Peter Jacquemyn

Portraits

Chainsaw carving and improvising on the bass are Peter Jacquemyn’s two professional passions. He is an artist in heart and soul, but above all a nonconformist. As a result, his career has always deviated from the textbook norms and conventional academic trajectories. He has never set foot in a music conservatoire (as a student, that is), although with regards to his training in art, he did attend Sint-Lukas (Brussels), where he now teaches.

‘Choosing between both activities was never an option for him. The duality of visual artist and improvising musician is something he turns to his advantage.’ The physical effort involved in sculpting has left its mark. You will never hear Jacquemyn perform a sonata, or at least not in the familiar form.

Yet the reduced suppleness of his fingers lends a special quality to the music. As a result, his playing style has greater assertiveness and is rather more percussive, without degenerating into purely rhythmical string violence.

Intuition and trance are the two defining features of Jacquemyn’s live performances. This is why he didn’t make an official recording for quite some time. For him, the process was akin to photographing a sculpture. Today, however, his discography encompasses some thirty releases, including The First Sound (el NEGOCITO) with BASSSSS and, as a duo with Stefan Prins, Cloud Chamber (ChampdAction).

Besides his solo performances, duos are a constant in Jacquemyn’s work. One reason being because they allow him to engage in a direct dialogue. He has performed with violinist Gunda Gottschalk, for example, with whom he recorded ‘È pericoloso sporgersi’ and ‘Ma non è proibito’.

Jacquemyn has also worked with one of his most important musical influences, bassist Peter Kowald. And while we’re name-dropping, how could we fail to mention Fred Van Hove, the man who introduced him into the circles of free jazz? One of his current groups is BASSSSS, an ensemble that emerged out of an invitation to develop a project for eight basses and an opera orchestra.

While this never came to fruition, the idea was firmly lodged in Jacquemyn’s mind. One year later, a strange line-up of five basses took to the stage of the ANGST festival to accompany the film Vampyr. Jacquemyn opted for a quintet because the uneven number meant it was unbalanced. This, in turn, would result in friction, movement and uncertainty, and thus a spirit of adventurousness. ‘This combination works wonderfully well as a soundtrack for a film screening. The quintet emerges as the creator of a genuine ambience that provides tension and lyricism alternately.’

BASSSSS subsequently led to Fundament, a group of twelve musicians with backgrounds ranging from classical and folk to death metal, jazz, contemporary and free improvisation. Fundament is a disciplined ensemble that functions on the basis of visual scores. The set of instruments alone is oversized: five basses, two bass tubas, a trombone, two baritone saxophones, a bass saxophone and a tubax (a tuba construction but with saxophone reeds, mouthpiece and key system). The dynamic of the overall sound is partly determined by the relative stage positions of the musicians, who are constantly on the move. All this without amplification, so in a purely acoustic form. You can also hear traces of folk traditions seeping through, one of Jacquemyn’s other long-term loves.

Although his projects keep expanding, Peter Jacquemyn remains faithful to his slightly anarchistic nature. Once a free spirit, always a free spirit.

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Foto: (c) 

Auteur:
Georges Tonla Briquet

Guided by the motto Verjonging, verbreding en vernieuwing (Rejuvenation, broadening and renewal), Georges Tonla Briquet (b. 1957) writes about jazz and related genres for various media outlets. His main centre of interest is the bustling Belgian scene set in the context of international developments.

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