Eric Vloeimans plays trumpet with such a warm, smooth tone that when he begins a piece in the horn's lower register, it almost sounds more like a flute than a brass instrument. "Smooth," in this case, isn't synonymous with "slick" or "commercial" — instead, Vloeimans plays with tranquility and calm in his music. Even when one is expecting something a bit more upbeat, Vloeimans can make those expectations disappear with his rich textures, even in such unlikely titles as "MJ (For the King of Pop)."
A native of Holland, Vloeimans has garnered a reputation in both Europe and the United States for his work. Originally a classical trumpeter, he made the switch to jazz while studying at the Rotterdam School of Music, later coming to the U.S. to study with jazz trumpet player Donald Byrd. While he spends most of his time on the Continent, he has performed in America more frequently in the past few years. A review on AllMusic.com aptly described the Vloeimans touch by saying that he "isn't as much a romantic as he is interested in under-the-surface tones and implied emotional inferences."
Of the trumpeter's two associates on this tour, pianist Florian Weber can lay claim to a wide range of projects. He recently released Biosphere, an album under his own name in which he straddled his own progressive originals with interpretations of Eric Clapton, Coldplay and Jamiroquai. Frequently playing both acoustic and electric pianos simultaneously, Weber gave the pop tunes as much weight as his originals. Written in the insane meter of 25/16, Biosphere's title track proved to be the album's intense centerpiece. Weber also plays in the trio Minsarah, who received a major boost when playing with veteran saxophonist Lee Konitz on his 2010 Live at the Village Vanguard session. Konitz, whose career dates back to Miles Davis' Birth of the Cool, has a reputation for revisiting standards like "All the Things You Are" on a regular basis, finding some new music direction each time. Weber and his crew were an ideal support system.
Vloeimans and Weber released the album Live at the Concertgebouw from a 2011 performance. The music often moves slowly yet always maintains a focus. Two brief tracks titled "Solo di Tromba" serve as pensive interludes with the trumpet commanding attention. Fans of the ECM label — whose catalog includes many Europeans whose music balances adventurous jazz and classical — should enjoy this blend of chamber music and thoughtful jazz.
In Pittsburgh, the duo will be joined by Kinan Azmeh, a clarinetist from Syria. Much like Vloeimans, he straddles the classical and jazz worlds, having worked with his own group HEWAR, members of the Berlin Philharmonic and percussionist Zakir Hussain. The trio's appearance, part of an eight-city tour, is sponsored in part by the Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.