A whiff of alcohol, mixed with the driver’s cologne. You can almost taste it: the fear of being conned, the terror of a high-speed crash, the promise of excitement just around the corner. Taxi rides are all of that. Tom Barman loves them.
“It’s like indoor travelling,” he says. “It’s cosmopolitan. It’s the rush of not knowing exactly where you’re going. It’s part of the art of living far from home.
” Sounds like a definition of jazz, if ever there was one. And TaxiWars is jazz. This is not rock singer Tom Barman crooning away with a jazz trio led by saxophonist Robin Verheyen. This is a jazz band with a deep knowledge of the music’s history, and a love for the driving jazz of the early sixties on the Impulse! label.
The music of Pharaoh Sanders, Archie Shepp, and Charles Mingus – full of swing, pulse, and the urge to break out of the genre’s confinements. Mingus is no stranger to Barman – a sample of the bassist’s Far Wells, Mill Valley dominated dEUS’s classic Theme from Turnpike. And like Mingus himself, TaxiWars can sound warm and engaging one minute – as in the hypnotizing track Pearlescent –, yet bellicose and menacing the next. Listen to Let’s Get Killed (“Bangkok felt like suicide! ”) and try not to be alarmed by Barman’s effects drenched vocals.
Barman: “At home, I listen to jazz almost exclusively, trying to escape from the tried and true pop structures – there are no choruses in TaxiWars. And those record sleeves fit well with my Impulse! orange furniture. ” TaxiWars display high energy and sensitivity, pride and ambition, and a punkiness that sets the band apart from the plush jazz scene, all thanks to Belgian saxophonist Robin Verheyen’s punchy, melodic lines and Tom Barman’s haunting lyrics. “The idea came to me four years ago, when I first met Robin, ” Barman says.
“I knew he could deliver the goods: we’ve recorded together with Magnus. I wanted TaxiWars to be sharp, to the point, punky and trashy Long solos were no-go.” The singer gave the New York based saxophonist a few clues – “Think Art Blakey, Morphine, Max Roach, Prince! ” – and before long Verheyen had written over a dozen compositions. “I asked bassist Nicolas Thys and drummer Antoine Pierre to join us,” says Verheyen. “Nicolas is one of the finest bassists in Belgium; he feels as comfortable playing jazz as he is playing rock, and he’s lived in New York City for many years.
Tom insisted on taking on a very young drummer, to give the band the pep and the fresh perspective that we were aiming for. Antoine has done just that. Within five minutes during the first rehearsal, we all felt an epiphany of sorts: this was not ‘dEUS goes retro’. This was something very, very different.
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