Jazz is back in Brussels

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Jazz Station - Or Bareket Quartet @ Jean-Paul Remy

30 April is International Jazz Day. Pianist Eve Beuvens, Jazz Station director Kostia Pace and musician and founder of Werkplaats Walter Teun Verbruggen have been invited to speak. Between lockdown streaming and the appeal of live events, the time is ripe for change. In music, of course.

"The Brussels jazz scene? You have to actually travel back in time to remember what the jazz scene was like", quips Eve Beuvens. She is one of our great Belgian jazz pianists. Her first album, Noordzee, was released in 2009. But the scene remains resolutely "lively, organic and colourful", according to Kostia Pace, director of Jazz Station in Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, which presents itself as the contemporary centre for jazz in Brussels, a place for exhibitions, residencies and courses. For Teun Verbruggen, musician and founder of Werkplaats Walter in Anderlecht, it is more important than ever to create. We met with the three of them.

Eve Beuvens (c) Pjilippe Lambert 2013

  • Is there a specifically Brussels jazz scene?

Teun Verbruggen: You could say that there is, and it is starting to develop thanks to people scattered here and there who are constantly making it evolve. In fact, the Brussels jazz scene is like the city itself: very cosmopolitan.

Eve Beuvens: In terms of musicians, it is quite international, with many people coming from Italy and France. That’s due to our central geographical location and our high-quality schools.

Kostia Pace: Brussels is indeed one of the major European centres of jazz, a city full of music that encourages cross-cultural encounters. Many musicians also come here to take advantage of the synergies that the city brings. It’s a city that knows how to combine vintage (with a strong swing tradition and many very famous bands) and modernity - our jazz scene also flirts with electro and urban music.

Teun Verbruggen

  • How would you describe your venue/your jazz practice in three words?

Kostia Pace: For us, and this is also what we are committed to making our audience feel with Jazz station: curiosity, an organic approach and escapism.

Eve Beuvens: If I am talking about my day-to-day, I try to make it inspiring, connected and meaningful. This is the space I give to jazz in my life. If we’re talking about my style or what I communicate through my music, I would say warm, colourful and plurivocal, which is the opposite of univocal. What's special about jazz is that it gives the listener a great deal of freedom, and that is also my aim.

Teun Verbruggen: I would describe Werkplaats Walter in the following words: an alternative place, artistic residences, and links between visual arts and avant-garde music.

Kostia Pace @Roger Vantilt

  • Did you reinvent yourself during the pandemic? Do you have any plans for the coming months?

Teun Verbruggen: We did what everyone else did, which is a lot of streaming. As a musician, I'm working on a new electronic setup, mixing albums recorded before the pandemic and practising new drumming techniques. Continuing to create is my leitmotiv.

Kostia Pace:I don't really like this idea that has been imposed on us, that we have to "reinvent ourselves". The original principle of culture is to reinvent itself at all times and in all places. No-one has truly “reinvented” themselves. Except with this streaming aberration, which is absolutely not a reinvention, but a "plan D", a means for survival. From our point of view, I would rather talk about questioning. The whole "system" of culture is in danger of changing, economically and socially. As far as the Jazz Station is concerned, our project is still a work in progress, but it aims to take jazz to the world beyond our walls: perhaps to occupy other spaces, to perform outside, or even to think about more performative and multi-form proposals.

Eve Beuvens: I also have a bit of trouble with the word "reinventing". For me, this is too soft, given the scale of the crisis. Besides, "reinventing ourselves" would mean that what we put in place should last. There has been, and still is, a lot happening online. I took part in it, it kept me moving, both as a musician and as an audience member. Streaming has been a way of promoting and bringing my work to life, but I hope it won't continue, because playing involves being in the same room as the audience: music is transmitted through the air, through vibrations. If you don't share the same tune, you simply don't get the full depth of the musical message. I have a new trio that I'd like to play with soon and a solo album that will be released in September and presented in BOZAR.

Music Village (c) Julien Hayard

  • What are the jazz scene’s new challenges, both in Brussels and elsewhere?

Eve Beuvens: The first challenge will be to see who will survive, who will be able to reopen... There were already not many venues left. And of course, there’s the question of the audience: will there be more people? Fewer? We don't know...

Teun Verbruggen: I think we're going to see a global crisis where there will be even fewer venues and less money for musicians. On the other hand, I believe that we will see more and more initiatives from private actors.

Kostia Pace: Many venues have closed. Others are opening or rising from the ashes. This is quite positive, despite the pain it has caused. More than ever, jazz is a type of music that must be seen live. It’s alive, organic, and often - despite preconceptions - joyful! The challenge will, therefore, be to bring people back to human and cultural contact, which is more visceral and warm than screens. But this is also the challenge for culture as a whole - and for our society in general.

Jazz events in Brussels

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