Hailing from Rotterdam, virtuoso trumpeter Eric Vloeimans (pronounced “Vlouie-mans”), like many of his jazz-playing countrymen, brings a good-natured swagger and cheery fearlessness to the music. His quartet, Gatecrash, roams at will all over the musical landscape, serving up everything from funky dance grooves to spacey, contemplative reflections, with a nod to rock and roll, classical and electronic music.
At the center of it all, Vloeimans’ trumpet speaks with an eloquent, unguarded emotionality that’s supported by a breathtaking technical facility. That technical skill merges instrument and player into a single entity, allowing the music to reach listeners with arresting immediacy.
Thursday at the Outpost, Eric Vloeimans’ Gatecrash—with Vloeimans on trumpet and effects; Jeroen van Vliet on Fender Rhodes, keyboards and effects; Gulli Gudmundsson on bass; and Jasper van Hulten on drums—will windmill its way through engaging original compositions.
The range of sound that Vloeimans can coax from his brass instrument is a defining element of his exceptionally nuanced playing. He can, for example, mimic the mellow timbre of a wooden flute, complete with the characteristic tonal decay. He calls it “playing wood on metal.” However he does it—“That’s my big secret, you know,” he says with a ready laugh—it gives him an unusually wide sonic palette.
You can hear it most clearly on Vloeimans’ latest release, Live at the Concertgebouw (Challenge Records), a gorgeous acoustic set with pianist Florian Weber that Vloeimans describes as a meditation on beauty. It’s present, too, on the latest Gatecrash release, Heavens Above (also on Challenge Records), where it’s augmented by Vloeimans’ spirited use of electronic effects.
“I like the effects a lot,” he says, “because I was always focused on sound. They say it doesn’t matter what you play, it’s how you play it.” He compares the varieties of sound that he uses to the vocal effects an accomplished speechifier might use to hold an audience’s attention and get the point across.
Vloeimans may be the leader of Gatecrash, but he sees the group as an ensemble effort. “I’m not a soloist who wants to play over the band,” he says. “I want to play in the band, in the rhythm section.”
Some leaders, he says, use the rhythm section as if it were the wheels on a car, playing above it and steering it. “How about playing together? How about the drummer that kicks your ass?” Rather than enslave the rhythm section, he wants everyone in the band to be free to contribute their ideas.
“There’s a lot of space for everybody to explore and solve,” he says. Only then can the band achieve a “cumulative factor” that elevates the music into unanticipated territories.
Listeners can anticipate an invigorating playfulness in the band’s work, which Vloeimans says comes in large part from the intuitive skill of the players and their personal response to the music at hand. It’s a soul thing.
“What happens to your soul? How can you explore that?” he asks. “If you listen to your inner voice, your intuition; with your brains, you can never be so fast as with your intuition.”
That doesn’t mean you don’t have to practice your skills, he’s quick to add. Command of the instrument is essential, but “on stage, you just let it go,” he says. “The information is already there. There’s a sort of joy about this way of behaving.”
It’s a joy that infects the music and will likely make the appearance of Eric Vloeimans’ Gatecrash one of the high notes of this Outpost season.