The Sounds

Rue de la Tulipe 28 Tulpstraat
1050 Brussels
+ 32(0) 2 512 92 50

Open Monday to Saturday from 8pm until 4am
Closed on Sundays
The kitchen (italian cuisine) opens at 8pm

If there is one jazz club in Brussels with an international reputation, it is Sounds. This is where the story of the Brussels Jazz Orchestra began and that of Octurn. Philip Catherine regularly drops by and the weekly jam sessions still form a celebrated school of learning where many young musicians learn the finer points of their trade. Sounds is a mandatory stop for every jazz cat visiting Brussels.

A jazz club can only be successful if there are several essential elements present: a consistent programming, the right location, an original interior, well-tended acoustics, a varied range of drinks (possibly complemented with a small menu) and above all else an enthusiastic owner who is always there in person. Sounds has it all. And that is no coincidence, because for Sergio Duvalloni and his wife Rosy Marlini everything revolves around their club, which is open six days a week.

From rock bar to jazz club

Sounds officially opened its doors on 10 April 1986. This was not the Italian couple’s first venture into city night life. After Sergio and Rosy left their roots in Umbria, they spent a number of years in Berlin. But the city lacked the “je ne sais quoi” feeling they found in Brussels. In the beginning, Sounds was not really a jazz café. It catered mainly to a rock and blues public. That had its reasons. Just round the corner was the famous Bierodrome, belonging to the equally celebrated club owner, Pol Lenders, and to show his respect Sergio chose a different programming. Until Pol himself came to ask him why he never featured jazz on his posters. “The more jazz stages the better”. But where the Bierodrome catered mainly for the lovers of old school jazz, Sergio immediately chose a more modern direction. Fusion and current evolutions took centre stage.

Place for the young

An important aspect of the programming right from the start was the place for the young generation. This is where the Brussels Jazz Orchestra was born, in a period when nobody believed in big bands. Sergio gave them a chance and now the orchestra travels round the world, sometimes with international guests such as Joe Lovano and Kenny Werner. The same is true of Octurn, the group that performs on the cusp of contemporary classic, improvisation and jazz. They too were given the opportunity to develop a repertoire in professional club circumstances.
Another important link with the young generation is that the public examination finals of the Conservatory are held annually in the club.

Another attraction of Sounds for the new generation is the weekly jam session. It’s not just a few musicians getting together on a stage and playing the same old standards. The “Master Session” on Monday evening is under the professional leadership of established names, including Erik Vermeulen, Sal La Rocca, Bart De Nolf and Mimi Verderame. Young wolves such as Igor Gehenot and Jean-Paul Estiévenart, who are now attracting such praise, learned their trade here. And regularly somebody such as Philip Catherine will step onto the stage. Incidentally, he discovered here his permanent young pianist, Nicola Andrioli. During the Brussels Jazz Marathon, Catherine should rightly play in one of the largest halls, yet each time he prefers Sounds, which is always filled to overflowing. Typical for good jazz musicians, says Sergio. “You build up a bond of friendship. Musicians appreciate what you do for them. Of course, you only receive respect if you show it yourself.”

Jazz all’italiana

Sergio and Rosy have never betrayed their roots. On the contrary. Their club is home to a whole group of Italian jazz musicians who stay in Brussels. In addition, famous Italian artists appear regularly there. Rosario Giuliani, Stefano di Battista and Raffaelle Casarano (recently in Italian superstar Giuliano Sangiorgi’s group) all consider themselves friends. That Rosy makes delicious pasta dishes (available until past midnight) is not so strange.

In short, Sounds has the charm and the warmth of a friendly jazz club where you always return with pleasure. Particularly because you never know who might turn up to play unexpectedly.