Corkestra

Gas Station Sessions Platenbakkerij PB001

Beneficiary of a Dutch attitude which gives musicians the freedom to leapfrog from one stylistic outpost to another, keyboardist Cor Fuhler has created a nine-piece ensemble which revels in its eccentricity. At the same time, each member of the Corkestra puts his or her distinct concepts into play while interpreting Fuhler’s 10 compositions on this distinctive Toronto-recorded session.

Although all participants are improvisers, some like flutist Anne La Berge and Nora Mulder, who plays the cimbalom or hammered dulcimer come from the so-called classical music field. Meanwhile multi-reedist Tobias Delius, known for his membership in the ICP Orchestra and bassist Wilbert de Joode, who steers many ensembles for pianist Michel Braam and others and drummer Michael Vatcher, part of the Availa6ble Jelly band are committed Jazzmen. Guitarist Andy Moor is a member of Punk-Improvisers The Ex, drummer Tony Buck drifts between groove-directed The Necks, Rock and experimental improv, while clarinetist Xavier Charles usually specializes in revealing more abstract tones alongside saxophonist John Butcher and others.

With such a wealth of talent on hand, plus a mercurial nature that means Fuhler takes on different persona – sometimes several – depending on which real or self-invented instrument he’s playing, there’s no way the bandleader/composer impose strictures. Noting the chameleonic persona the Barger-Oosterveld-born keyboardist who now lives in Australia exhibits throughout Gas Station Sessions, it’s easy to understand why pastiche is preferable to prodding for him.

Tunes such as “pebbles” or “appletree” are firmly in the Jazz tradition, with Fuhler\s chording as mainstream as expected, enlivened by doubled tremolos, unforced swing and relaxed cascades in the latter. Meanwhile the drummers pop and pummel and the bassist walks. Showing its Dutch-ness – or at least what outsiders have come to associate with the Netherlands scene – is a centre sequence of horns harmonized into a bouncy line that could have migrated from an ICP or Willem Breuker Kollektief session.

In contrast “dorst” unrolls like the most abstract New music with resonating piano strings distending the main theme that is initially advanced by Charles’ narrowed clarinet line, and later framed by thinning string vibrations and contrapuntal horn layering.

An organ-directed piece such as “cobbles” on the other hand could be the theme from a 1950s Western TV series with the pulsating dual-keyboard mixing it up with yearning sax bites and honks, lowing flute puffs and a chromatic horn section exit.

Elsewhere the tunes give full reign to Fuhler’s inventive arrangement as when both clarinets are involved in a duet that evolves from chalumeau puffs to harsh shrilling. There are also sequences when strained counterpoint reaches knife-plucking intensity as resonations are heard from plucked double bass, stopped piano strings and twanged cimbalom strokes.

The cimbalom’s distinct patterning is also utilized on “dune” and “kurk”, two tracks which sum up Fuhler’s and the Corkestra’s individuality. On the former, downward thrashing of the instrument’s strings turn to distinctive arpeggios as the drummers ruff and roll, the reeds vamp wildly and La Berge’s pastoral flute line floats serenely on top. On the latter, another Jazz-like tune, clipped piano riffs jockey for the foreground with Delius’ snorting, full-bodied tenor sax line, with the reed bites and piano plinks eventually subsumed beneath clatter from the hammered dulcimer.

Although this all-star version of the Corkestra may no longer exist, the sort of memorable tunes Fuhler created for it here can not only be experienced here, but also in other bands that thrive under his laissez-faire leadership.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. appletree 2. cobbles 3. dorst 4. olive oil 5. sandcastle 6. wine cellar 7. dune 8. fata morgana 9. kurk 10. pebbles

Personnel: Anne La Berge (flutes); Xavier Charles (clarinet); Tobias Delius (tenor saxophone and clarinet); Cor Fuhler (piano and organ); Andy Moor (guitar); Nora Mulder (cimbalom); Wilbert de Joode (bass); Tony Buck (percussion) and Michael Vatcher (percussion and singing saw)