Tobias Delius 4Tet

Luftlucht
ICP 048

One of those curious – or is it inimitable – sessions from the Netherlands where the sounds seem to simultaneously draw on the Swing Era and Free Jazz, these eight tunes with 15 [!] titles also suggests the commotion that arises from a meeting of four strong-minded players. Of course this is an exemplary commotion for a notable musical end.

Serendipitously Luftlucht showcases the talents of the players here who individually have been drawn to participate in Amsterdam’s rich musical gestalt. Only veteran drummer Han Bennink, long a mainstay of the ICP Orchestra, is Dutch born. Tenor saxophonist Tobias Delius, another ICP stalwart, is of Argentinean/British background; anarchistic cellist Tristan Honsinger, another ICPer, is an American who lives part of the time in Italy. Meanwhile bassist Joe Williamson, who has recorded with ICP leader/pianist Misha Mengelberg among many others, is a Canadian who now calls Stockholm home.

With his thrusting rhythms, steady walking and powerful thumps, the bassist maintains a healthy pulse throughout with the skill of Walter Page backing Count Basie. These Basie echoes are unavoidable because of Bennink. His rattles, rim shots, paradiddles and nerve beats have the easy flow that Jo Jones developed with the Basie band during the Swing Era. However Bennink’s constant beat-tsunami and occasional verbal shouts of elation are a strictly Netherlands-developed tick.

On the other side of the equation is Honsinger, a natural musical anarchist who rags his instrument with ferocious spiccato slices, swipes and saws most of the time, and adds vocal exhortations more frequently than does the drummer. Riding herd on all this and playing an admixture of his own and Honsinger’s composition is Delius. With strategies that range from thick-toned smoothness that suggests Gene Ammons, or tart jagged runs that could come from Booker Ervin, plus a collection of, reed bites and staccato tongue slaps that are post-Albert Ayler and post-Evan Parker, Delius holds his own here, and what’s more oversees memorable music.

On “Poeing” for example, as Bennink demonstrates his Swing Era speed, the cellist responds with sul ponticello shuffle bowing, while in double counterpoint the saxophonist matches him with high-pitched snarls, and a reed comment on every string movement. Delius’ skittering slap tonguing helps musically define “Guest Room/Luftlucht”, which as he then adds higher-register lyricism to his solo, makes the performance as bifurcated as the title. Meanwhile Honsinger sets up a rollicking counter line culminating in splintered timbres. Nonetheless, these timbres are kept from upsetting the tune’s chromatic direction by the drummer’s smacks and ruffs plus the reedist’s flutter-tonguing.

There’s additional input throughout that that ranges from the cellist vocalizing in Franglais or outlining waltz time on his instrument – at different junctures – or when Bennink exposes military-styled accompaniment, or alters the beat by softly accenting his cymbals like the best Bop drummers. Frequently, the compositions explode with cartoon-like anarchy, and then as if film is being run backwards, recombine with every moving part in place.

A fine example of this is “Friar/I Love You When You’re Modest/Lullo’s Page/Celsius” with Williamson’s grounded bass portions serve as bonding. Whistles, squeaks and slurs from the cellist threaten the narrative as these ejaculations vie in broken octaves with the saxophonist’s irregular tongue fluttering and singular reed bites. Luckily Bennink’s shuffle beat and rim-whacking plus Williamson’s bottom slaps veer towards a basic rhythmic flow.

While it’s difficult to determiner whether this guest room celebrated on this CD is situated on Swing Street, in the Bop Borough or in the Frenetic Free Jazz Forest, it’s still a location that the four make an invigorating place to visit.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Grey/Counter Meal/Mouse March/Bird Brain 2. ¿Yellow?/Malvasia 3. Poeing 4.Cistern 5. Friar/I Love You When You’re Modest/Lullo’s Page/Celsius 6. Kit 7. Befana 8. Guest Room/Luftlucht

Personnel: Tobias Delius (tenor saxophone); Tristan Honsinger (cello); Joe Williamson (bass) and Han Bennink (drums)