After his studies, he immediately faced two pressing issues. To stay in Belgium or not, and how to build a bridge between the string piano, the electric Fender Rhodes keyboard and other electronica? Belgium remains a cherished work space, but Jozef Dumoulin soon realised that you have to cross the border to keep it interesting both musically and financially. Paris is close by and that’s where he soon connected with a very different scene.
Dumoulin has lived in the French capital since 2007 and is now part of an extensive network within the city. To cite just a few names for the purposes of illustration: Magic Malik, Émile Parisien, Marc Ducret, Stéphane Belmondo and Nelson Veras. No less important, however, are his collaborations with US musicians such as Ellery Eskelin, Dan Weiss, Mark Turner, Bill Carrothers, Nate Wooley, Trevor Dunn, Kris Davis and Craig Taborn. The clip of ‘Argonautica’, Nate Wooley’s tribute to his idol Ron Miles, shows Jozef alongside these great international stars. The line-up also includes Rudy Royston on the drums.
One of Dumoulin’s most recent releases is Evergreens, a recording with French pianist Benoît Delbecq under the name Plug And Pray. It is a telling example of where Dumoulin’s interests lie: in the parallels, but also in the contrasts between the acoustic and electronic worlds.
In 2013, his creative urge, stimulated by his unflagging curiosity, led to the CD entitled A Fender Rhodes Solo. Here, Dumoulin devotes himself exclusively to this one specific instrument – something that no one had ever previously done. Thanks, in part, to the specific idiom that he developed through this pioneering work, the recording was internationally acclaimed.
Yet Dumoulin continues to seek and explore. He certainly wishes to delve deeper into the possibilities of electronica. Hence his partnership with vocalist Lynn Cassiers – who is also known for the ethereal sound she creates with such instruments – in the duo Lilly Joel. Both seek musical advances with an arsenal of electronic material as a connecting element.
Other projects that he is currently focusing on include the Red Hill Orchestra, Orca Noise Unit (an acoustic quintet with first-rate French improvisers), True Company (a long-term series with Western improvisers from various milieus), Trojan Panda (a rock band with French jazz musicians who don’t play their own instruments) and a trio with Teun Verbruggen and the Japanese grandmaster of noise, Keiji Haino. Dumoulin is also active as a sideman in such pioneering groups as Warped Dreamer, B.O.A.T., Othin Spake and Octurn.
What is typical is that he always draws his fellow musicians out of their comfort zone so that every so often they are forced to pull out all the stops. Improvisation is clearly one of the common denominators in all Dumoulin’s work. Automatisms are wasted on him. He ensures there is always room for challenge – an approach that he likens to ‘embracing danger’.
An extreme example is his participation in the collaboration between Octurn and the Tibetan monks of Gyuto. The Western musicians engaged in a dialogue with the monks who, in turn, responded in their own unique way – and without bowing to any external factors, be it commercial pressure or conventional rules. And yet the result is a flowing musical whole that truly comes into its own during their joint concerts.
‘To create a playing field in which people from different backgrounds can be active without losing their specificity, to let themselves and listeners feel that music can perhaps take on very different forms but in essence comes from one and the same spot. The field of tension between improvisation and composition remains decisive in that regard.’ Jozef Dumoulin pursues visionary ideas as he emancipates himself from usual categories. In so doing, he’s not afraid to confront issues that have got out of hand. Music as artwork and food for the soul, instead of music as a pastime and confirmation of what was already exists.
Foto: (c) Sophie Saporosi