12 03 08, Tonight in Daily News; Durban

A session with pianist Patrick Bebelaar always has a profound and lasting effect on my creative psyche. It’s to do with his approach to his instrument and his music – a combination of technical expertise, emotional fluidity, staunch seriousness and fun- poking playfulness. He demands – and extracts – a certain quality of sound out of the piano that resonates with clarity and intention.
He opened his concert at the Centre for Jazz with a well known ballad – My One and Only Love, a tender, romantic song that hushed the audience and captured their undivided attention. “I chose to play the melody only, with counter point on the left hand and also gave the piece enough space and time to breathe, creating a feeling that ‘something’s going on’ to arouse the curiosity and interest of the listeners,” he told me after the concert.
As he had also performed renditions of Foggy Day, Round Midnight and Parker’s Yardbird Suite I wanted to know his feelings about jazz standards. “I don’t like jazz standards,” he said candidly. “Actually, it’s mostly I don’t like the way the standards are played. It’s always the same. Most of the people who played them well are dead now and others simply repeat them with predictable variations. They lack personality…”
As an admirer of Bebelaar’s original pieces I ask him what informs his compositions. “I play with many musicians and incorporate many forms,” he explains. “I play with musicians from India, Russia, South Africa and America and work with different sounds. But I don’t have the feeling that it is a strange mixture. It feels more like a journey, taken from my point of view. And it’s the way I play the piano that brings it together.”
It may be a cliché to say that Bebelaar approaches his music and his instrument with palpable passion but it’s axiomatic that those who are totally committed to their chosen art form deliver a different kind of performance. He has an expansive and generous approach to the emotional content of his work that, in a world crammed with bread-and-butter players, dilettantes and fakes, is refreshingly real. “Music is the way I put out my emotions,” he says simply.
Bebelaar does not have a conventional approach to the piano and frequently astounds with his deviant behaviour as he jams his forearm down on the keys or leaps up to lean over and pluck strings.  “It’s true I treat the piano a bit hard, jump on it sometimes” he admits. “But making music is like making love; you have the opportunity to express yourself…. and everything is possible. There should be no borders.”
Bebelaar has formed a collaboration with Durban based contemporary composer Ulrich Suesse which has resulted in an album which mixes acoustic and electronic sounds. Whilst the resultant sounds are often uncomfortable, acclimatization, confronting prejudices and being open to possibility leads to appreciation. As always, Bebelaar pushes the boundaries and demands a little more from his audience than the complacent satisfaction of easy listening.