All that jazz: Part 2 of Brussels’ jazz scene

To mark International Jazz Day on Monday 30th April, we’ve teamed up with Jazz.Brussels and handpicked 11 essential figures in Brussels jazz today. From musicians and live music venues to management agencies and record labels, these are the driving forces behind the local jazz scene.

The Word Radio is teaming up with Jazz.Brussels for a full day of radio shows, DJ sets and live concerts. For the occasion, our studios – located in what used to be the Commune’s last standing farmhouse – will be open to all, with free drinks provided throughout the day. Come through, this is a free event and the sun’s likely to be on our side. Find the Facebook event here.

Photographer Joke De Wilde (c)

Teun Verbruggen: “Brussels is moving fast and that makes me feel alive and kicking.”

I got into jazz when I was young because my father is a jazz fan, so we had lots of records at home. I still remember the day he took me to Jazzmiddelheim and the Dworp Summercourse. Today I’m a jazz drummer, I also make rock and blues music and I have a passion for sound and abstract arts. Like many other Belgian jazz artists, I went to the Conservatory of Brussels and I find it a very inspiring city. I read in a New York newspaper a few months ago that Brussels was the new Berlin. It is true that, although there are not so many clubs, it is very central and multicultural. Lots of jazz musicians from all over the world come and live here and musicians pass by when they’re touring. If our scene is so vibrant, it is of course thanks to all the musicians, labels, clubs, promoters, and magazines that show interest in our scene, but also thanks to the audience. Brussels is moving fast and that makes me feel alive and kicking. I need a city like this one to evolve and feel excited musically and on so many other levels.

Teun is a renowned drummer who owns the label Rat Records and interdisciplinary workspace for avant-garde music and visual art Walter.

Bram De Looze: “I interact daily with other curious minds who inspire me.”

A lot of jazz music had already come to my ears before I went to the jazz academy in West-Flanders. My dad and my first piano teacher got me into bossa nova, latin and swing music at a young age. My grandfather was a Hammond organist, unfortunately I only got to meet him through photos and stories, but also through his scores, which my father let me play. He called these scores “the brown papers”, because they’re more than 50 years old. In 2012, I moved to New York to work my way through the New School For Jazz and Contemporary Music studies. After that, I wanted to give Brussels a try for a while and see what happens. And four years later, I’m not going anywhere. I really fit in the city, probably because I have a curious mind: I study music, compose, improvise and interact daily with other curious minds who inspire me. I even like to destroy my piano a bit by tuning it to different irregular temperaments and observe how it influences my imagination.

Bram is a pianist and composer who studied music in New York and is now a member of LABtrio.

Jean-Paul Estiévenart: “I was really impressed by how open-minded people were.”

I was 16 years old when I heard Miles Davis for the first time on Flamenco Sketches. Then and there I knew I’d dedicate my life to jazz and improvisation. Today I’m 33 and my life is all about making music. Every day, every night, every second. I always try to put more passion into my playing and to share it with the audience. I love to practice and to learn more about music history. I come from a small village where there were a lot of fanfares, and that’s how I learned how to play the trumpet. But when I fell for jazz, there was nothing to do out there, so I decided to move to Brussels. The city is unique for its mix of cultures and I was really impressed by how open-minded people were. Looking back, I could say that Brussels made me grow not only as a musician, but also as a man.

Jean-Pierre is one of the most in-demand trumpet players today and leading member of the Jean-Paul Estiévenart trio.

Hendrik Lasure: “This anonymity forms its identity.”

My parents both graduated as classical musicians in conservatory. I was taking lessons of solfeggio and one day, the teacher – my mum – played On the sunny side of the street performed by Dizzy Gillespie. I still remember the joy that tune made me feel. That was my first encounter with jazz. Later on I started studying jazz piano in the music academy in Knokke. That was the moment music really became my passion. I must say it’s a bit weird for me to speak about the ‘jazz scene’ in general because I don’t really consider myself a jazz musician in some strict sense of the term. I think lots of musicians of my generation tend to avoid labelling their music and not going for one specific corner of the musical spectrum. This is probably the reason why I see the Brussels jazz scene as a very diverse mix of people which is somehow connected. Because Brussels is not so big and all that. From my perception Brussels could be seen as a city without an identity, and at the same time, this anonymity forms its identity.

Hendrik is a multi-instrumentalist playing in numerous ensemble and the pianist of SCHNTZL.

Maaike Wuyts: “Music is the perfect ‘vehicle’ to unite people.”

I made my way to jazz through hip-hop. I used to organise impro jam sessions with scratch DJ’s and jazz musicians. We did about 50 of those all over Belgium so in two years time I got to know a big part of the Belgian Jazz scene and in 2006 I decided to start my own agency: Aubergine Artist Management. Ten years later we’re one of the leading jazz agencies in Europe, managing, producing, supporting and touring Belgian talents. I know I’m not a musician, but being a part of the process of bringing people together is what thrives me the most in my professional and personal life. Music is the perfect ‘vehicle’ to unite people. The most exciting about Brussels’ jazz scene is that the urban context and its social dynamics is a fertile soil for this kind of music. Although somehow I miss a stronger presence of women and, for a cosmopolitan city, I’m amazed there are not more jazz formations with diasporic influences that make it to the regular circuits. But in my eyes, Brussels is defintly the city in Belgium where you want to be if you work in jazz.

Maaike is the founder of Aubergine Artist Management, the manager of different Belgian jazz-bands and consultant for visit.brussels.