Led by Antwerp based keys man Bram Weijters, The Crazy Men are a hot mess of talent from the vibrant Belgian jazz scene, known for their work with STUFF, Dans Dans, Cargo Mas and Lucid Lucia (ex BRZZVLL). Their 2019 debut, “Here They Come” was focused on 70s Belgian jazz-rock and fusion and “The Return” continues in that vein with fourteen adventurous reworkings of compositions from artists like Philip Catherine, Placebo, Palle Mikelborg Ensemble, Bob Porter, Cos and the original Crazy Man, Koen de Bruyne.
A cleansing, percussion and piano showered, spiritual wash expresses “The Beginning” of things before a tight and loose, pulsing, deliciously sleazy, dimly lit rework of Catherine’s “Nineteen Seventy Fourths” fusion awakens and continues.
The next three bits are de Bruyne. Firstly the gently-rendered “The Silver Eye” is a gorgeous, lush piano soother; “Pathetic Sounds” is a futuristic fusion belcher with well-honed Mwandishi meets Roni Size layers and a DnB-busy Steve Cassiers drum energy; and “The Silver End” ends thrillingly unresolved with its noir filmic tension.
Placebo’s “Planes” is separated into a trop hip, smoky intro and a main funky organ vs horn standoff; its rolling energy throwing out the back-n-forth rough-n-tumble of a pair of flick-haired, Trimm Trab-donning football firms on a spring Saturday afternoon. The two Planes sandwich Jack Van Poll’s word and piano-intro’d “Objíždka” that builds to a swinging, undulating rhythm, caressing horns and sax expression in a less big Kamasi style.
“Carol” is just lovely. Refreshing, it romantically speaks of mornings when awareness of the hum of activity through chiffon voiled open windows only highlights the beauty of that moment you’re fortunate to share with Carol. “Nasca” benefits from both its lack of Kyle Busch and its confident ability to agilely shift from laid back cool into a tighter driven, tumbling exploration and then a bring-it-down-let-the-sax-speak break with effortless concord.
The happily self-aware titled “Transvested Express Postaeolian Train Robbery” brings a bit of Cos prog-jazz to proceedings. After the initial time sig porn there’s a satisfyingly twilight 70s urban vibe – a no brain score for one of those Columbo in-contemplation motel moments prior to the stuntman-swapped fire escape stair chase.
“Chiang Mai” is gently fragranced in the east, allowing momentary synthy reflective meditation. “Chief of Freen Bean Oh Boy” is a fun fusion in the style of the less out there 70s players. Although it has little edge it does still rock and charm. “Reine De La Vallée” is a smooth, bluesy, soulful wrap-up – like an instrumental, much more agreeable Van Morrisson.
There’s so much to like here. Something about it reminds me of the charm of the early 90’s DJ + musician exploration into hip jazz – people like United Future Organization. It’s a very different aesthetic, sure, and a higher level of musicianship, but what I enjoyed so much about that stuff I enjoy about this too. It feels easily hip and hopefully romantic, it has an authenticity of purpose, a palpable love of the music it takes as inspiration. And it has a coherence; the Crazy Men inherently know how to keep the musical ball rolling, with their own voice, creating a compelling, varied story without any indulgence unfitting to the inclusive vibe. Give it a spin, you’d be crazy not to.