John Bishop

Antwerp

82883

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MUSIC REVIEW BY Andy Harrison, WUSF (Tampa)

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5-STARS If it sounds like drummer John Bishop and pianist Bram Weijters are playing like their hair's on fire, in a way, they are - Bishop, Weijters and bassist Piet Verbist made yearly trips to the Belgium city of Antwerp, using their time in the city to record, jam and play over a hundred shows as a trio that overflows with effortless chemistry. The COVID-19 Pandemic changed that with strict international travel restrictions meaning the three friends couldn't make their usual trip to the city on the Scheldt.

When they next saw each other, they knew they had to record an album that paid tribute to the city that hosted so many key artistic moments in their careers. Bishop, who runs the Seattle-based label Origin Records (and who's music you might have heard if you ever booted up Windows XP back in the day), rarely releases records under his own name, which further demonstrates how important capturing this trio's shared musical connection is to him.

You can certainly hear it in the music. Starting off with the cool and sprightly "R├╝cksichtslos" (in English, ruthless), Weijters and Bishop bounce off of each other in a thoughtful back-and-forth, only for a delightful Verbist solo to take center stage smack in the middle of the track. A thoughtful listener can hear a touch of Hal Galper in Weijters playing on this original track, and one can certainly hear his influence on their cover of Galper's "Trip the Light Fantastic."

A convivial atmosphere exudes through the record, as it's clear that this trio has more fun with each other than most.
While this trio does wear their inspirations on their sleeves, the best of the record comes with the original compositions, written by either Weijters or Verbist. All three men are at their best when they're bouncing off each others' ideas and improvisations, which clearly and smoothly comes through within their exchanges on these tracks. Compared to the covers, with the exception of a smooth take on Henry Mancini's "Two for the Road," they're much more confident and sharper on their own work. The pensive moodiness of Weijters' "Contemplative" and Verbist's bohemian work on "For Less Than Nothing" are particular standouts, with Bishop's playing worth highlighting on the latter.

This record is nothing short of a labor of love and an album Bishop said was recorded with "ales, waffles & fries, and many days/nights spent with new then old friends" in mind. The warmth he describes comes across best when it's just these three sharing in their company, indulging in the joys of creative expression and collaboration with friends. A convivial atmosphere exudes through the record, as it's clear that this trio has more fun with each other than most. This celebratory quality makes Antwerp one of the best piano trio albums to release in recent years. One hopes the three friends get back to Belgium and start recording again soon for more albums like this one.








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