Aan & Uit
ICP 042

Up to their old tricks, the 10 members of the Dutch ICP Orchestra prove once again that having a good time and swinging doesn’t mean that you have to give up artistic integrity. Similarly this 70-minute collection of compositions, mostly by pianist/leader Misha Mengelberg, twists enough POMO strands that the band’s position as an evolving workshop — like Mingus’ bands, for instance — remains constant.

This time out, you notice that American cellist Tristan Honsinger — an on-and-off ICP member for years — and trombonist Wolter Wierbos have moved into centre position in the band, sharing the most space with originals Mengelberg and drummer Han Bennink. Yet the longest — almost nine minute tune — is written by and a showcase for trumpeter Thomas Heberer.

Adapting pre-modern as well as post-modern touches, the trumpeter’s “Let’s climb a hill” provides one glimpse into the ICP’s MO. Taken double time, the theme is a finger-snapping quasi-Swing Era riff. The tune finds Bennink sand dancing on the traps like a reborn Jo Jones — that is when he isn’t producing a rickety-tick vamp as if he was a member of Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers. Mengelberg sticks to the leitmotif with heavy on the left-hand piano, while Wierbos’ plunger slurs are straight from the Tricky Sam Nanton bag. All this, of course, doesn’t prevent Honsinger interjecting harsh ponticello lines every so often. Meanwhile the composer and chief soloist soars with perfect timbre over the others, hitting some high-pitched vibrated notes that suggest Cat Anderson as well as Roy Eldridge. As the piece decelerates it climaxes with piano arpeggios and a reed vamp.

“The sparrows start waving their pyjamas [sic]”, the final number of Mengelberg’s six-part Picnic suite is another foot patter. Here the horns riff like the Savoy Sultans, the pianist is in a supple-fingered Teddy Wilson mode, one trilling clarinetist makes like Barney Bigard and Ab Baars or Toby Delius are in a burly, sideslipping Ben Webster role when one or the other solos on tenor saxophone. Yet the trombonist’s double-tonguing and the spiaccato glissandi from the strings don’t exactly mesh with the concept — nor should they.

Additionally, there’s no sizzle cymbal or cowbell in earshot even on Hoagy Carmichael’s “Barbaric”, which smoothly works itself into a Count Basie-Benny Goodman combo groove. Yet while Carmichael may have appreciated the Joe Venuti-like solo from violinist Mary Oliver, he would have been flummoxed by the hard bop tenor saxophone line and rubtao trumpet solos in the middle of his song. Maybe he would have been tipped off that this wasn’t an altogether reverent reading when the trombonist’s solo seems a little too exaggeratedly “hot”.

Elsewhere, AAN & UIT features the strings and clarinets uniting for some chamber style tones on “Tijd voor de Quadrille” — although that tune’s purity dissolves with a staccato trombone run and a finale more appropriate for a barn dance hoedown. Then there’s “Play some badminton” — also part of the Picnic suite — which mixes jolly, polka-like trombone blats, lighter-toned clarinet chirps, arpeggio string trio movements that seems to have migrated from a recital hall, and caustic, interpolated Monkisms from the pianist.

Mengelberg’s version of Monk’s piano clipping, octave jumps and forearm clusters are part of the sarcastic humor he introduces to these tunes. On “De Sprong, O Romantiek der Hazen”, for instance, he interrupts an essay in impressionistic piano chording for some screeching vocalizing — has Bennink’s wildness finally got to him after all these years? Furthermore, roistering horn interjections complete with hocketing honks and a brassy counterline from Heberer interrupt — likely on purpose — the upbeat bounce the pianist brings to “A beautiful day”.

Incorrigible as always, Bennink’s off-centre, sometimes clip-clopping, and often too loud drumming is a feature of nearly every track. Laterally you can most easily note the rearrangement of priorities with the Honsinger composed “Ever Never”. At points it appears to be a record of feeding time at the barnyard with yelps, growls, baas, moos and yodels from the strings, horns, busy bass drums and cymbals. In contrast, it’s the pianist who seems restrained. He plays a straight thematic note grouping reaching high onto the keys for some slithering cadenzas. Following that, he appears to be marking time as the blaring horns and drums play circus-like music.

Have the inmates finally taken over the asylum, or is it all planned? You can find out by listening to this CD.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Aan & Uit 2. De Sprong, O Romantiek der Hazen Picnic Suite:

3. A beautiful day 4. Let’s go to the river 5. And have a Picnic 6. Play some badminton 7. Let’s go home before 8. The sparrows start waving their pyjamas 9. Tijd voor de Quadrille 10. Barbaric 11. Back to Lippiza 12. Va-et-vient 13. Ever Never 14. Waar bleef je? 15. Tuinhek 16. Opa 17. Let’s climb a hill 18. Aan & Uit

Personnel: Thomas Heberer (trumpet); Wolter Wierbos (trombone); Michael Moore (alto saxophone and clarinet); Tobias Delius, Ab Baars (tenor saxophones and clarinets); Misha Mengelberg (piano and vocals); Mary Oliver (violin and viola); Tristan Honsinger (cello); Ernst Glerum (bass); Han Bennink (drums)