Bart Maris


Bart Maris is what you could call a musical bricoleur – in the best sense of the term. Someone who builds things with his trumpet and music, who cobbles them together in an artisanal fashion. For me that is the height of being a musician. I like to compare Bart with Han Bennink, the Dutch drummer. Bennink is also a bricoleur. To him too, everything is percussion and everything is music. Both Bart and Han are also visual artists and they both write with those elegant, florid letters. All these things seem like marginal phenomena, but in their approach they are part of the essence, part of what makes them musicians – all-round musicians, as it were.

In the following video, Bart engages in a dialogue with a dozen old tape recorders. He draws out the tapes into gigantic loops that glide through the space. A bit like the sound that comes from the speakers: slightly distorted and crackling occasionally – entirely in keeping with the old machines. Bart starts up a conversation with that web of sounds and lets his trumpet sound out clearly. He contrasts those clusters with nice melodies, but also seeks out grating sounds and lets his instrument blow and moan.

The video is a nice illustration of Bart’s music world, of that artisanal feel. Bart plays the trumpet like the best, but he will use a PVC tube or sea shell as instruments with just as much passion. I recently saw him at work with a group of children from a range of cultural backgrounds, children who neither were familiar with music nor played an instrument. He set to work with them in a very organic manner, initiating them into a world of sounds by letting them play on DIY instruments. They then switched over to real instruments, pocket trumpets and percussion instruments. During the concert (which was in fact more of a performance), he took out his own instrument and played along with the children. Their eyes were focused on the master and his performance incited them to play better. It was a fantastic experience. Later that day he played with a Balkan band and he invited the children on stage with their instruments. That shows the generosity of Bart Maris the musician. What a tremendous quality. He is a musician who involves himself seamlessly in social-artistic projects.

I got to know Bart with the improvisation band Kamikaze and with X-Legged Sally (first record, Slow Up, in 1991): the former a band in which free music was key, the latter an avant-jazz rock band in which powerful compositions by Peter Vermeersch (FES) formed the prevailing tone.

By now Maris has contributed to 49 records (and as I write this, the list goes on). There are few projects in which he himself is the lead, but he is the ideal companion. Everyone wants him at their side: for the specific colour of his playing, his wonderful improvisational talent, the energy that he radiates, his engagement and his generosity. He is the Belgian musician with the most foreign connections. If you mention the name Bart Maris in Dutch or French music circles, chances are that they will have already heard of him or seen him perform.

As an international programmer, you often want to hear a different voice in an international project or an improvisation pool. For that, Bart Maris is just the right person. I know few people who can make themselves at home in a project as quickly as he can.

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Foto: (c) Stefanie De Clercq

Wim Wabbes

Wim Wabbes is the artistic director at Handelsbeurs Concertzaal (Ghent).

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