Ben Sluijs

In keeping with the motto advocating “study, assimilation and personalisation”, saxophonist Ben Sluijs has already rounded off a significant body of work.

15.04, 20.30, Jazzstation
Pascal Mohy Trio (Ben Sluijs, Sal La Rocca)

06.05, 21.00, BRAVO
Ben Sluijs Trio (Manolo Cabras, Marek Patrman) + jam

16.05, 22.00, Sounds
Augusto Pirodda Quartet

22.05, 21.00, BRAVO
Augusto Pirodda Quartet (Jazzmarathon)

30.05, 22.00, Jazzstation
in trio with Serge Lazarevitch & Teun Verbruggen

 

Who is… Ben Sluijs?

At the beginning of his career, saxophonist and flutist Ben Sluijs established a reputation for himself as a sideman with Brussels bands including Octurn and the Brussels Jazz Orchestra. Gradually however, he started to cleave his own way. One of his steady sparring partners over the years is piano player Erik Vermeulen. You can hear the level to which their common quest can lead them on CDs such as ‘Harmonic Integration’ (in quintet) and ‘Candy Century’ (in quartet) as well as on their duo albums ‘Stones’ and ‘Parity’. Their most recent release is ‘Decades’. They not only improvise with more formal harmonic structures and standards but also with freer, sometimes “intervallistic” concepts.

The younger generation also acknowledges his vision. So, alongside Christian Mendoza and Brice Soniano, he forms the trio ¾ Peace and he was recently asked by duo Keenroh to contribute to their brand-new project.
Another band, in which Ben Sluijs has become a permanent fixture, is the Augusto Pirodda Quartet which just at the end of last year presented its CD ‘A Turkey Is Better Eaten’ at Flagey.
The combination of spoken word and jazz also fascinates the saxophonist. Not surprisingly, he works e.g. with actor Tom Van Bauwel with whom he brings a show based on work by poet Paul Van Ostaijen.

 

What is…

... your favourite spot in Brussels?

It is actually a fen in the Poelbos which is part of the Jette marshes. I myself live in Jette, a very green municipality. It is the view from our kitchen window and from our garden on the mature trees of Dieleghem wood which made us – I must say, rather impulsively – clinch the deal and buy this property. And we have never regretted our decision.

Anyway, Brussels is exceptionally green and many people are not aware of it. Jette itself is surrounded by the King Baudouin Park which actually consists of vast stretches of woods and parks interconnected by a variety of green areas. I go cycling or jogging there almost every day and I force myself to take the time to reflect for a moment and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding nature. Brussels is difficult to grasp because of its surrealistic edge. Inside the Brussels ring, sometimes it is almost as if you were in the forested areas of the south of Belgium while on the other hand, you are faced with the constant din of cars, huge apartment blocks in Ganshoren and the university hospital in Jette which are in sharp contrast with the leafy surroundings.

 

… the last CD or album you bought for yourself?

I purchase fewer and fewer full albums. Of course, I have a fine collection of old CDs and vinyl records. These are records I know inside and out, records which I regularly put on and listen to. However, of late, I ordered a full album on CD: ‘The Individualism of Gil Evans’.
I am currently working on a project for the band Keenroh for which I have to write a composition/arrangements for five wind instruments and a rhythm section. It is to get a better understanding of this orchestral sound that I purchased this album. Evans was someone with a very distinctive sound in this respect. The subtlety with which he uses the woodwinds (reed instruments) is legendary. There are some fabulous pieces on this album and what is particularly striking is also that they did not get rid of minor flaws. They probably did not have either time or money back then and everything had to be all right from take one. This is precisely what leads to a refreshing, honest and intense listening experience. All of these aspects are somehow neglected nowadays because of the numerous technical means available today.

 

… your fondest memory of a recent concert?

I do not go to concerts very often. Every now and then, I am pleasantly surprised but to name you a concert that has left a lasting impression on me, I will have to go back quite a long way. And that leads me to Wayne Shorter and Ornette Coleman at Jazz Middelheim several years ago. In both cases, I was very impressed by how freely they tackle their music. Their ability to switch from one theme to another on the spot is overwhelming. To reach such a level of performance, you obviously have to play with the same musicians for a very long period of time. That is how concerts which take you on a long journey come about: a different journey every night. They both master the art of letting go. At the beginning of the concert, Ornette Coleman indeed said to the audience: “If you follow the sound, we’ll all be in the same room”.

 

… your favourite quote of the moment?

During one of his master classes, pianist Paul Bley once said: “Don’t judge yourself”. After many hours spent studying and practising, musicians have to learn to “forget themselves” when they play. It is easy but at the same time, also very difficult. Whenever I listen again to a piece I have recorded, it often sounds different from how I imagined it to be. Your contribution starts leading a life of its own because it becomes part of a group sound. The time at which you listen to your recording again, is also decisive. Your entire perception generally changes over time.
There is an enormous amount of practice and effort behind every jazz musician. The job requires a lot of study and soul-searching. When you are on stage or when you play alongside other musicians, circumstances affect the way you play. That is why it is important to be able to step back from yourself and be open to what is going on around you. It is an aspect I increasingly get the hang of with age.