by Richard Hallebeek, Lorenzo Feliciati & Niels Voskuil
text: Robin Boer
Over the last two years, this trio has been working on the CD 'Bumerang' and is the result of a meeting between two musicians: guitarist Richard Hallebeek (RHP, Lalle Larsson, Dweezil Zappa, Shawn Lane, Jeroen van Helsdingen Band) and bassist Lorenzo Feliciati (Bob Mintzer, Pat Mastelotto, Cuong Vu, Chad Wackerman, Steve Jansen, Nils Petter Movaer and many, many more) at the North Sea Jazz Festival in 2017. The two decided to collaborate and drummer Niels Voskuil, who already joined forces with Hallebeek on the Cd's 'Live in Alphen' and 'One Voice', joined soon after.
After a good response to two recorded single tracks, the decision was made to go for a full-length album. The trio chose not to work on the music at home, separated from each other, but together in the studio (three different ones actually) in order to create an organic band vibe to breathe through the recording.
Our observations on the album can be read here. For more insight on the background of this interesting project, Richard Hallebeek was happy to answer a bunch of burning ProgJazz questions.
Bumerang is the name of the album. Can Bumerang be viewed as the start of a new formation or is this more an 'in between' project?
I guess both! When I met Lorenzo Feliciati when we played at North Sea Jazz Festival a couple of years ago, we hit it off and wanted to do a project together. We started to write songs together, so right from the start it was clear that we needed a band name. Lorenzo has done his solo projects and so did I, but this was clearly a different vehicle. Later when Niels came in, we settled on the name Bumerang since it seemed to fit the trio format.
After the first release of your new trio ('One Voice', 2018), we have another trio release, where the three of you took care of a lot of overdubbing and programming to create a lot of diversity in the whole arrangement. Can you tell us a bit more about the process of working in a trio setting and building up these layers?
For ‘One Voice’ it was different. For that album, we played in a trio setting and I had some special guests in mind, but I wanted to make the album more personal, so I decided to play keys, saz, do some vocals, guitar synth etc. So I did everything next to the drummer and bassist.
For Bumerang, most of the time we would start off with Lorenzo throwing a basic idea at me, programmed with some basic sequenced sounds. Then I would work on that. First, I wanted to keep the format of a ‘power trio’, but quickly I realized this would do damage to the song ideas that I liked so much.
Most of the songs were harmonically complex so those harmonies would suffer when there was just a trio and no comping underneath my solos. So pretty quick I decided to add keys, and fill in most of the synth parts with my Yamaha G10 guitar synth.
I also kept some of the parts the other guys did. Niels (Voskuil, red.) played most of the parts on ‘Moonphases’ and Lorenzo played synths on Turning Points, which sounds great. No need to redo that. Probably 80% of the backing parts on the CD are filled with guitar synth and the rest is a result of programming by all of us.
There are a lot of internet Cd's out there and you can hear it. People send files back and forth through the internet and everybody is playing with the big names from the USA nowadays. I love those CD’s, but for this one I wanted a group of local friends playing together. The live, basic vibe of three people in a room. We actually played and recorded together and also wrote some stuff in the studio just by trying out different things on location. This got me out of my comfort zone and the music developed into sometimes surprising direction
Some listeners have been referring to the Bumerang CD as ‘heavy fusion’ or ‘rock fusion’, but for me it’s all jazz. We play a head, do some solos and we come back to the theme. It doesn’t really matter for me if that theme is played on an 8-string guitar with a heavy tone, or if it’s a clean part. It’s still the same thing for me and I always leave a lot of room for improvisation.
How is the compositional approach for this album different compared to earlier recordings?
We co-wrote most of the songs. Most of the time, Lorenzo (Feliciati, red.) sends me an idea and I would rearrange it for guitars and then we would move on from there. Anything could happen and the guys were open to anything. Lorenzo has a very adventurous way of composing, where he breaks a lot of rules. Niels is a drummer who, unlike many drummers, has a great feel for harmony, song form and melody. Live, these songs are still very much playable with a quartet plus a keyboard player.
You used three studios over a period of two years and the basic tracks were recorded live. Do you exchange far developed demos first or does most of the material develop while working in the studio together?
Both. Some songs like ‘Moonphases’ and ‘Herbs’ were finished by Niels. I just did some arranging, added some sounds and some voice that leads in the harmony here and there. Other than that, those songs were basically finished.
In songs like the ballad ‘Turning Points’ and ‘Friday At Last,’ the A and B parts were done by Lorenzo. Finally, during a sunday afternoon, I had one of my home brewed ‘Hallebeer’ beers and took the empty bottle to play the slide part in ‘Turning Points’. That is something I would normally have never thought of, but the different compositional styles pushed me to try something different.
Tell us about the amazing album artwork.
That is a nice story actually. The album cover of my last album 'Live in Alphen' was not so spectacular, due to the bankruptcy of the pressing plant which resulted into a seizure on the already existing artwork, so I had to improvise on the situation. Then, in a Facebook group, I stumbled upon some heavy but justified criticism on the artwork by one called Greg Lynn. At first, I was upset, but later I sent him a message and told him the whole story on how the resulting artwork came about. He appears to be a big fan of Zappa and Shawn Lane, and as soon he found out I have played with Shawn and Dweezil, he gave me a thousand apologies. To make it up, he offered to create the artwork for my next album for a very low price. This is the artwork you see on the Bumerang CD and it is so totally next level! All these tiny details, it is just incredible. He translated the music and concept to this artwork very accurately, with the whole atmosphere. Both the music and the artwork definitely have some influences from the pandemic in it. You can find a lot of his promotional work on his Instagram account.
Speaking of the pandemic.. how does the whole situation affect you?
Financially not much in that I teach at a music school and I make my money there. I have been teaching music since I was thirteen years old and around 2001 I decided that I did not want to play in a cover band for four nights a week and gaining an unreliable income every month. I started to teach in Haarlem and ever since, both the workflow and cashflow ar steady enough that I can concentrate on my own music. I also work for different music magazines and I do record songs for many fellow musicians through the internet. I sell my three instructional DVD’s through TrueFire and I sell my Cd's and transcription books. Doing gigs never proved to be a big source of income, and with a lot of gigs being canceled now, there is even more money left untouched. I do miss the live contact with the music lovers and the vibe and energy of live playing. I am sure it will come back soon and I use this period of measures for my own advantage to focus on other things like composing and practicing. Most musicians spend their time in isolation anyway, working on their art. So this isolation part of the pandemic was actually not hard for me, but a great way to really focus.
Any plans for 2021 that you can share with us already?
I am working on a custom guitar together with a big company, which will be released in 2021 and I can’t tell anything about it yet! The guitar contains all the info I learned over the past forty one years of playing the instrument, that makes it sound great and makes it so worthwhile in the style that I play in. I do play in a certain way, using hybrid picking and legato techniques, and this guitar will surely please everyone who is into that.
TrueFire asked me to fly over to their studios in Miami to record two more instructional DVD’s. One is about licks and the other one is about playing through changes. I have been using my own system using colors for over twenty years now, to target different scale choices and I think it works really well. Both courses are finished and I just need to head to the studio in the States once COVID is done. As I said, I am a fanatic beer brewer and I have five kegs pumping out about thirty five liters of my 'Hallebeer' every three weeks. I want to release the beers with my music in the near future. Since the rules and taxes to sell beers are insanely strict here in The Netherlands, I will rent a brewery and let them brew my beer. Just trying out different things now and looking for a good recipe. I am always writing new songs and just let the music lead me where it wants me to go.