AB from programmer to creator
What doesn’t exist, you make! A motto that AB increasingly takes to heart. The Brussels concert venue was already a spark lighting the fuse of many a successful project in recent years. Think: Echo Collective reinterpreting Radiohead’s Amnesiac as a classical ensemble, José James’ ode to Billie Holiday, the coupling of The Colorist & Emilana Torrini, … Each and every creation ‘lit’ by AB and, without exception, having an international release afterwards (K7! Records! Blue Note Records! Rough Trade!).
AB continues to embark upon new creations and projects in the coming concert season. We host José James’ brand new ode to soul and R&B legend Bill Withers and a surprising collaboration with breakcore artist Venetian Snares and famous musician/producer Daniel Lanois. Two projects that invite pretty much all participants to leave their comfort zone and at least the first of which will be released on the legendary jazz label Blue Note Records.
The unexpected death of Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson led AB to put together a unique tribute with the help of close friend Adam Wiltzie (A Winged Victory For The Sullen). On the programme: the performance of ‘Virðulegu Forsetar’, Jóhannsson’s second album, in its entirety in Brussels’ Church of Saint John the Baptist at the Béguinage. Not coincidentally, as this work originally premiered in the famous Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavik, location of the funeral ceremony for Jóhann. Not coincidentally, also on September 19, what should have been Jóhannsson’s 49th birthday.
AB goes another step further, with CV & JAB. Brussels resident Christina Vantzou and New Yorker John Also Bennett are going to work with modular synthesizers, field-recordings, flutes, virtual instruments and piano during a residence in AB. After a week behind closed doors, they will share this work in progress with the audience in AB Salon.
AB’s most ambitious creative plan will span several years: to spotlight the enormously influential compilation ‘The Anthology Of American Folk Music’ (Folkways Records, 1952) again. ‘The Anthology’ was compiled by American eccentric Harry Smith. With its 84 songs, it is considered to be the bible of American folk. Rolling Stone calls it one of ‘The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time’ and Beck, Bob Dylan, Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) and Elvis Costello are great admirers too. Just like The White Stripes and Nick Cave, by the way, whose first versions of ‘John The Revelator’, ‘Stagger Lee’ and ‘Henry Lee’ are to be found on the album.
Each year, AB invites one artist to take on this masterful compilation. The final evening-filling programme will be a deep dive into ‘The Anthology’ with personal interpretations of songs from Harry Smith’s epos. The Golden Glows have already initiated this project and in 2019 troubadour Sam Amidon will take over the torch.
Finally, Ross From Friends will begin the brand new AB series Braindance this fall. A series of progressive DJs, bedroom producers and innovative live electronica acts. Think: the exuberant vibe of the famous Boiler Room Sessions, as well as established names in the scene who will make the AB their playground. ‘Braindance’ was the term applied to the music around Aphex Twin‘s iconic label ‘Rephlex Records’. Just like that label, the series will move you… not only your dancing feet but also your grey matter.
AB and the city: an open and diverse house
Aside from initiating new creations, AB also opens the doors wide for new collaborations and a new audience, heading the venue, more than ever, out into the city.
In 2018, for Underground Occupy Mainstream, AB was prepared to hand over the key for one night to clubs Recyclart, Bar Lock and Magasin 4. In true squatter style, these soon-to-be homeless clubs occupied the building with a radical programme. In doing so, AB supported other Brussels clubs in need or on the move. Not only is the umbrella organisation of Brussels Youth Clubs housed in AB, they are also able to have their very own nightclub in AB Club once every three months and they can call upon the AB’s know-how all through the year.
Together with open art house Globe Aroma, AB opens its doors for newcomers and refugees. In 2018, the organisation presentedSe Lal Bum, an album created with 10 young bands that reflect the international sound of Brussels at AB. A collaboration that will soon be repeated during Global Street Sounds in September. Also, participative project L’Orchestre Populaire De Bruxelles unites about 30 amateur musicians from Anderlecht and surrounding areas who received a spot on the AB’s Main Stage during Festival Populaire de BXL.
In the coming concert season, AB – together with diverse organisations – will continue to contribute to a more liveable, united and interesting city for those who come here and those who have always been here. The collaboration with Flemish–Moroccan house Darna is taking form and a true alliance will be forged with Brussels concert venue Muziekpublique. First feat: a concert by the Albanese group Saz’iso that deals in stunning sorrow songs. In February, we present their unique production Refugees For Refugees with twenty or so virtuoso musicians who have fled from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Tibet,…
A calendar full of jazz, hip-hop and global sounds
The previous concert season in AB began with a very intentional choice to program more jazz, hip-hop and global sounds. A resolution that we will assiduously continue in the new concert season.
Series like JAZZ 100 and The New Wave Of Belgian Jazz drew about 16,000 (!) visitors to AB last year. 16,000 reasons enough to get Lefto’s Jazz Cats down to AB this year, organise an anniversary party for Igloo Records, and place young Belgian acts Beraadgeslagen and Steiger on the agenda.
International jazz labels drop by Anspachlaan too. International Anthem Recording Co (Chicago) will be the focal point for an entire weekend this fall, with visits from Ben Lamar Gay and none less than Makaya McCraven. In 2019 we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Gondwana Records (Portico Quartet, Matthew Halsal, Stuff.) and the 20th anniversary of London’s Strut Records (with the likes of Sun Ra’s Arkestra). That will all be spiced up with concerts by the likes of saxophonist Colin Stetson, José James with a unique tribute to Bill Withers, Rudresh Mahanthappa and London’s Ezra Collective.
Last season, AB also fully documented the maturation of the Brussels/Belgian hip-hop that clearly appealed to a wide audience. For the concerts of (Artist In Residence) Stikstof, Roméo Elvis, Hamza and Caballero & JeanJass we had to increase the initially anticipated room capacity and we attracted more than 8,000 visitors. In the new season, we welcome the likes of Blackwave., Angèle, Lil Dicky, Kraantje Pappie, the neo-hip-hop soul of Oshun, Zwangere Guy and Le 77. What’s more, Lefto receives carte blanche to stuff the stage of the AB Club with hip-hop’s finest once every three months.
Maybe the most remarkable trend: the increasing popularity of global sounds in the AB’s programme. And we are not alone: Blur-frontman Damon Albarn has been flirting with Malinese music for a while now, Radiohead took Junun along on tour and Chris Martin (Coldplay) has fallen for qawali band Fannah-Fi Allah too. Basically: global sounds have become an integral part of every self-respecting concert venue.
Feeërieën has only recently rounded off the holiday season with a Príncipe label night full of Lisbon ghetto sounds and season opener Global Street Sounds is just around the corner, with music imported from Morocco, Algeria and Kinshasa. AB’s bond with Glitterbeat Records – that bears the baseline ‘global vibrant sounds’ – will be strengthened in this coming year too. Together we present Brazil’s Bixiga 70, touareg blues by Tamikrest, and Albanese sorrow songs by Saz’sio (who are already adored by Jools Holland).