Review (NYOP Edition): Bram Weijters – “Trio Plus Strings (and a Clarinet)”

The NYOP Review Series highlights albums set to Name Your Own Price by the artists with the goal of making price no obstacle to discovering their music.


Bram Weijters – Trio Plus Strings (and a Clarinet)

Pianist Bram Weijters has five albums set at NYOP on his Bandcamp page.  All of them resulted from recorded live performances or rehearsals with bandmates that were never intended to get set down on a proper recording.  They have different line-ups, different album lengths, and different sounds.  After rediscovering them years after initially recorded, he decided to put them up on his bandcamp site and leave it open to the customer to pay what they see fit. Meanwhile, his excellent studio recording Imaginary Sketches with Chad McCullough, which I mention on BitW as one of the top albums of 2011, is set at a standard retail rate.  That’s a smart approach, offering some solid music for whatever the customer wants to pay for it, while the recording in which the real investment was made, that goes a more traditional pricing route.

In any event, I chose his album Trio Plus Strings (and a Clarinet) as the one to put in the spotlight.  I’ve been listening to it for well over a year, and it’s no less magical to me now than it was then.  Maybe even more.

Your album personnel: Bram Weijters (piano), Matthew Berrill (clarinet), Meredith Bates (violin), Jose Valente (viola), Alison Chesley (cello), Willie Wrinkle (bass), and David Meier (drums).

There’s three tracks on this EP.  The first, “What Did I Say?”, opens with strings that, eventually, give way to a piano trio format that hops along on a happy jaunt.  The intensity picks up as drums set off some fireworks.  Strings rejoin at the end to help send the tune off to its conclusion.  Second track “Jaja” is a nifty jig, beginning with piano and strings trading notes that give the tempo a bounce and slide repetition. When clarinet enters, it brings the two elements together, while weaving a path that crosses over both.  Bass and drums each stand up to speak briefly before the song ends as it began.

The tune “What’s Wrong?” ends the album.  The contrast between statuesque piano lines and trembling strings are powerful interludes that Weijters returns to over and over.  The transitions to sections of wild bass sprints and piano notes twisting wildly in the wind as drums rain down over it all are even more dramatic when the strings return, still quivering, sounding vulnerable as an unblemished field of white snow.  The song takes its first steps toward the conclusion with a steady march that builds intensity through tempo, the clarinet the only instrument daring to break formation. Strings then enter, and guide the song to set over the horizon.

It’s only fourteen minutes in length, but the album sets down a whole lot of beautiful moments in the short time it has.

Released in March 2009, the album is Self-Produced.  Recorded in Banff at a workshop, so the artists involved hail from all over the planet.  Weijters is a part of the Antwerp, Belgium scene.

You can access all of Weijters’ NYOP albums on his Bandcamp page, both to listen to full albums and purchase if you wish.  His collaborative album with Chad McCullough “Imaginary Sketches” is also available on the Bandcamp page.

NOTE:  I just noticed that Weijters titled the album “Trio Plus Strings” but has the meta-tag of “Trio With Strings” on the Bandcamp page.  It’s no real obstacle, but thought it worth mentioning for future search terms, etc.

You can read more about the Bird is the Worm NYOP Review Series HERE.