David Laborier NE:X:T

Luxembourg Jazz Meeting - showcases

Saturday 10 November 2018, Neumünster Abbey in Grund, Luxembourg

Text & pics: Storm Bakker

ProgJazz attended the Luxembourg Jazz Meeting 2018, with 12 showcase concerts in the 'Salle Robert Krieps' in the Centre Culturel de Rencontre Abbaye de Neumünster – neimënster. Sunday 11 November was the last day, with again four showcases of 30 minutes in a row, but now starting in the morning at eleven.

David Laborier NE:X:T

The second showcase was by David Laborier and his group NE:X:T. In the linernotes of the festival, it says about Laborier NE:X:T that “it is a homogenous co-existence of musical styles resulting in highly accessible colours and atmospheres, rather than giving the listener the impression of an overdone and intellectual arrangement of notes.” So, we had great expectations for the concert and indeed, all bandmembers appeared to be fine musicians, including Laborier who is a skillful guitarist, trained in The Hague by our friend and idol Eef Albers. Laborier plays an hollowbody jazz guitar, which due to smart use of fx pedals is sounding like a solid sometimes. All themes are done with guitar, sometimes doubled by one of the horns, alternated with improvised solo’s upon an ostinate groove. Besides playing guitar, Laborier operates as the band’s conductor on stage.

Already during the second piece, we did feel the urge for something energetic to happen, something mind blowing, big and explosive, an unusual suddenty of some kind, like an acceleration for instance, some metrical modulations or odd meter decoys, maybe a fiery instrumental duel. Where would we be today, if Coltrane and Jones, McLaughlin and Cobham, Vander and Lockwood, had decided to bury the hatchets (or axes)? Where would we be today, if the Jester would not have taken on the Tyrant, thanks to Chick Corea and Return to Forever? It seemed for a long time, our waiting and hoping for this holy zeuhl spirit, was in vain. On the one hand, this absence is maybe caused by the Luxembourgian national character of calmness; on the other hand: it doesn’t help if there are hired musicians on stage, constantly reading scores from their tablets. Marc Huynen (trumpet) and Tim Daemen (trombone), were besides not really inspired and inspiring, lacking or left out as soloists.

French alto saxophonist Pierre Cocq-Amman seemed to understand this, when he got his moment and raped his instrument at a moment's notice. From groovy licks with a funky attitude, to jazz screaming, free impro and modern techniques, also non-western scales and prehistoric roars, Cocq’s solo had it all; Cocq was showing balls. Finally, it was happening, finally the game was on. All eyes were on Laborier now, during the last piece, an exciting jazzrock composition, much better than the works before. Moving towards Laborier’s ultimate moment of truth, the tension is beautifully created by Niels Engel on drums. But sadly, Laborier’s solo was just noodling. Presumably due to the fact that the showcase was 30 minutes, also Laborier himself had to limit his solo, which limitation was already during the solo clearly disturbing him. Within these few bars, he didn’t manage to tell a story. But also, he seemed to much concerned with the arrangements, sometimes even conducting the horns without real necessity. The arrangements are basically some simple hooks for sax, trombone and trumpet, it should be a case of ‘management by responsibility’ and ‘a blink of an eye’.

We met Laborier backstage after the show and talked about Eef and -of course- also about his performance. We mentioned the little solo of French alto saxophonist Pierre Cocq-Amman. “Normally, he plays a very long solo”, laughs David, “but now it was shortened because of the 30 minutes showcase”. We wanted to say, in a nice way, that he should dismiss the horn section, downplay the band to a quartet with Niels, Schlapbe and Pierre, shorten or delete the less interesting pieces and remove the empty bars, to pave the way for extended specials and endless soloing over odd meter grooves on guitar and alto sax. That is what we wanted to say, to let out the dogs and run in the wild.