Joachim Badenhorst


If there is one musician in the Belgian jazz scene who is charting his own course, then it's the reed player Joachim Badenhorst. He belongs to the young group of musicians who approach jazz with an open mindset but, at the same time, falls entirely outside the scope of the ‘new wave of Belgian jazz’ – and that’s absolutely fine. While it might be fun to have a label for a while, or ride the crest of a musical ‘wave’, anyone aiming for longevity within the creative music field would do well to avoid being pigeonholed.

Badenhorst is steadfastly building an international career. Although he is constantly looking for new adventures and opportunities to play, his trajectory feels like an organic journey, as though a stream in which each project is the perfect stepping-stone. It is the natural state of one of the most interesting contemporary European musicians working in the realm of free improvisation and related genres, a narrative in which structure and emotion are well matched.

The projects to which Joachim Badenhorst gives his name are extremely varied. And his own record label, through which he releases his work into the world, has the most beautiful appellation of them all: Klein (meaning ‘small’ in Dutch). The artwork that accompanies Badenhorst’s releases is always original and his well-chosen collaborations with visual artists lends the music the aura it deserves. His first solo album featured a cover by artist Rinus Van De Velde, every copy of Forest/More came with a unique artwork, and the latest offering from Carate Urio is wrapped in banana paper.

Perhaps the term ‘jazz’ is too narrow when it comes to describing Joachim Badenhorst’s work? In duo with bassist Brice Soniano, he performs as Rawfishboys (a name they acquired during their student days thanks to their sushi fixation). The fact that they have been playing together for so long brings a rare depth to their work, a quality that is almost sacred, spiritual. More than just music, it is total surrender. You might even call it refined chamber music. But their concerns go beyond the mere selection of notes. Their impact and sound, and the acoustics of a space, are all essential components of their work (consider their retreat to the sixteenth-century Abbey of Saint-Godelieve in Bruges, which resulted in Fengling).

Baloni, the trio he forms with Pascal Niggenkemper and Frantz Loriot, can also be placed in the same chamber-music sphere. In addition, Badenhorst plays in the trio of Dutch master drummer Han Bennink (of, among others, the ICP Orchestra) and is currently immersing himself in a new project with an emphasis on electronica. Furthermore, he has pulled out all the stops with the Carate Urio Orchestra, a line-up in which seven players from seven different countries take to the stage – a large complement with a high lo-fi factor.

Perhaps the above-mentioned group best represents the sense of openness that characterises Joachim Badenhorst’s projects. Here, too, he peeks over the fence, abandons the strict jazz idiom and focuses on the quality of a melody, of a song. That song does not have to be polished or radiant. No one shines individually in this group, but together they form a single sparkling entity. The players’ diverse nationalities blend seamlessly into the simplicity of Carate Urio’s songs. While the pieces are open structures with room for improvisation and surprises, the music sounds anything but bombastic or grandiose. Wearing a self-deprecating smile, they go for the small gesture. Their honesty is moving and – in complete freedom and without beating about the bush – they aim straight for the heart.

(composition, arrangement and lead vocals by Joachim Badenhorst)

Foto: (c) David Rodriguez

Lies Steppe

For as long as she can remember, Lies Steppe has been guided by music in everything she does: whether listening to music or making it herself, and as a radio presenter (Late Night Jazz, Take 7 and Round Midnight on Klara).

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