The Flying Deer
Spool/Line SPL 119

Apa Ini
Data Records 033

Listening to the archetypal sounds on these two discs involves a certain bit of ethnomusicology fascination as well as music appreciation.

That’s because the two sessions recorded in Holland are yet more examples of the universality of improvised music. Both feature British-born, Amsterdam-resident woodwind player Tobias Delius and veteran Dutch bassist Wilbert de Joode. Completing the trio on THE FLYING DEER, is South African-born, Vancouver, B.C.-raised drummer Dylan van der Schyff. APA INI, which means “what’s this?” in Indonesian, finds Delius and de Joode partnered with British-born trombonist Hilary Jeffery and Senegalese multi-percussionist Serigne Gueye, both of whom now live in Amsterdam.

Tellingly enough, notwithstanding the exotic percussion of bugarabu, calabas, djembe and sawrouba used by Gueye, the sound of the trio is as striking as that of the quartet.

All five players are world musicians in the best sense of the word. De Joode, best known for his membership in clarinetist Ab Baars Trio, is self-taught, but versatile enough to play in an improvising string quartet and as an orchestral soloist. Also self-taught, Dakar-born Gueye was playing in traditional ceremonies when he was seven years old. Yet he since toured Europe and North America with African pop bands and is now attempting to link West African musical heritage to improvised jazz. Jeffery is involved in jazzman’s Paul Dunmall Octet and the band Kreepa’s electronic improvisations when he travels to England. Canadian van der Schyff has played with everyone passing through his hometown, from British saxophonist John Butcher to American trumpet Dave Douglas. Delius is not only involved with Available Jelly band whose repertoire ranges from Broadway tunes to African lines, but has also lived and played in Mexico and Argentina.

As a matter of fact, the only real jazz-like swing you’ll hear on THE FLYING DEER is in the final minutes of the very last tune, when the drummer switches to brushes and the bassist walks. Before that, however, van der Schyff has been clip-clopping all over his kit, producing a bell-like sound at one point, the scratch of a drumstick on a ride cymbal at another — and there are times you’ll swear he’s playing a balaphone. Meantime De Joode’s bass tone has moved from bowed, symphonic suggestions to speedy double stopping. Only Delius, plows ahead in his solos like a proper Edwardian civil servant n maintaining his colonial decorum in an outpost assignment. But that respect for the mainstream doesn’t stop him from growling out split tone and producing speech-like reed interjections when he solos.

The tenorman’s foggy, Don Byas-like intonation comes to the fore on the title track. But its dense moodiness is leavened by a sometimes-wavering tone and minute, altissimo squeals, particularly when the tune becomes more rhythmic and De Joode’s buzzing strings begin vibrating as if he was playing a guiro or berimbau. Not to be outdone, van der Schyff bounces his mallets off the metallic surfaces of his cymbals and the sides of his drums, bends notes on his drum heads and comes up with wooden echoes as if he had smuggled a balophone onto the stage of the Zaal 100 club.

If there’s a complaint, it’s that sporadically van der Schyff’s bell tree, machine machinegun-like rat-tat-tats and timpani mallets pressure are a little too upfront in the mix. The recording would have been better served with a little more balance between the three instruments.

More seriously, Gueye’s solo showcase could have been dispensed with all together, while APA INI’s one ballad suffers from an arrangement that makes it sound like “’Round Midnight” played by 1950s band with an intrusive conga drummer. Still, African and Euro-American sounds are better integrated elsewhere.

“Wooden Horse,” for example, with a whispering beginning conveyed from Delius’ chalumeau register clarinet, soon finds the reedist in a chromatic interchange, intertwined with Jeffery’s grace notes. Add some double-stopping slap bass from De Joode plus bell-ringing and hand drumming from Gueye, and you end up with the right instruments for Dixieland, but a tune that would never be confused with Trad Jazz. This is especially true when Gueye’s bugarabu and djembe produce a rhythm that could have only been heard in New Orleans’ Conga Square before jazz was born.

Jeffrey’s plunger talents do get a workout on “Parodia Sanguiniflora”, though he’d never be confused with Big Jim Robinson or Jack Teagarden. Here he extends the melancholy, muted tones by humming along with them, then turns his solo rubato. With the drummer clacking his djembe like a conga drum the ‘boneman is so able to prolong his high-pitched wah wahs that’s it’s almost as if he’s playing a cornet. Content to stay in a deep-toned Ben Webster mode, save the odd post-Trane slur, Delius picks up the tempo as he and the trombonist unite and separate as they play their lines.

It may also be the power of historical suggestion, but despite its title, “Fusspot” isn’t fussy, but a lilting dance tune. The tenor man forces a buzzing comb-and-tissue-paper tone from his reed. while Jeffrey vibrates a slurring tone that may come from a Harmon mute. Meanwhile, the limpid Township jive beat here is more reasonably reminiscent of the influence South African musicians have had on British and Dutch musicians over the years, not Delius and De Joode’s meeting with van der Schyff who left South Africa as a child.

Subjects for joyous listening as well as serious ethnomusicology — if those ideas turn you on — these CDs show the many ways musicians of different nationalities can combine to produce exceptional sounds.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listings: Apa: 1. Zwerfvuil 2. Parodia Sanguiniflora 3. Bugar 4. Wooden Horse 5. Star Barnacle 6. Fusspot 7. Message 8. Gootsteen 9. Pok

Personnel: Apa: Hilary Jeffery (trombone); Tobias Delius (tenor saxophone, clarinet); Wilbert de Joode (bass); Serigne Gueye (bugarabu, calabas, djembe, sawrouba)

Track Listing: Deer 1. A Good Idea 2. Seven Day Itch 3. The Flying Deer 4. Bar Flies 5. Zaal 100

Personnel: Tobias Delius (tenor saxophone, clarinet); Wilbert de Joode (bass); Dylan van der Schyff (drums)