Album Review of
Antwerp (feat. Bram Weijters & Piet Verbist)

Written by Joe Ross
February 4, 2024 - 11:12pm EST
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John Bishop, Seattle-based drummer, educator and owner of the Origin record label, has over four decades of performance and recording experience with appearances on more than 100 albums. He was inducted into the Seattle Jazz Hall of Fame in 2008. Antwerp is Bishop’s first album under his own name in 15 years.

He first met pianist Bram Weijters and bassist Piet Verbist in Belgium about 2008. The three friends played Europe and the U.S., worked their own projects, and continued to build a strong musical relationship.  Following the pandemic, Bishop decided that the time was right to record the trio with Weijters and Verbist to express his gratitude for their friendship, musicianship and mutual respect. Their trio’s collaborative sound had evolved with cohesion and conviction. Each musician contributed material and ideas for the recording session in Antwerp on May 9, 2023.  

Bishop’s ideas were to rearrange and record Hal Galper’s “Trip the Light Fantastic,” Carla Bley’s “Lawns” and a takeoff on McCoy Tyner’s “Contemplation” that the trio calls “Contemplative” (and dedicated to the memory of Bishop’s supportive mother).

Weijters also had some interesting suggestions for the trio session. His self-penned “Rücksichtslos” (meaning reckless or inconsiderate) is upbeat bop, and “The Same Melody” was another from an especially productive writing period he’d experienced several years ago.

Verbist pulled out some originals. He had recorded “For Less Than Nothing” in 2016 (with his group Mamutrio), and he had a couple new originals, the modal “Bull” (inspired by a subgenre of flamenco) and appealing “Pointing at the Moon.” Another standout track on Antwerp is the trio’s take on the beautiful Henry Mancini ballad, “Two for the Road” that is delivered in a relaxed, plaintive, thoughtful manner.     

Many albums feature the standard jazz trio of piano, bass and drums. What makes Antwerp special? Perhaps it’s their distinguishing sound, instinctive understanding, passionate statements and intriguing repertoire. On the other hand, it could just be three masterful musicians, good friends whose mutual admiration shines through in their musical magic made together. The achievement is an uplifting, celebratory document of delightful jazz. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)