CD - TWAN VAN GERVEN
How U Gonna Stroke Yer Solo
(2020, Home Made Records)
text: Robin Boer
Five years after Dutch X-ing (Dutch Crossing), Dutch composer and guitar player Twan van Gerven (1969) released his third studio album called 'How U Gonna Stroke Yer Solo' (no, this is not some lost Prince album). On the front cover we see a sausage with legs in some kind of yoga position. The fonts are playful and it is a delight to see we have almost seventy-two minutes of music ahead of us, whish is a rarity in this era of EP's and full-lenghts albums clocking less than forty minutes mostly, to suit the vinyl hype and perhaps due to a lack of worthwhile material.
First of all, we note that this is mostly a new band. Only drummer Maarten Poirters remains from former line-ups. New in the band are keyboardist Roel Hazendonk, bassist Marre de Graaff, saxophone player Remko Smid and analog synthesizer player Stormvogel. We were lucky enough to catch this band a few times (read our experience [in Dutch] at Poppodium Duycker here) and therefore looking forward to hear the compositions as recorded in the studio.
More is more!
The result is interesting to say the least. It is practically a live session in the E-Sound Studio Weesp, so all the energy and spontanity of the live performances are covered. Most pieces are very extensive and there is plenty of room for improvisations by all members. In a way, the music by Van Gerven asks for comparisons with Frank Zappa and modern jazz-rock fusion, although it may be too easy to do so, since it would neglect the idiosyncraticy of his compositions and the fingerprints of these highly crafted musicians. To be honest, the Zappa-influence is way less prominent on this album, compared to the other two. Though high-speed guitar neck tapping soloing isn't particularly new, the way Van Gerven manages to catch his phrasing so tightly and accurate within these challenging grooves is worth of admiration. More is more!
Tower of strength
Another tower of strength in this collective is Marre de Graaff, clearly inspired by the upper class of bass players, with his thick sound, clearly prominent in the mix, very tasteful with well-thought and timed grooves, like the polyrhythmic line in opener 'Øersoep'. By giving drummer Poirters, which again proves to be the man for the job here, an upfront role in the mix turns out to be a wise move too. In many contemporary album productions, the drums are too far away, or mixed too soft, stealing away from the power that is experienced during live performances. That said, sometimes the keyboards and the amazing saxophone solos threaten to anchor a bit into the blowing band, losing a little bit of their expressiveness and power.
On 'Hilmoldol' one can hear this band can easily swipe the floor with most metal bands when it comes to blasting riffing and fast pounding bass drums. The various shifting of complex themes over shifting rhythms is a real threat. The same counts for excellent versatile bass grooves, floating and growling synths and dazzling melodies and impro by Smid on saxophone in 'Drunkey Punch'. 'Chakra Zulu' features some heavy and complex riffs, inimitable for most musicians, but apparently an easy job for this group. It flows naturally into the final (twenty minute!) piece 'A Whatever' including a nice Fender Rhodes solo by Hazendonk and a trademark KORG MS-10 solo by Stormvogel.
As mentioned already in the concert review, nowadays, jazz-rock bands who are really taking the time to explore and improvise extensively, are a rarity. This counts double when it comes to studio recordings. Twan van Gerven and his band do break this limiting tradition on this album more than on it's two predecesssors 'Junk Dilemma' (2014) and 'Dutch X-ing' which are adventurous and energetic, virtuosic albums in their own way, with shorter pieces. That said, 'How Yer Gonna Stroke Yer Solo' fits as a natural follow-up of the two, revealing the group when it may be reaching it's full potential by actually presenting the compositions in full explored glory.
Yes, it is a long ride, but as mentioned before: more is more! This album is a killer.