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- Mattias Laga : clarinet, bass clarinet
- Michel Mast : tenor saxophone
- Pieter Baert : piano
- Xavier Verhelst : bass guitar, compositions
- Simon Raman : drums
the Wofettes:
- Cécile Broché : violin
- Anouk Sanczuk : violin
- Eline Duerinck : 'cello
Recording tracks 2 & 5 : Piet Vermonden, Febr. 2014
Recording other tracks, mix : Geert de Waegeneer, June 2014
Layout: Johnny Bekaert

When in a contemplative mood, I like to consider sense and nonsense of performing and composing music.
Numerous people have drawn my attention to the evocative, quasi filmic character of my compositions in which both the lyric and epic components are very important. I actually see my pieces as abstract stories, narratives without words or litterary references. They are unruly tales, and, as I'm fond of puns, "Erratic tails" seemed an apropriate title for this new CD.
The addition of a mini string section to the basic line-up of Wofo gave me the opportunity to come up with even more colourful and lush compositions.
  1. refers to "The natives are restless", an expression in old jungle movies (hear the distant threatening drum rolls...) and also to a Horace Silver composition. The rabbits in question live with my neighbours. I regulary go to feed them and am ever so often surprised by their agressive behaviour, them vigourously beating the ground with their hind legs.
    Solo's by Mattias (bass clarinet) and Cécile (violin) in the first part, by Pieter (piano) and Simon (drums) in the 2nd.

  2. In the early days of e-amil, I collected "spam" with funny, often hilaric titles: The way to her heart is through her wrist, How can I send you money?, Tiger in underware, ...
    "Whether the shrimps, or crawfish grey..." caught my attention and seemed to be a line from the poem "The Pobble who has no toes" by Edward Lear. After some research ( e.a.) I became intrigued by this remarkable late-19th century nonsens poet/illustrator.
    This piece is a feature for Eline on violoncello, but also contains some short but very nice solo's by Michel and Mattias.

  3. "Fesses jaunâtres" is a reprocessed version "Fesses bleues" from the first Wofo-cd. After 7 years, the blue bruises faded to a yellowish hue.
    The strings play a through composed score, giving room for interactive improvisations by the reed players.

  4. "Minor mistakes" : sometimes mistakes are strong creative impulses. Of course this is a composition in minor mode.
    I play an intro on bass, Cécile, Pieter and Michel providing solo's in the subsequent sections.

  5. "Enneapodia"
    1. no horse has 5 legs.
    2. every horse has 4 more legs than no horse.
    3. ergo: a horse has 9 legs.
    A composition in 9/8 time: 3 short beats are followed by 3 long ones, which is the opposite of the Greek karsilamas dance. I was wondering whether there are 9-legged animals, and, believe it or not, in April 2010 this squid was caught in the Gulf of Mexico. "Ochtopodia" are a regular component of a Greek meze dish, but when they have 9 legs, I propose to call them "enneapodia".
    Solo's by myself, Michel and Pieter.

  6. "Galicnik" is a village in Macedonia (or more correct, in the FYROM = Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) famed for it's annual traditional wedding party, all-night trance music on tupan (large drum) and zurna (folk oboe) included.
    Solo's by Anouk (violin), Pieter and Mattias.

  7. "Koelkastsmeerbaar" is a another version of Wofo-classic from our first CD.


Dave Lynch on
The restless creative imagination of Belgian bassist/composer/bandleader Xavier Verhelst takes his Wofo quintet in the direction of broadly appealing chamber jazz on the group's fourth offering, 2014's Erratic Tails. Actually, describing Wofo as a quintet isn't quite accurate here, as the core band of six-string bassist Verhelst, clarinetist Mattias Laga, tenor saxophonist Michel Mast, pianist Pieter Baert, and drummer Simon Raman is joined by "the Wofettes," a string trio comprising violinists Cécile Broché and Anouk Sanczuk and cellist Eline Duerinck. Verhelst's compositions and arrangements fully integrate the strings into the ensemble textures, evident from their prominence in the initial few minutes of the whimsically titled opening track, "The Rabbits Are Restless Tonight," first taking the spotlight and then coloring the backdrop behind Laga and Mast's counterpointed reeds. Evocative solos from Laga and Broché follow until the dynamic truly kicks up with full-band stop-and-start motifs leading into a swinging uptempo feature for Baert, making clear that this outfit might be chamberesque, but also demonstrates serious jazz cred. The segue of classical chamber stylings into (and out of) more overt jazz is particularly smooth on the balladic "Whether the Shrimps, or Crawfish Grey...," which commences as a thoroughly scored feature for cellist Duerinck before Mast and Laga offer up brief and lovely thematic improvisations. So perhaps it's most appropriate to think of this ensemble as an octet, playing music that is attractive and sometimes refined in tone, the type of jazz that incorporates classical string players with no difficulty whatsoever.

But to describe Verhelst's imagination as "restless" remains appropriate; he might not guide Wofo toward wild and woolly free jazz, but he does range far afield in search of stylistic influences -- exuberant Balkan folk in the case of "Galicnik," Latin and tango flavors in the multifaceted, polyrhythmic "Fesses Jaunâtres" (its title an apparent reference to the fading of bruises on somebody's posterior...perhaps it's best to just let that one sit) -- and the resultant unpredictability is a major part of the group's appeal. And while the proceedings may not become cacophonous, they're not too polite, either; Verhelst gives his bandmembers plenty of opportunities to strut. After a solo feature for the bassist and a moody, melancholic group intro, the nine-minute "Minor Mistakes" takes off with a sprightly theme and a steady groove over which Broché lets loose with genuine double-stopping fire, followed by a energetic Baert feature in which the pianist pushes the harmonic envelope over Verhelst and Raman's funked-up, cruising support. Mast steps to the forefront with his classic tone, too, although the tenor saxophonist's finest moment might come with his silken phrasing on the 9/8 "Enneapodia," also a fine vehicle for Verhelst's crisp, nimble, harmonics-rich melodicism. The closing elegiac "Koelkastsmeerbaar" -- on which Mast again acquits himself beautifully -- originally featured on the band's 2007 debut, The Complete Hamsessions, and the string-laden version here ably demonstrates Wofo's capacity for reinvention, even when turning back to material from their initial formative period.

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