Jens Bouttery

Portraits

Drummer Jens Bouttery is impossible to pigeonhole. The driving force of his work is the desire to find the common ground between a range of artistic disciplines. In this, the same constant always predominates. Bouttery is not a traditional drummer, but a sound magician who, like a colourist, adds subtle highlights and accents. Another striking characteristic is that he likes to flirt with stylistic forms that have broken free from the shackles of traditional jazz and where film, soundscapes, electronica and spoken word have helped shape the end result.

‘With Jens Bouttery, jazz is synonymous with continuous discoveries. Flexibility and an urge to experiment remain his two key impulses.’ With the Jens Maurits Orchestra he has developed a long-term project in which he searches for the roots of music. The most recent phase of this initiative (for now) is ‘The Blogpera’, where the quest is presented during a live interactive performance. The audience gets to choose which chapter will be played, thereby keeping alive the jazz philosophy of improvisation.

‘Birdsong’ is one of these chapters. The process involves a meticulous, mentally tormenting dissection of the syntax of the Norwegian nightingale. Every ‘sentence’ that this bird whistles, is dissected and performed to the best of the musicians’ ability. For instance, six lower accents to start with, followed by thirteen high ones and then twenty-one semitones with a final stress. Months of work for a two-minute result.

Another facet of Jens Bouttery surfaces in groups such as Thunderblender and Llop, in addition to Jef Neve's Spirit Control: a contemporary and extremely kinetic approach to tradition – as if he had grown up in Brooklyn. Jazz bands are true superfoods for him: blank sheets on which he can scribble freely and create something new.

Indivisibly connected with all this is the fact that, besides being a jazz drummer, Jens Bouttery is also a bit of a nerd: he writes electronica software with, ideally, an inbuilt ‘random’ button that will derail everything. His live resampling of acoustic instruments generates an unexpected universe.

Another surprising initiative is Hi Hawaii, the latest pop duo with musical glutton Lennart Heyndels. They play a combination of catchy pop songs interwoven with boundless free jazz improvisations. Hi Hawaii grew out of the desire to explore the potential of compositions that were ‘leftover’ from other projects. This is perhaps the best description of Bouttery’s current world: a love of chaos, freedom and the accidental coming-together in a cracking singalong song.

The realms of theatre and dance are also cherished outlets for his talents. Here, traditional patterns are shattered by the ingenious use of the live dynamic and a breaking away from convention. Particularly evident is the reliance on improvisation and variability to create an ever-changing result. The musician’s physical involvement is required, as can be seen in this clip.

In addition, we find Bouttery’s compositions and soundscapes in the soundtracks of several acclaimed short films, full-length features and documentaries. He sets himself the task of meticulously shaping miniature works of art that either lend colour or reinforcement to an image. A telling example is the soundtrack of Suze Milius’s short film iii. Bouttery is a drummer whose radius of action clearly reaches far beyond jazz.

Foto: (c) (c) Erwin De Keyser

Author:
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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