Harmen Fraanje, born in Roosendaal, Netherlands in 1976, is one of the most adventurous Dutch jazz pianists. He is a musician who is exceptionally active internationally alongside colleagues from France, Belgium, Scandinavia and the United States. Harmen co-leads a trio with Dutch cellist Ernst Reijseger and Senegalese singer Mola Sylla, performing concerts throughout the world.
His special abilities have not gone unnoticed. He has been commissioned to compose original music for the North Sea Jazz festival, in addition to winning the Prince Bernard Culture Fund Prize Noord Brabant. Fraanje is also a lecturer at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam.
In addition to the Dutch double bass player Clemens van der Feen, his newest ensemble includes California-born drummer Tristan Renfrow. Swedish saxophone player Fredrik Ljungkvist was invited to join the trio as a guest artist. Fraanje says “I always try to create as much space as possible for the musicians I play with, so that everyone can concentrate on the present moment to tell their own personal story.”
His latest album is a new DSD (Direct Stream Digital) recording for the high-end label Just Listen. The album has an open characteristic with music that provides endless space for creativity. It evolved as music with no prepared plans but only full attention to the creative process. This is a way of thinking and playing that you do not often encounter in the recording process..
Illustrative of his approach is the opening track ‘Several’. A simple musical motif develops smoothly from behind the piano. In the meantime doors are gradually opened for the tenor saxophone of Ljungkvist. It is music that is almost incomprehensible as if it were floating in the air.
Contrabassist Van der Feen is the author of ‘Bread Of Life’, a melody that puts you back on the floor with both feet and gives space to the poetic clarinet of Ljungkvist. The beautiful piano solo ‘Pi’ forms a bridge to the classic ‘Ida Lupino’ by Carla Bley. “I think this is one of the most beautiful pieces ever composed in jazz, so simple and so sincere,” says the leader. Melancholic sounds emerge from Ljungkvist’s tenor saxophone over the mobile rhythm section. ‘Fade’ forms an organic transition with slowly dying away music, as the title suggests. Fraanje’s subtle ‘A Small Ray Of Light’ brings “an atmosphere of light and hope” as the composer indicates. A mood that alternates with the meditative ‘XYZ’, a piece with recurring motifs and a feature for the drummer.
Impressive is ‘PH’, a homage written by Ljungkvist for Per Henrik Wallin (1946-2005), the ‘Thelonious Monk’ of Swedish jazz, This is a piece that has its roots in bebop. A flashback that is unexpectedly alternated by the free ‘Epi’, with a leading role for the ecstatic tenor saxophone. The compact and melodic ‘Safe’ forms a fitting contrast: “An almost Radiohead-like tune”, according to Fraanje.
‘Goodbye’ is a temporary farewell that makes you want more music from this unique Jazz ensemble. It is a special formation that gives this music a new dimension to the concept of lyricism. The fine DSD recording is icing on the cake as the album comes to a close.
— Cyriel Pluimakers, jazz criticDownload booklet