, looking forward, turning the present inside out. And if the Van Hove of the past few decades toned down the energy and boisterous humor of the wild early days, it became replaced with something at least as rewarding: a complex and mature artistic identity that retains its force in diverse contexts. The trio performance with Parker and Drake (you could hardly think of better listeners) is the ultimate proof that at age 80, Van Hove was still capable of levitating the music to uncanny heights.

So, that’s it then? Let’s hope not. The full Van Hove biography still needs to be written. There is a lot of material available and it is a story that needs to be told, by the right person with the time and the means to pull it off. In the meantime, Dropa Disc’s much needed Fred Van Hove At 80 fills a gap. It finally gives some much-deserved credit to this artist, “(…) more tolerated than actually accepted or acknowledged”, and does so with a lavish publication. Not an exercise in nostalgia, but the exact opposite: life and artistry as a work-in-progress.

Review of Bill Shoemaker for Point of Departure blog

Excerpt of Fred Van Hove at 80 on Point of Departure blog, The Book Cooks




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