Bart Plugers

Blossom and Blasphemy - Jazz Thing Next Generation Vol. 94

Price: € 14.95
Format: CD
Label: Double Moon Records
UPC: 0608917140620
Catnr: DMCHR 71406
Release date: 23 September 2022
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Label
Double Moon Records
UPC
0608917140620
Catalogue number
DMCHR 71406
Release date
23 September 2022
Album
Artist(s)
Composer(s)
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DE

About the album

Male singing is probably the only branch of jazz where the men are in the minority. However, that did not deter the 24-year-old Belgian Bart Plugers was from doing just that. "I've always sung," he says, "but I've had lessons since I was twelve.” Early influences on the teenager were Chet Baker and Kurt Elling, and European greats such as Theo Bleckmann and Sidsel Endresen were added later. He studied in Brussels under David Linx at the age of 18 and later moved to Lausanne to take lessons from Susanne Abbuehl.

“The transition to jazz felt quite natural to me,” Plugers said. "There aren't that many male singers in jazz, which is why people often expect a charming entertainer, which certainly creates its own problems. However, my experiences are rather positive, because the audience is simply curious about what I am actually doing."

His band Blossom & Blasphemy was formed in Lausanne, in which the saxophonist Leo Fumagalli, the pianist Mirko Maio, the vibraphonist Lenni Torgue as well as Jules Martinet and Clément Grin on bass and drums are his partners.

"I wanted to form a band that could bring the songs in my head to life," Plugers stated. "It was important for us to understand each other both musically and humanly. I wanted a slightly larger lineup with these instruments, because they seemed to correspond well with my music. But there is also a lively intellectual exchange outside of music between us."

The seven songs of the debut album, with the exception of “Lucid”, composed by Jules Martinet, all come from the pen of Plugers and take the audience into a unique world of sound, which is characterized by lyrical intimacy, but also by gripping intensity.

“I composed with the imagination of each individual musician in mind,” Plugers said, “and was able to arrange it very precisely later on.”

Plugers, who can sing with words as well as without them, has chosen a sensual band name, which at the same time also gives his album the title. “'Blossom & Blasphemy‘ was the first song I wrote for this band,” he stated very tersely. “I imagined in my head a painting that was strongly inspired by the old Flemish masters of the 17th and 18th centuries. In this picture, all of life takes place and I try to describe that in the song. Of course, the name lives on the strong contrast between the two terms, the strong and the light, and they just sound good.”

The impressionistic color of the band never distracts from the lyrics of their singer, but often it leads again and again on new paths in a song, leaves room for solos and changes rhythm and harmonies. "On the one hand, my lyrics should be very precise and accurate," as a goal that Plugers set, "but on the other hand, they should also leave room for the imagination of the listener."

In songs such as "She Wakes the Sun" or "I Promise You the Sea", gripping unisono passages with piano or vibraphone alternate with chamber-jazz soundscapes that are subtly interspersed with electronic elements. At the end of the album, with "Weberhard", Plugers and his band pay homage to a grandmaster of European jazz, using soft tones at the beginning to create a powerful vision, in which all musicians merge into an unparalleled unity.

“'Weberhard is of course my personal tribute to Eberhard Weber, who was an important influence on me,” Plugers explained. "The song works strongly with ostinati and modal figures. The spoken-word passage, however, is influenced by Sylvia Plath, whose lyrics are very poetic, but she also uses words that astonish you with their precision."

Der männliche Gesang ist wohl die einzige Sparte im Jazz, bei der die Männer in der Minderheit sind. Davon hat sich der 24-jährige Belgier Bart Plugers allerdings nicht abschrecken lassen. „Gesungen habe ich schon immer“, erzählt er, „aber seit ich zwölf bin, habe ich Unterricht bekommen.“ Frühe Einflüsse für den Teenager waren Chet Baker und Kurt Elling, später kamen europäische Größen wie Theo Bleckmann und Sidsel Endresen hinzu. Mit 18 studiert er in Brüssel bei David Linx, später wechselt er nach Lausanne zu Susanne Abbuehl.

„Der Übergang zum Jazz fühlte sich ganz natürlich für mich an“, berichtet Plugers. „Es gibt nicht so viele männliche Sänger im Jazz, weshalb die Leute oft einen charmanten Entertainer erwarten, was sicher eine problematische Seite hat. Meine Erfahrungen sind dennoch eher positiv, denn das Publikum ist einfach neugierig, was ich da eigentlich tue.“

In Lausanne schlägt auch die Geburtsstunde seiner Band Blossom & Blasphemy, in der der Saxofonist Leo Fumagalli, der Pianist Mirko Maio, der Vibraphonist Lenni Torgue sowie Jules Martinet und Clément Grin an Bass und Schlagzeug seine Partner sind.

„Ich wollte eine Band formen, die die Songs in meinem Kopf mit Leben erfüllen kann“, formuliert Plugers seinen Anspruch. „Dafür war es wichtig, dass wir uns sowohl musikalisch als auch menschlich verstehen. Ich wollte eine etwas größere Besetzung mit diesen Instrumenten, denn sie schienen mir mit meiner Musik gut zu korrespondieren. Es gibt aber auch einen regen intellektuellen Austausch jenseits der Musik bei uns.“

Die sieben Songs des Debüt-Albums - bis auf „Lucid“, das Jules Martinet geschrieben hat, stammen sie alle aus der Feder Plugers’ - führen das Publikum in eine einzigartige Klangwelt, die von lyrischer Intimität, aber auch von zupackender Intensität geprägt ist.

„Ich habe mit der Vorstellung jedes einzelnen Musikers im Kopf komponiert“, weiß Plugers, „und konnte dadurch später auch sehr präzise arrangieren.“

Plugers, der mit Worten genauso gut singen kann wie ohne, hat sich für einen sinnlichen Bandnamen entschieden, der gleichzeitig auch seinem Album den Titel gibt. „‚Blossom & Blasphemy‘ war der erste Song, den ich für diese Band geschrieben habe“, stellt er zunächst einmal ganz lapidar fest. „Ich habe mir in meinem Kopf ein Gemälde vorgestellt, das stark von den alten flämischen Meistern des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts inspiriert war. Auf diesem Bild findet das ganze Leben statt und das versuche ich in dem Song zu beschreiben. Der Name lebt natürlich von dem starken Kontrast der beiden Begriffe, das Starke und das Leichte, und sie klingen auch einfach gut.“

Die impressionistische Farbenpracht der Band lenkt dabei niemals von den Texten ihres Sängers ab, oftmals führt sie aber innerhalb eines Songs immer wieder auf neue Wege, lässt Raum für Soli und ändert Rhythmus und Harmonien. „Meine Texte sollen einerseits sehr präzise und genau sein“, hat Plugers sich zum Ziel gesetzt, „andererseits aber auch Platz für die Vorstellungskraft des Zuhörers lassen.“

Packende Unisono-Passagen mit Klavier oder Vibraphon wechseln sich in Songs wie „She Wakes the Sun“ oder „I Promise You the Sea“ immer wieder mit kammerjazzigen Klanglandschaften ab, die subtil mit elektronischen Elementen durchsetzt sind. Zum Schluss des Albums liefern Plugers und seine Band mit „Weberhard“ eine Hommage an einen Großmeister des europäischen Jazz ab, die aus leisen Tönen zu Beginn eine kraftvolle Vision kreiert, bei der alle Musiker zu einer Einheit verschmelzen, die ihresgleichen sucht.

„‚Weberhard‘ ist natürlich mein ganz persönlicher Tribut an Eberhard Weber, der ein wichtiger Einfluss für mich war“, stellt Plugers klar. „Der Song arbeitet stark mit Ostinati und modalen Figuren. Die Spoken-Word-Passage ist allerdings von Sylvia Plath beeinflusst, deren Lyrik sehr poetisch ist, aber immer wieder auch Worte benutzt, die einen durch ihre Präzision geradezu verblüffen.“

Artist(s)

Bart Plugers, born in Tongeren in 1997, is a Belgian up-and-coming singer and composer with a strong sense for jazz and pop music. His love for music originated at the young age of seven, where he picked up the classical guitar and never put it down ever since. He later studied other instruments such as the piano, as well as the electric guitar. The overwhelming joy for singing started flourishing while studying at the art high schools PIKOH and Musart, playing in bands and writing songs in the meantime. Year by year, the importance of music grew until there was no more point in denying it.

At the young age of eighteen, he gets accepted into the vocal class of the jazz department of the Royal Conservatory of Brussels. Under the inspiring mentorship of the iconic vocalist and composer David Linx, Bart has grown into a versatile performer and composer with a distinct style and dynamic musical personality. His love for improvised and minimalistic music has taken him to the Haute École de Musique de Lausanne (Switzerland), to study under greats such as Susanne Abbuehl and Emil Spanyi for a year. In 2020, he obtains his master’s degree in jazz vocals with distinction after studying with David Linx, Diederik Wissels, Stéphane Galland, Stijn & Bert Cools and many more.

Bart is currently pursuing another dream of his; A Master of Jazz pedagogy and composition at the renowned Hochschule der Künste Bern, Switzerland. Here, he draws inspiration from some of the world’s finest musicians such as Andreas Schaerer, Django Bates, Ralph Alessi, Tom Arthurs, Colin Vallon and countless others.

As a composer, Bart has been actively writing and arranging music for his own projects as well as for other musicians. He has written music for small and large ensembles with different shapes and forms, with performances in various exciting settings. He is actively engaged as a songwriter for different singer-songwriters and theatre projects. A recent highlight includes the creation of songs for the ‘Concours Européen de la chanson philosophique‘, soon to be back on the road touring Europe.

As a teacher, Bart has been sharing his enthusiasm for education and music pedagogy since 2016. He has taught vocal technique, interpretation and songwriting to students and professionals of all levels and ages. He has experienced the joy of choir leading, as well as the organisation of masterclasses and concerts. Between 2016-2017, he was active in the music center Rock ‘n’ Roll Highschool and later taught the jazz-pop-rock singing department of the Genkse Academie voor Kunst from 2019-2020. Bart currently gives private singing lessons in Bern.

As a performer, Bart has been seen on stage in varying settings, from solo to bigband. His musical versatility has manifested itself throughout different musical genres, including classical, indie and electronic music. He has received masterclasses from Norma Winstone, Leïla Martial, Fay Claassen, Kurt Elling, etc. He has performed alongsides established artists such as Sheila Jordan, Marilyn Mazur, Wolfert Brederode, Øyvind Hegg-Lunde, Isabelle Olivier, Matthieu Michel, David Linx, Susanne Abbuehl, Fabrice Moreau and others. As a tenor for the Cinematic Art Choir, Bart has toured the biggest European venues with film music giants James Newton Howard (2017) & Hans Zimmer (2016-2017).

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