Face of Flanders: Jef Neve


Jazz musician Jef Neve will be honoured at this year's World Soundtrack Awards in Ghent for his monumental compositions for a VRT drama series

On a par with Chopin

A former teacher once described him as “een alleskunner”, or someone who can turn his hand to anything. And indeed Jef Neve is such a busy bee he would merit a place in Face of Flanders most weeks of the year. He’ll be featured in October at the World Soundtrack Awards (WSA) at Ghent Film Festival, but you may be sure that in the meantime, he’ll have managed to fit in at least two or three noteworthy achievements.

Neve was born in 1977 in Turnhout, and studied jazz and classical piano at the Lemmens Institute in Leuven, graduating with honours in 2000, then going on to specialise in chamber music. From the age of six, he says, he knew he wanted to be a musician; from the age of 14 he was already playing in bands, as well as composing in a variety of styles from solo piano to symphony orchestra.

“I’ve always been a lover of piano concertos, and I even composed some short ones when I was 12 or 13,” he told Flanders Today back in 2009. “I’ve played in concerti by Beethoven, Mozart, the Paganini Variations by Rachmaninov and George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, which is a sort of concerto.” Just days later, in Ghent and then in Brussels, he premièred his first published piano concerto with the Brussels Philharmonic. A second has since followed in 2012, putting him on a par with Chopin.

Since then his projects have ranged all over the musical sphere, working with his trio, with vocalists like Jose James, with other jazz musicians, hosting a jazz show on the radio, composing the soundtrack to the movie De helaasheid der dingen by Felix Van Groningen, and taking part with the Brussels Philharmonic and the Brussels Jazz Orchestra in the recording of the Oscar-winning score for The Artist, composed by Ludovic Bource.

He’ll be honoured at the WSA for himself, however, and his compositions for the 10-part VRT drama series In Vlaamse Velden (In Flanders Fields), set during the First World War. The music for that is a monumental work for orchestra, piano and organ which had to be faithful to the series’ time-setting, avoiding jazz anachronisms while not descending into pastiche.

“Inspiration is absolutely necessary,” he told Flanders Today in 2009. “Inspiration for me is very close to a fantasy world – things or melodies or images that you daydream, or let through into consciousness to influence reality, so it comes as a result at the most unexpected moments. For me it’s often a matter of places where I’ve been, the surroundings, a train of thought, strong emotions of course as well. I sit at the piano every day, because I like to make music, and that’s the way to create the conditions where inspiration can come.”

Photo courtesy Radio 1

Jazz musician Jef Neve will be honoured at this year's World Soundtrack Awards in Ghent for his monumental compositions for a VRT drama series.

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