WillemJan Droog is a Dutch keyboard player with a long association with Phil Miller, the most recent evidence of which was with the Relatives, the band which also featured Jack Monck (of Delivery) and Marc Hadley. The band recorded ‘Virtually’, reviewed here, the last recorded work committed to disc by Phil.
At the recent Phil Miller commemorative gig in London, Jack and Marc appeared on stage as part of the various denominations performing Phil’s music, whilst I was lucky enough to be sat next to WillemJan watching events unfold. He told me about his involvement with the Miller/Baker duo who he accompanied during Dutch gigs in the Nineties. Meanwhile, his band Droog5 have just released their album ‘While Waiting’, and frankly, it’s a delight.
‘While Waiting’ is an album of intricate acoustic jazz featuring drums, standup bass, soprano sax or bass clarinet, and cello (plus occasional violin) alongside the piano of the bandleader. Whilst styles flit from Cuban jazz (on ‘Luv Bossa’) to Celtic influenced jaunts to a more Balkan feel elsewhere, interspersed with more straightforward ballads, these changes serve only to convey a rich ongoing narrative – in calling on compositions from four of its members it simply opens up a range of opportunities for the band to show a really natural cohesion to back up some wonderful inventive compositions, performed with zest. Case in point is ‘Dinant’, where an undulating folk melody written by Angelique Boel and etched out by soprano saxophone would steal the show were it not for the sonorous tones of piano, bass and Boel’s cello underpinning it so heartbreakingly. Those familiar with the Relatives’ album ‘Virtually’ will recognise the track WillemJan wrote for it, ‘Stately Waltz’, and it benefits from the more organic instrumentation here. Other highlights are ‘Last Tango’, an Twenties-style romp which unexpectedly changes tack into Latin jazz half way through, and ‘For Charles’, where author Stan Stolk’s jarring double bass line eventually gives way to wonderfully serpentine soprano sax work from Hans Rikken.
‘While Waiting’ is uniformly excellent, mixing memorable compositions with fine musicianship. Well worth checking out at http://www.relativesrecords.com Incidentally a bonus track, ‘Duo for Tarzan’ featuring guest violinist Erik Koning, is a piece co-authored by Droog and Jack Monck, presumably another track dating back to Relatives days.
Visit http://www.relativesrecords.com which includes a band history, and a CD shop including various collaborations by Relatives band members with Phil Miller, Pip Pyle and Laurie Allan.