November 12, 2006
Ab Baars Quartet
Not your fathers or come to think of it your mothers Duke Ellington, Amsterdam-based clarinetist and tenor saxophonist Ab Baars has adapted 10 Ellington compositions for his quartet. More properly hes performed major surgery on the tunes and reassembled them in such a distinctive way that its likely the composer may not have recognized his musical progeny at first.
Still, the approach taken by Baars and his fellow note surgeons trombonist Joost Buis, bassist Wilbert de Joode and drummer Martin van Duynhoven gives new life to the compositions, as if each has received a heart transplant. Personalities alter after operations like that, but considering most of the ducal cannon has remained beyond category since he wrote it, why not celebrate it deconstructed rather than copied note for note? The positive answer is on this disc.
Assiduous in noting every Ellington opus on which each of his Kinda recreations is based, the reedist also involves each of his band mates in the completed improvisation. Martin van Duynhoven, who is also a graphic designer, and de Joode, who plays in many bands such as pianist Michiel Braams, make up Baars trio and earlier helped rearrange music from American clarinetist John Carter and North American Indians. Buis, who also plays with Braam and leads the Astronauts, a band that celebrates Sun Ras Arkestra, knows how to rebirth music as well.
Mixing renowned (Caravan and Prelude to a Kiss) and unfamiliar (Mr. Gentle and Mr., Cool and Half the Fun) Ellington material, Baars keep the band members and the listeners on their aural toes. Because most of the pieces are restructured theres no attempt to emulate Ellington soloists. But Buiss growly plunger work throughout has been influenced by Tricky Sam Nanton, just as Baarss spidery clarinet relates back to Jimmy Hamilton and his testosterone-fuelled tenor saxophone to Ben Webster.
De Joode shines on Kinda Bear (Jack the Bear), the original of which Ellington wrote for Jimmy Blanton. Of course in this POMO recreation, the tune starts off like a cabaletta, before becoming a showcase for de Joodes slap bass and wavering sul ponticello techniques. Interestingly enough Kinda Braud (Portrait of Wellman Braud), written for another Ellington bassist, is more concerned with Buiss gritty tailgate trombone work and van Duynhovens back beat than the steel-fingered bassists skills.
On some pieces Baars wiggling coloratura clarinet timbres play off against broken octaves from the growling trombone; on others an adagio melody calls forth braying trombone slurs and tough pecks from the tenor man. Meantime Kinda Lafitte (Aristocracy à la Jean Lafitte) has unison polyphony from the horns that suggest the New York Art Quartet. With the drummer rat-tat-tatting behind, the tenor saxophones honks are answered by plunger slurs from the bone man.
Kinda Solitude (Solitude), the lead off number, may be the most upsetting for traditionalists. Mirrored by bowed bass, the tenor saxophonist shrieks harsh tones with a vibrato wider than either Sidney Bechets or Albert Aylers before relenting and spitting out the familiar melody.
No composer in jazz no matter how exalted warrants the museum treatment. Kinda Dukish ensures this doesnt happen to Duke Ellington.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Kinda Solitude 2. Kinda Lafitte 3. Kinda Bear 4. Kinda Caravan 5. Kinda Gentle 6. Kinda Half 7. Kinda Harlem 8. Kinda Braud 9. Kinda Prelude 10. Kinda Perdido
Personnel: Joost Buis (trombone); Ab Baars (clarinet and tenor saxophone); Wilbert de Joode (bass); Martin van Duynhoven (drums)