They’re white as snow and not from the Congo, that’s for sure, but in their hearts, the boys of BRZZVLL cherish Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat, 1970s fusion à la Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock, Eddie Harris’s soul jazz, the spiritual jazz of Alice Coltrane and Archie Shepp, and Sun Ra’s psychedelic free improvisation. These are just a handful of the ingredients in the melting pot. ‘Cross-pollination is the recipe. You just improvise with the things you like’, said frontman Vincent Brijs in an interview with the newspaper De Standaard.

Vincent is a saxophonist and composer from Antwerp. If you pronounce his surname in the local dialect and add à ville to it, you’ll get something like ‘Brazzaville’. Founded in 2006, this was the original name of what is now called BRZZVLL. The band started out as a project at the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp but outlived the college with flying colours. Today, BRZZVLL is a close-knit band with Vincent mainly on baritone saxophone in dialogue with Bart Borremans on tenor saxophone. Drummer Stijn Cools, bassist Dries Laheye, keyboardist Jan Willems and guitarist Dries Verhulst complete the line-up. On this basis alone, you could draw up a map of the Antwerp network and its offshoots in pop, rock and jazz. It directly links BRZZVLL with groups such as STUFF., granvat/Book of Air and Hoera.

BRZZVLL is also the house band of ‘Nuff Said, a live events programme that features a mix of music, stand-up comedy and literature. They hit it off with Joseph Bowie of the legendary band Defunkt, as well as with poet-performers Ursula Rucker, Amir Sulaiman and Anthony Joseph. ‘Those guys are all outstanding musicians’, Anthony Joseph once said in admiration, ‘and as a band they create a sort of magical universe in which everything seems possible.’

During the presentation of their album Waiho (2017), the band wore pastel-coloured, paint-stained overalls with bright tassels, their heads hidden under caps with long straight artificial hair of the same colour. Like modest envoys from some exotic place, they came to us with a message: ‘Who we are is not important. Just listen to our music and let yourself be transported by our neat rhythms, our sexy sax lines, our cutting guitar riffs and our keyboard magic.’ BRZZVLL’s video clips seem to want to convey the same message. The visual stories may have been inspired by the music, but are pretty much independent entities.

In ‘Mind Is A Jungle’ – from Engines (2014), the disc that BRZZVLL made with Anthony Joseph – the band look as though they are ambassadors from the distant planet of Funk. Dressed in rags and tatters, these shamans of swing will put ants in your pants to make you dance, dance, dance!

In ‘Kevin’, from Polemicals (2013), BRZZVLL appear as a group of medicine men wearing headdresses decorated with feathers and what look like Christmas wreaths. Here, they are gurus of the groove, armed with a little basket of magic mushrooms and tiny paintbrushes with which to fill the sky with psychedelic colours and forms.

The repertoire on BRZZVLL’s albums sounds like a worthy continuation of the path that Marc Moulin opened up in the early 1970s with his jazz-funk group Placebo. But BRZZVLL is, above all, a group with a solid live reputation. On stage, the boys really show what they’re worth. Any one of their concerts is like a homage to the saint of the groove, a mind-expanding celebration centred on freedom and rhythm. That’s when you get to see what a well-greased funk machine BRZZVLL is. Or, to use the title of their second album, from 2010, a Happy Life Creator!

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Foto: (c) Bernaded Dexters

Jeroen Revalk

A music editor for Radio 1, Jeroen Revalk is also an editor and researcher for Canvas and

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