On the cd "Blue Lines Trio"
(Jazzism Magazine, december 2014, by Ken Vos)
This trio is the new vehicle for the post-Monk improviser, pianist Michiel Scheen. Double bass player is the spaciously articulating Raoul van der Weide, drummer is the young George Hadow. The young Englishman is a good dosing and especially original phrasing drummer who undoubtedly will have a great future. Scheen has brought together seven, in form exciting compositions, from himself, Paul Termos, and Van der Weide. They are clear, often somewhat bare patches, in where Scheen builds strong contrasts, sometimes smooth, sometimes jerky. The five spontaneous improvisations are also effective because the musicians complement each other and keep a single, common direction without solving the tension. The live album recorded at the Bimhuis is a fine collection of pieces which never have predictable endings.
(www.enola.be - October 20, 2014)
"And suddenly, from
this gem arrives. Three generations of improvisers, with a handful of sparkling
compositions and tingling free improvisations, rooted in the Dutch tradition,
but with plenty of spunk and inventiveness. The Blue Lines Trio has its own
style and has made a beauty of a debut album. Amsterdam
The trio joins pianist Michiel Scheen with bassist and graphic artist Raoul van der Weide, both musicians with an extensive history, and the young British drummer George Hadow, who since 2012 is active in the Dutch capital and recently with just about everyone, like with Terrie Ex and Andy Moor to John Dikeman, Yedo Gibson and many others. Van der Weide also playes with Dikeman, is a musician who shows up in a variety of contexts and is known to organize intriguing concert-series in his city.
Scheen is not really known in
(or have we missed something?), and also in the remained under the
radar. That’s strange, because he has a lot of experience with past working
relationships with Maarten Altena, Ab Baars and Ig Henneman. With Tobias Delius
he forms a duo. On this first CD, professionally recorded at the Bimhuis by
Arnold de Boer, the band combines different insertions and influences in an
eclectic blend of, as well as catching jazz, provocative improvisations. The wide
variation and generally compact pieces provide a very digestible and animated
plate, that doesn’t collapse under its weight and remains having an air of
playfulness throughout. Netherlands
Scheen signs for a third of the pieces, that form a pretty strong line of compositions. Opener "Solid" is exuberant and with an almost festive start, it combines blues and Mengelberg on a bed of delicious clattering drums. A little later it seems as if the spirits of Monk and Jaki Byard take over, with accelerations, bouncing rhythms and contagious, quivering dynamics.
The nervous clashing "Idols" with Van der Weide’s singing bass, is a compact piece of energy within a clever ménage-a-trois.
The remaining compositions offer a beautiful contrast: "Stumble" is, despite the title, quite a stately piece, on a rolling and rumbling rhythm section, while the ultra short ballad "Sigh" is brushed forward by Hadow and notably is irony-free. The pieces are nicely complemented by two compositions by Dutch saxophonist Paul Termos. "Kop op" initially resembles Monks "Well You Needn’t," but later explores its own colourful places, full of patter and stomping, while "Dark Goeree" relies on a languid soul groove of an almost childlike simplicity. But it works, especially since Scheen playfully does beautiful things within that relatively small frame.
Van der Weide’s "Not Yet" departs from repetitive patterns, only to get caught in lonely piano chords and resonating metal. It’s more sound-oriented and related to the five trio improvisations that showcase a comparable wealth. There’s a neurotic stinging musical game ("Improvisation 538"), a piece that resembles a jazz-trio ("539"), and a plunge into the world of Van der Weide’s sound objects and his crackle-box ("536" and "541"). This constant back-and-forth movement between grip and lack of it creates a particularly successful, teasing effect, which in turn, leads to an album that equally thoughtfully fits together like Van der Weide’s collage cover-design. In short: a little jewel to discover."
(Weblog Jazz Music Reviews - October 13, 2014)
Sometimes, CD-releases of new Dutch jazz and improvised music can really surprise one. The Amsterdam based Blue Lines Trio seems to be a very good working unit, a collaboration between three generations of musicians. Michiel Scheen, for several years worked within the Maarten Altena Ensemble, and besides this trio, he now regurarly works as a duo with saxophonist and clarinetist Tobias Delius and with the Jan Nijdam Quartet. Raoul van der Weide has worked with Guus Jansen, and currently works in a trio with John Dikeman and Klaus Kügel, furthermore he jams with a lot of the new generation of improvisors that visit or live in Holland. George Hadow is a young British drummer who works with the Galm Quartet and many improvisers of all generations in and around Amsterdam.
The debut CD of this trio is remarkable. There are pieces, musical theme's that generate improvisations, but there are also freely improvised sequences. In general, what all the tracks show, is that the three musicians carefully listen to, and give room to each other.
A lot of free improvised music has such a density that the listener could lose focus, on this CD however, the improvising is crystal clear. The players spontaneously seem to pick a musical motive and elaborate on it carefully. The process doesn’t get boring: they sometimes intuitively throw in contrasting material to ‘refresh’ the flow. And that offers the possibility to repeat things they have played before, which provides a structure to the improvisation, not to be heard often. Might this maybe be a new form of what we call ‘instant composition’? That initial musical motive defines the character of the piece, so no track resembles others, every track is an entity and has a character of its own.
The rhythmic concept of the trio is exceptional: themselves, they call it ‘throbbing swing’ or ‘dribble-swing’, a curious mixture of jazz-swing and free-pulsating movement. Like three horses on a span, not in a military rhythmic unison, but a clopper-de-clop-stay-as-close-as-can-be fashion. Three individual and separate, but closely related, ‘lines’.
Another feature of the music from the trio is their melodic and harmonic alertness. They seem to catch each others pitches perfectly, also not to be heard often in freely improvised music.
All of which makes the CD a very diverse and colorful ‘contemporary improvised music’ album.
The pieces, the theme’s, seem to be written down and arranged for the ‘cast’. They sound like bop and soul-jazz (in the case of the two compositions by the late saxophonist and composer Paul Termos), post-bop, post-free-jazz, and sometimes like contemporary academic music. One could identify influences by Thelonious Monk, Cecil Taylor, Olivier Messiaen, Oscar Pettiford, Charles Mingus, David Izenzon, Paul Motian and Han Bennink.
“Solid” starts as a post-boppy-blues-free-motion-indefinite-swing piece, but then breaks up in a staccato improvisation that leads to free Monkish-piano variations. It’s got a funny ‘Salt Peanuts’ reference.
“Improvisation 538” starts with arco bass with tonal references, piano and drums match this with their variation of a similar kind of ‘sonic production’: plucking snares on the inside of the piano and brushes on skin and cymbals.
Paul Termos’ piece “Kop op” is a brickwork bebop-like theme leading to a drumsolo that get’s ‘attacked’ by Cecil Taylor-ish interventions. Not quite a ‘logical’ approach and maybe prefabricated (so this track convinces me the least), but the return to the theme out of fortissimo free-jazz is very well executed and ‘a sound of surprise’.
“Idols” contains piano-chords that I cannot decipher (well, I’m an amateur pianist), but they’re certainly not the standard II-V-I jazz-changes or free-jazz clusters. It’s seems to be an idiom in itself. The rhythmic unison by Hadow’s drums is magical! The way he varies the composition is a link to the the improvisation after the theme. I like that approach!
“Not yet” by Van der Weide is a peaceful haven, the theme is a continuous variation of four notes, but has nothing to do with so called ‘minimal music’. It is more like a clockwork that leads into spacious and time-stretched improvisations with overtones on bass and cymbals and Messiaen-like harmonies on piano.
In “Ingredients 539” the trio-members have a grab at the mainstream jazz idiom, but the grab really is a child’s play with conventional elements. The ‘way-to-long’ bass line-solo by Raoul van der Weide is hilarious! This music is a preposterous out-of-proportion jazz-pastiche, but never tasteless.
“Stumble” is an emotional heartfelt cry, bluesy free-jazz, with a touch of South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim’s left hand playing. Exceptions excluded, the Dutch improv scene is not really known for this kind of direct speaking from the heart.
The CD closes with “Sigh”, a ballad with Ellingtoneske chords and warmth. A closer listen reveals a little musical joke: the melody is all chromatic, except for a ‘gigantic’ leap of a minor third (!) at the end of each section.
Careful and repeated listening sessions reveal more intelligent musical jokes throughout the album. But they are more hidden than outspoken. The maybe typical Dutch irony is less on the foreground, I would say raised to a higher and more abstract level and to be discovered only by attentive listening.
All in all a good time and money’s (only €10,-) worth!
The Blue Lines Trio add a new branch to the improvised music family tree!"
(Weblog Cloudsandclocks.net - October 12, 2014)
A fine album, which I found - completely out of the blue - waiting for me in my mailbox. It got here at the right moment, too, one of those days when one almost starts believing that by now all good music is only to be found in the past, and that the time has come to listen to those old records all over again.
A fine album, mind you, not a masterpiece or this year's Change Of The Century. But an album that will keep one interested for its duration, and that - though it can be said it moves inside a framework that's definitely familiar - will offer listeners some unfamiliar moments.
"What framework?", I hear you say. Well, if I say "jazz piano trio" I know I'll run the risk of raising expectations that can't be met, on one hand, and provoking uninterestedness, on the other. I'll just say that here the great heritage of US jazz gets cooked in Dutch sauce, and leave it at that, hoping the rest will become clearer when I discuss the pieces in detail, below.
The line-up features Michiel Scheen on piano; Raoul van der Weide on double bass, crackle box, and "sounding objects"; and George Hadow on drums. Looking at the picture that appears inside the CD cover, the drummer looks in his early thirties, while the piano player looks in his late forties, and the bass player looks in his late fifties. At first I thought I was unfamiliar with all three, but on impulse I had a look at some old CDs I own by Dutch double bass player and composer Maarten Altena released in the late eighties/early nineties (Quotl, Cities And Streets, and Code), and here he was: Michiel Scheen, looking quite young indeed.
The trio has a fine sound, the piano often played in the middle part of the keyboard, the bass work almost never to the fore but never sounding banal, the drums inevitably reminding me of Han Bennink (only when it comes to the sound of the instrument, not its role in the music).
Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Arnold de Boer, who also co-produced the album with the trio. Recorded at the well-known Bimhuis, Amsterdam. The only thing I didn't like is the way most improvised tracks end: while it makes sense on a musical level, it's just too abrupt.
The repertory features original compositions penned for the most part by the pianist; a series of improvisations, for the most part non-idiomatic but not as "free" as the modern meaning of the word could lead some to believe; and the cover of two compositions (Kop op and Dark Goeree) by the late sax player Paul Termos.
Let's have a look at the tracks.
Solid has a nervous, Mingus-like start, à la Blues & Roots, with a fragment that definitely sounds as being Monk-influenced appearing at 34", 1' 03", 1' 34", with a fine surprise effect. It swings! There's a long middle part played unison, start & stop, with a thematic development that's not impossible to see. Then it's back to the Monk-like motif, the Mingus-like theme, then Monk again, then close.
Improvisation 538 starts with arco bass, quite lively. There's a piano ostinato, the drums highlighting the snare.
Kop op, by Paul Termos, starts with a "Be-Bop"-sounding theme, with a fine use of the ride cymbal and the rimshot. Then, a drum solo based on the melody played by the piano, then it's time for the piano and the double bass to come to the fore, the whole reminding me of the music of Cecil Taylor. Then it's time to go back to the piano motif, with a fine surprise effect (maybe I'm mistaken, but I thought that here the listener is not the only one who's surprised!).
Improvisation 536 has the piano playing arpeggios, snare, a pinch of double bass, the drums played with brushes.
Dark Goeree, by Paul Termos, starts with a bass ostinato, a Latin-sounding rimshot, and a piano theme that reminded me of the world-famous Herbie Hancock composition Watermelon Man. The middle part definitely sounds Monk-influenced, with strict tempo, and two-hands chord development. The end of the track has the trio back to the "Watermelon" theme.
Idols has a brief, clear theme. Piano and double bass traveling parallel, the drums having a solo at a louder volume. Then it's back to the theme, start & stop.
Improvisation 541 features "sounding objects", percussive drums, the piano sounding with "muted strings". For me, the weakest moment of the album.
Not Yet is the only composition penned by the bass player. It starts with a brief, simple, "ethnic"-sounding theme, acting as an intro. Then, a long episode featuring the piano with the "hold" pedal down, cymbals played arco, just like the double bass. The brief, "ethnic"-sounding theme acts as a close.
Ingredients 539 breathes a fine "Be-Bop" air, the rhythm section to the fore. Nice development, then it's time for a fine drum solo, quite à la Art Blakey (I waited for the "Yeah!"). Very traditional-sounding, but fine.
Stumble has a melodic introduction, two hands parallel, playing chords. In a way it reminded me of Anthony Davis at the time of his album titled Lady Of The Mirrors, elaborating on "Ellington-like" material.
Improvisation 537 is a svelte, agitated, fragment.
Sigh is the closing ballad, with brushes, hi-hat, chords, quite "hesitant"-sounding, à la Monk, it definitely reminded me of the Monk classic Ruby, My Dear.
(© Beppe Colli 2014)
Webmagazine Jazzflits - October 6, 2014
"Bassplayer Raoul van der Weide has a good ear for finding wayward pianists. One of them, of course, is the well known Guus Janssen, but besides Frank van Bommel (As If Trio), now he stumbled upon Michiel Scheen. And just as Van Bommel, Scheen is also that musician that, inexplicably, never got to be known by a broader audience. From time to time Scheen initiated his own ensembles and projects, but never got beyond the status of ‘musician’s musician’. That’s all right, but it doesn’t pay the bills.
"Blue Lines Trio’, the debut cd (with young British drummer George Hadow as subtle third man), however, won’t be able to reach the mainstream jazz-charts. It is full of music for connoisseurs. Besides compositions from Scheen and one of Van der Weide, the album contains five improvisations and two pieces by Paul Termos. Scheen and Van der Weide both are advocates of the oeuvre of the saxophonist and composer, who deceased in 2003. How justly that plea is, is evident in the fact that his pieces fit the trio as gloves. The Misha Mengelberg-like ‘Kop op’ and the souljazz-pastiche ‘Dark Goeree’ perfectly match the compositions by Scheen, such as the Leo Cuypers-inspired ‘Solid’ and the beautiful ballad ‘Sigh’. They are convincing proofs of his craft. I hope this CD of the Blue Lines Trio will mean the breakthrough they deserve."
(Herman te Loo)
Weblog Vera Vingerhoeds - October 9, 2014
"Unexpected turns, dribbling swing & unsettling jazz
The Blue Lines Trio was formed in 2012 by pianist Michiel Scheen. It brings together three generations of improvisers. With great belief, the group plunges into situations where there is not necessarily direction and guidance: musical adventure it is. To start somewhere not knowing where you end up. The trio is very evenly matched. All three musicians can handle the musical freedom; they keep listening very carefully to each other in free improvisations.
The music on this first album is a selection from the wide repertoire of the trio, which is full of musical twists, unexpected turns, unsettling music, dribble swing and sound explorations.
Michiel Scheen very clearly is indebted to the angular swing of Thelonious Monk and unsettling improvising jazz of Misha Mengelberg. It can be heard in a number of pieces, such as Solid.
In the years 1986 to 1999 Michiel Scheen worked with many musicians in the free improvisation department. He played with Ab Baars, Han Bennink, Jaap Blonk, Anthony Braxton, Tobias Delius, Cor Fuhler, Gerry Hemmingway, Wiek Hijmans, Guus Janssen, George lewis, Misha Mengelberg, Roscoe Mitchell, Butch Morris. After a reteat of several years Scheen formed a quartet in 2004 with Ab Baars, Han Bennink and Ernst Glerum. At the moment he regurarly plays in duo format with saxophonist and clarinettist Tobias Delius and in the Jan Nijdam Quartet."
On the cd "Dance, My Dear", by Michiel Scheen Quartet
Village Voice - 27 juni 2005
"Honorable mention: Odd twists and sharp angles, post-Monk, post-Mengelberg even."
Cadence - November 2004
"Jazz might be dying (in a protected death scene), but New Dutch Swing is alive and well, at least if this recent disc on Data is any indication ... Oddly swinging patterns lie at the crux of most of Scheen's compositions. Most are born out of stunted thematic seeds that bloom under the improvisatory irrigation of his esteemed cohorts ... Much of the madcap humor expectedly endemic to Dutch improv might be missing here, but the precision playing and emotional vibrancy that are also hallmarks of the idiom present themselves in abundance. Scheen draws on the tradition's strenghts while tempering his music with a degree of sincerity that is quite refreshing. Hearing Bennink do the same - and in doing so shrug another layer of his formulaic persona - is also a treat ... "
Wire - July 2004
"Pianist and composer Michiel Scheen, born 1963 in Amsterdam, has worked with Anthony Braxton, Guus Janssen, George Lewis and Roscoe Mitchell. That's he's still little-known is at odds with the quality of this disc from the small Dutch label, in which his highly original compositions are interpreted by a quartet with Ab Baars on tenor-sax and clarinet, Ernst Glerum on bass and Han Bennink on drums. The stuttering fanfare "Similarities" signals an original voice, but is no preparation for the extraordinary "God In Heaven (Stay!)" a kind of meditation on the repeated single-note like Thelonious Monk's "Thelonious", its fierce drive offering a European take on free jazz's pulse/no metre concept. In fact the parallels with Monk's role as composer for band are significant though a fine improvising pianist, Scheen dominates through his compositions, which the other players serve admirably. "This Time", an interrupted ballad, exploits silence in a way unfamiliar in jazz; "Idols" features Baars's cavernous tenor. In concept, almost everything on this totally outstanding release seems new."
NRC - August 2004
" Intelligent improvisations, that first 'wash out your ears' and then immerse you in beautiful detailed embroidery... the music may be well influenced by the work of Thelonious Monk, but Scheen does not imitate - he has got a highly authentic and obstinate vocabulary. After a time-out Scheen last year made a comeback with the also strong CD "Goodbye!" and now, with the help of Dutch top league musicians Baars, Glerum and Bennink, Scheen really transcends himself... "
"... Ballads aren't really part of Scheen's game plan, or that of DANCE, MY DEAR which offers up supersonic power almost from its first notes...
... Scheen can improvise at warp speed if he's so inclined, but his chief joy is knitting together freely phrased pulses into a distinctive movement that melds earlier jazz harmonies and rhythms with a 21st Century conception...
... the key to the session come in the title tune and the two that bookend it. Reminiscent of the sort of slurred, boozy ballad as you could have heard at Minton's in 1943 when Thelonious Monk was woodshedding his distinctive style, "Idols" - a implicative title - finds the pianist adopting the key clips and pressured touch of Monk and another 100% original Herbie Nichols...
... Scheen prefers a herky-jerky beat fill with broken chords ...
... "Dance, my dear?" whose title in this context sounds not so much as an invitation as a challenge...
Jazz - June 2004
...throughout the album, the intensity is build up beautifully...every piece is an adventure on its own."
Dagblad van het Noorden
"... thoughtful, conceptual, with a lot of freedom...spontaneous jumble is alternated with open structures and intense silences ...a strong 'comeback'."
Weblog Draai Om Je Oren
"'This Time It Will Last Forever'. A strong melody with a dramatic sustain on one chord - a perfect example of how silence can be felt...the balance in the group is excellent and on the album, the producer has captured and profiled the instruments real beautiful ."
On his ensembles:
"Michiel Scheen dismisses the limits of improvisation" (Trouw)
"A musician with authentic ideas, of which we never can have enough" (Leidse Courant)
".. the ensemble Filiaal that opened with 'Buts', a beautiful composition from leader/pianist Michiel Scheen" (NRC)
"..the pieces of TRIKLINION blend darting spontaneity; the raw energy of electric, amplified instruments; and a refined structural sense. The music veers from brash abandon to meticulously constructed interplay balanced with a keen sense of humor... Scheen has superb technique and an astute ear for collective group interaction." (Cadence)
On his solo-work:
"The nine compositions manoeuvre between Monk-ish bravoure and pointed lyricism, but the balance is perfect. Scheen is a master in creating space; he not only knows when to play which note, but also knows when to release it, and even when to skip it" (NRC)
"The balance between composition en improvisation and the diversity in composition-models is very well done. Scheen works with coincidence. How capricious his thoughts and music might be, it always got a certain logic and transparency. Scheen is a versatile musician with a strong identity" (JazzNU)
"Most of the pieces are witty little musical puzzles but the erudition is not overbearing." (The Wire)
"With Scheen, hidden irony and alienating distance generate subcutaneous dimensions. His versatility is marvelous" (Trouw)
"Sonorous, fresh, masterful pianoplaying" (Jazz Freak)
"In stead of etheric sketches, Scheen links his free associations to recognizable, measured musical elements, executed in a virtuoso manner" (de Volkskrant)
"Scheens lovely obstinate interpretations of Monk-classics can be heard tonight on Radio 4. To appreciate them, the listener should release his conception of the original versions. If he can do that, there is much to enjoy. And to laugh! ... His interpretations sound surprisingly contemporary: maybe Monk nowadays would have played them like this. An integer, humorous and imprudent cross-over of jazz and contemporary dance-music." (VPRO-magazine)
"99% of Dutch releases can't compete with this CD ... When you stop dancing and start to listen close, you hear how extremely funny and smart it is made ... a strange melancholic optimism that hiphop sometimes has - it's like furious joy." (Rebound)
"This obstinate pianist is a barrel full of ideas. He suddenly surprises you with a solo only on the highest regions of the piano. His work is solid, dynamic and technically polished. Taylor-like fireworks are easily alternated with Ellingtonesk poetic scetches ... His composition "This time it will last forever" is a delicate 'lovesong', with long silences, which create enormous tension that truly enhance the meaning of the title ... Tobias Delius and Michiel Scheen are excellent and unique jazzpersonalities, who's adventures are really worth listening to."
"The duo of Michiel Scheen and Gerry Hemmingway (percussion) was truly exciting. It was breathtaking music and respectful cooperation by gentlemen" (Parool)
On his work as a sideman:
"Michiel Scheen made an impression with a composition called 'Andermaal'. The in essence simple work contained thrilling rags of melody in a strange, continually changing landscape. He also played a stunning and moving solo." (Trouw)
" ... Then everybody seems lost, until Michiel Scheen thinks: "all is well, that ends well" and, with a strong argument, finishes the piece only on the right side of the keyboard" (NRC)
" ... the crazy improvised part of Michiel Scheen ..." (Haarlems Dagblad)