April 26, 2012
On the Move
Somehow the newest CD by pianist Michiel Braam’s Hybrid 10tet manages to expose nine tracks of sweetened Dutch Funk with a modern Jazz overlay. All inventive Braam composition and arrangements, the performances bring together a so-called Classical string quartet, a Rock-oriented rhythm section, with an international trio of brass players upfront. Mixing up the elements this way, the pianist has created a continental improv version of Gamble & Huff’s Philly Soul Music. And in doing so, Braam has positioned his Tentet as a successor to the late Willem Breuker’s Kollektief and the aging, while still vibrant, ICP Orchestra.
Essentially the harmonic timbres emanating from the two violins, viola and cello of the Matangi Quartet are used for both sweetening – or with tremolo glissandi and spiccato plucks – roughening up Braam’s themes. Simultaneously many of the numbers are built up from the licks-laden foundation of the rhythm section, which on its own function as the eBraam trio. Imagine bass guitarist Pieter Douma in the James Jamerson or Duck Dunn role, drummer Dirk-Peter Kölsch as Al Jackson or Steve Gadd and Braam himself as Richard Tee or Booker T. Surmounting these distinct contrapuntal textures are alternately gritty and lyrical solos from American cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, Germans, trombonist Nils Wogram and tubaist Carl Ludwig Hübsch.
Fast-paced or moderate as the circumstances demand, the strings’ unison glissandi sometimes references the concert hall, while the free-style beats of the other six, simultaneously transport you to a Jazz cellar, a Latin dance club or an open-air continental band shell. At points it seems as if an oom pah pah band, chamber ensemble and Jazz-funk combo are chasing each other as they converge in the same place.
Take “Cuba, North Rhine-Westphalia” for instance. By its title alone you understand that the jocular piece works on the tension engendered among light and spacey piano clatters, romantic flutters and arpeggios from the strings plus a section where the brass explodes as if a firecracker had been placed underneath a circus band’s grandstand. With cha-cha rhythms from the drummer, staccato sweeps from the string quartet and the horns making like a mambo band, the piece advances with just enough space left for Wogram’s brassy cadenzas.
Braam’s keyboard kinetics are such that at points on “Fat Centered Gravy” it sounds like two pianists are at work, one of whom takes inspiration from Jerry Lee Lewis. Since Douma and Kölsch are producing a Stax-styled backbeat this is somewhat appropriate, although the adagio-paced strings and blaring capillary blasts from the brass players, especially pedal-point tuba, testify to further originality. Finally as the distended beats are succeeded by the large and small harmonized fiddles sounding a version of plainsong, the finale becomes chromatically airier.
That’s how situations evolve during the 74 minutes plus of the CD. Vaudevillian plunger tones from the tuba and trombone succeed smooth arco string sequences, and Bynum’s measured grace notes brush against downy spiccato from the string section and jarring toy-piano-like clanks and clicks from Braam – often in tandem with slow thumb paced strokes from the bassist. If Philly Soul is referenced by inference so are the swaying sounds of drunken sailors vocalizing as they head ashore and the extreme cries and slurs of Duke Elington’s Jungle Band. There’s even a hint of post-modernism on “Huize Jinnenberg” since the rhythm seems to balance not only on shaking cymbals and piano chording but what could be the repeated thuds of a stapler clipping foolscap. Arranged in parallel blocks, braying brass and pumping strings move upwards. Eventually jagged pulses from the bass guitarist surmount both harmonized sections, with the coda surging string glissandi.
On The Move is a notable achievement for Michiel Braam. But what’s also heartening if a bit frustrating is that the pianist from the Netherlands is involved with at least a half dozen other groups of similar high quality.
Track Listing: 1. Three Grazing Arches 2. Cuba, North Rhine-Westphalia 3. The Indonesian Refuge 4. Fat Centered Gravy 5. A View to a Sound 6. Huize Jinnenberg 7. Pit Stop Ball Ad 8. El Frecuentemente 9. Rich Rabbit Research
Personnel: Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet); Nils Wogram (trombone); Carl Ludwig Hübsch (tuba); Maria-Paula Majoor and Daniel Torrico Menacho (violin); Karsten Kleijer (viola); Arno van der Vuurst (cello); Michiel Braam (piano); Pieter Douma (bass guitar and baritone bass) and Dirk-Peter Kölsch (drums)