Teun Verbruggen

Portraits

Teun Verbruggen is a drummer but also, and above all else, a musical jack-of-all-trades. In recent years, in particular, he has proven himself to be the catalyst of a whole host of interesting projects. Besides his activities as a sideman, he seems to have built up around him, apparently out of nothing, an entire scene. That this has also found a home, and in a very literal sense, is thanks to both his record label (RAT) and artistic workplace (Walter).

Teun has long track record of working with bands such as Flat Earth Society (FES) and the Jef Neve Trio. Today, however, he is the beating heart of a number of French bands, including Pascal Charrier’s Omun and Elodie Pasquier’s Mona, not to mention the Serge Lazarevitch trio.

In each project, he finds a sanctuary for his creative approach, be it pure jazz, free improvisation or something altogether different. Perhaps it is this mentality which led him to Roland Van Campenhout and Pieter-Jan De Smet. Teun Verbruggen plays drums and percussion on their forthcoming solo records, and a live band is also on the cards. Furthermore, Roland Van Campenhout confided in me that he never wanted to work with anyone else ever again – rare praise indeed, and a marvellous testimony to a successful collaboration.

One of the bands that I want to highlight is Drifter. The roots of this ensemble can be traced back to the Alexi Tuomarila Quartet, the band that Verbruggen played in some twenty years ago when a student at the Royal Conservatoire in Brussels. After a number of successful years, the players went their separate ways, only to reconnect much later as Drifter. Nowadays, the musicians pool not just their common roots, but also the vast amount of musical experience they have accrued over the decades.

Drifter’s Finnish pianist, Alexi Tuomarila, for example, has built up a close working relationship with the Polish trumpeter, Tomasz Stańko. Too Noisy Fish is a jazz trio that can be traced back to rhythm section of FES, but is much more than a refined side-project. It is a dynamic trio with its own distinct personality, which the musicians express with both verve and, at times, great subtlety.

Besides being a performing musician, Teun Verbruggen is also active as both a producer and record label manager. He is increasingly busy in this field, as he works not just on his own records but also those of his musician friends. As the driving force behind the Brussels-based Rat Records label (RAT being an acronym of ‘Rare and Treacherous’), he is responsible for sending countless releases out into the world, many of which are international.

With some thirty records under his belt, his aim is to draw greater attention to free jazz and to the improvisation scene. To cite just a few key titles: Warped Dreamer’s Lomahongva (with artwork by Michaël Borremans) and The Bureau of Atomic Tourism’s Scintigraphy (with artwork by Pierre Alechinsky), Hapax Legomena (with artwork by Walter Swennen) and Northern Escorts.

It goes without saying that the Rat Records stable is large enough to also accommodate his own projects. Teun Verbruggen is active as a co-leader in Duo à l’Encre (with, among others, the Brussels graffiti star Vincent Glowinksi, aka Bonom) and also in a new trio with Jozef Dumoulin and Keiji Haino. The latter has just released their first album on Sub Rosa and is due to play the Sonic City Festival, curated by none other than Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth.

In addition to playing and producing music, Teun is the founder and curator of a creative space in Brussels called Walter. Here, he is striving to create a site at the intersection of art and music. The doors of Walter, which is based in Anderlecht, are open to any artist who arrives in the Belgian capital – wherever they come from, and whatever their discipline. Traditional artistic categories are irrelevant here, since a place like Walter is all about curiosity and collaboration. With Teun Verbruggen at the helm, Walter looks set to become a Brussels hotspot for both experimental music and the visual arts.

Foto: (c) Jos Knaepen

Author:
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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