AMN Reviews: Martina Verhoeven Quintet – Driven – Live at Roadburn 2022 (2022; Bandcamp)

The Roadburn Festival has, in recent years, expanded from a metal-oriented set of concerts to include classical, jazz, and ambient / drone music as well. What’s more, Roadburn typically books outside-leaning artists in these additional styles of music.

Enter the Martina Verhoeven Quintet, consisting of an all-star lineup with Verhoeven on piano, Gonçalo Almeida on bass, Onno Govaert on drums, Dirk Serries on guitar, and Colin Webster on sax. Driven is a near 50-minute, single-track excursion into cacophonous free improv with quieter textural interludes that was recorded at Roadburn 2022.

The trio of Verhoeven, Webster, and Govaert take the fore, with dense, polyphonic interplay. Each seems to be pulling the group in their own respective direction while still managing to contribute to an overall sound that is simultaneously tearing itself apart and reconstituting into new forms. Almeida’s bass rounds out the low frequencies with offerings that are felt as much as heard, while Serries’ abstract chording is deeper in the mix.

This approach changes in the less structured passages, where Almeida plays with a bow and Serries employs extended techniques, while Webster’s sax hovers in the background like a giant insect. Verhoeven and Govaert share a percussive role with punctuated bursts and disjointed patterns. But even when the tempo is modest and not all instruments can be heard, there is a burning intensity throughout that foreshadows future blowouts.

Driven is a prime example of modern creative improvisation. This is tight, information-rich music that is sure to keep the synapses crackling.

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