The Music Village
Open: 7 p.m. till 2 a.m.
In 2000, Brussels was a European Capital of Culture. Fortunately, besides the large number of opportunists who marketed temporary projects purely for the sake of profit, there were also others with a long-term vision. They included Paul Huygens, who for years had been dreaming of a stylish jazz club in the capital of Europe. Today, The Music Village has developed into a household name in the national and international jazz world.
For Paul Huygens, himself always decked out with a well-thought-out stylised nonchalance, attending a jazz concert has just as much ritual value as going to the opera. The whole picture therefore has to be complete: the building, the welcome, the decor, the drinks and menu and naturally the music. In an interview with Brussel Deze Week he explained his vision at the time in more detail with the following words: “I dreamed of a club like in the American black-and-white films. When Pol’s Jazz Club (a well-known Brussels jazz club during the previous century) shut its doors, there was nothing else like that here in Brussels. During my former career in advertising I travelled a great deal and regularly visited jazz clubs. One of my favourite places at the time was Ronnie Scott’s in London. For me, a jazz club is a total experience in which the whole framework is important. The best place to see a classical concert is in the right hall. It should be exactly the same for jazz.” Huygens has since been proved right.
Jazz is music from real life
He himself admits not being a walking jazz encyclopaedia, but his driven passion for this music cannot be denied. “I’ve been listening to jazz since childhood, and have a strong preference for melodic jazz. Innovation and experiment is good, but you shouldn’t neglect tradition. Jazz is music from real life. Romance, sadness, nostalgia, excitement, it’s all there. In the beginning there was a book at the entrance in which people could jot down their comments. It revealed that many people came into contact with jazz for the first time here, and found it great. When I read that, I’d achieved my goal.”
Anyone who visits The Music Village for free jazz or an evening of pure improvisation is therefore at the wrong place. If, on the other hand, you have a weakness for jazz rooted in the tradition that comes with a strong personality, this is “the place to be”. Meanwhile, the list of international artists who have performed here is impressive. They include Lee Konitz, Larry Corryel, Jacky Terrasson, Bobo Stenson, T.S. Monk, Jimmy Cobb and Steve Swallow. And we haven’t even mentioned the Belgian musicians. Pretty much all of them have appeared on stage here: Toots Thielemans, Ivan Paduart, Phil Abraham, Bert Joris, the Brussels Jazz Orchestra and many more.
Jazz as a philosophy of life
“I find the international aspect hugely important. Jazz is the only cultural area in which Europe holds something creative in its hands. Pop concerts or tennis matches are nothing in comparison. They are worlds in which totally different values apply. Jazz is a philosophy of life.”
Paul Huygens continues to be tirelessly committed to jazz, through various initiatives. For example, he organised a mini-festival as part of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome under the banner ‘Jazz in Europe NOW’. In 2003 he took the initiative for the Brussels International Young Jazz Singers Competition, a competition for young jazz singers to which entries flocked from all over the world. “For me, vocal jazz is the perfect introduction to the genre. Above all there is the melodic side, through which you can reach a wider audience. With vocal jazz you also get a certain show element. That’s an aspect I feel is neglected too much nowadays. I don’t agree with a nonchalant, shabby presentation. This music deserves more.” Hence now the monthly evening “Malou Beauvoir Invites”, where this American singer invites musician-friends every month.
The Music Village is the only jazz club in Brussels that remains open during the summer months. Each week in July and August, a different artist is offered a residency. And of course Paul still supports young people. There were already the Focus Jazz evenings, and since April 2014 there has been the Festival Courants d’Airs in collaboration with the Conservatoire royal de Bruxelles.
So there is something to experience all year round at The Music Village.
Finally, the three jazz records that Paul Huygens feels every music fan absolutely has to have: ‘Kind Of Blue’ by Miles Davis, ‘Waltz For Debby’ by Bill Evans and a record by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers.