Trumpeter Eric Vloeimans doesn’t like to limit himself. His quartet, Gatecrash, inspires visions of breaking boundaries and crashing through barricades with reckless abandon. Their electronic sound, infused with delicious Fender Rhodes textures and effects, is captivating and Vloeimans’ organic command of his instrument serves as proud companion through it all.
Throughout Heavensabove!, the band’s first studio recording together, the sort of limit-cracking energy bounds through. With Jeroen van Vliet on keyboards and Fender Rhodes, Gulli Gudmundsson on bass and effects, and Jasper van Hulten on drums, Gatecrash crackles with vigour, power and surprising poignancy.
Some electronic jazz bands let the effects and the flash overwhelm the basic funk and swing of the music, but Gatecrash manages to manipulate the wilder sounds with precision. The band owns the compositions, infusing each piece with a real love for musicianship and a passion for the performance.
Heavensabove! is a true group project from start to finish. Each inspired composition has the markings of harmony and uniqueness, whether it’s Vloeimans’ Maceo Parker-inspired grooves (“Maceo”) or von Hulten’s soaring “Floratone.” Alternating evenly between tracks that inspire meditation and reflection and cuts that burn sweet grooves, Heavensabove! manages to be a record of reassuring range.
“Hymn from Snow,” a piece of a larger composition called “Snow” by the group’s keyboardist, is a thoughtful and exquisite bit of work that deepens the appearance of its bigger cousin later on in the record. The use of effects provides strength to the surface, while Vloeimans’ trumpet is our guide across the hoary, weighty musical landscape.
Contrasting the sweet meditative qualities of “Hymn from Snow” is the slow-burning path of the mischievous “Milkman.” The Gudmundsson cut is given what can only be called a “Harley Davidson groove” and it bends its way through to a big proud-and-loud finish like the growl of a thousand engines at Sturgis.
“Pedal to the Metal” is pretty much exactly what you’d expect with such a title. The tune is led by rock-oriented bit of keyboarding and a brilliant effects-laden bridge that proves invigorating.
Vloeimans’ Gatecrash has accomplished something special with Heavensabove!.
While clearly being a record without limits, this album proves that Vloeimans isn’t one to succumb to the tempting trick of overdoing it in electronic jazz. His humility and confidence go hand-in-hand, fortunately, and the resulting music is satisfying, powerful and profound.