“Europe is different, every country is different,” says violinist Adam Bałdych, “but music is a language which can bring us together, to one place.” He, Dutch pianist Rogier Telderman and French cellist Vincent Courtois combine and juxtapose their different sounds and heritages. That is the central concept behind the trio of equals that they formed two years ago. “We have three very different personalities, we each bring very different colours,” says Bałdych.
The group gave its inaugural concert at a festival which carries a strong European mission in its name: the artistic director of the ‘Sounds of Europe Festival’ which had it very first edition in Breda in Holland in February 2018 gave Dutch pianist Rogier Telderman carte blanche to form a new ensemble, and the pianist chose to invite Bałdych and Courtois. They rehearsed for a day before their festival debut.
“It was enjoyable right from the start,” remembers Rogier Telderman. Following their first concert, it was clear that all three members, each of whom normally leads ensembles in his own right, was thinking ‘we should do this more often’. And then, as they proceeded to play concerts together, the mutual respect, the mutual listening, the willingness to experiment grew: “We have brought those differences to the point where we all feel comfortable sharing, writing - and each of us writes very differently,” says Telderman, who also enjoys the challenge of working in an ensemble with such strong characters: “These are personalities who are always pushing you, following their intuition, taking you in new directions.”
This trio project, and this album, recorded over two days at La Buissonne studios in the South of France, have allowed Adam Bałdych to accentuate a particular aspect of his playing. Whereas virtuoso violinists of the past were almost condemned to play a lot of notes, the instrument makes very different demands on the modern virtuoso: “to inhabit different moods – to make each note have its own story,” explains Bałdych. On this album I wanted to play less than ever before.” That tendency towards economy of expression is clear from the very opening of the album. Bałdych’s composition “Clouds” is reflective, personal and intimate. It is a delicate sound world recalling the chamber music of Polish composers who were also violinists such as Karol Szymanowski and Grazyna Bacewicz. There is deep melancholy, but within it is a particular kind of hopefulness and optimism, a desire to move forwards and create flow. And that is an aspect of the group’s work that has appealed to critics who have heard the band live: “The music unfolded completely instinctively, over and over again,” wrote Jazznu after a concert in Tilburg.
One particular sound colour from Bałdych is prominent in this recording, the renaissance violin, most notably on the short track “Interlude” and in Courtois’ tune “In Love In Hanoï” which follows it. It is a modern instrument with gut strings, tuned a seventh below the normal violin and a third below the viola. What enchants Bałdych about this instrument? “The bigger sustain. When you play it pizzicato, the sound lasts forever!”
For Vincent Courtois the instrumental combination of violin, cello and piano has very positive associations. He remembers a formative experience which opened him up as a musician. In his late twenties he was invited to play at the New Jazz Meeting at Baden-Baden with violinist Dominique Pifarély and pianist Joachim Kühn, he has said of that encounter: “I suddenly started to play improvised music and real cello music with a big sound like in the classical music. It changed my point of view. I started to mix everything and to be a complete cello player and not just a jazz cellist.” Two decades later, his playing on this album has true authority and a wonderful lyrical sense.
Rogier Telderman, who also produced the album, is a pianist of outstanding capabilities whose clear ideas and clean articulation marry classical training to jazz attack and blue note-laden expression. And, as a reviewer from Jazzenzo noted after a performance by the group in Utrecht, this trio has been transformational for him: “He is a true keyboard wizard who has come on by leaps and bounds with his piano trio […] he has found a new form with Bałdych and Courtois.” Telderman is well known in Holland, and this venture will bring him to a wider audience.
Bałdych, Courtois and Telderman have found together a range of expression that is both measured and exuberant. In ‘Clouds’ they create magic with the ultimate quality of all great music: the ability to call the listener back to enjoy its enfolding glories again and again.