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Eric Boeren 4tet
Plattenbakkerij PRO 008
Han Bennink Trio
Bennink & Co.
ILK 192 CD
Bandleader or featured sideman, Amsterdam’s Hen Bennink has a distinctive percussion style that’s instantly recognizable after a scant few rattles and thumps. This is easily affirmed on these two fine sessions.
Bennink & Co is additionally fascinating because it’s only the second release by a trio helmed by drummer, formed after almost half a century of playing in others’ ensembles, most notably the ICP Orchestra. It features two improvisers less than half the 71-year-old Bennink’s age: Danish pianist Simon Toldam and Belgian reedist Joachim Badenhorst. In his more accustomed backing – if rhythmically disruptive – role, Bennink provides the beat on Coconut. Under the leadership of cornetist Eric Boeren, who has also played with the Bik Bent Braam ensemble for a couple of decades. This quartet with its echoes of Ornette Coleman’s first band with pocket trumpeter Don Cherry and Charles Mingus’ quartet with trumpeter Ted Curson and reedist Eric Dolphy, is filled out by saxophonist/clarinetist Michael Moore, also in the ICP, as well as well as bassist Wilbert de Joode who has likely played with every major improviser in continental Europe.
This catholically in musical influences also means that both combos have a much wider frame of reference than most bands, particularly those dealing with Jazz’s earlier manifestations. For instance the reed inflections of Badenhorst, who often works with post-modernists like bassist Pascal Niggenkemper, suggest a linkage to clarinetist Jimmy Giuffre’s trios; while Toldam’s improvising relates to the understated variables of pianists Bill Evans and Paul Bley, Nonetheless with Bennink on board these tendencies are conflated with Swing Era references as well. Benny Goodman’s famous trio had the same clarinet-piano-drums line-up. So when Bennink’s on-the-beat slaps reference drummer Gene Krupa, he lets Toldam fill the Teddy Wilson role.
It’s the same with Boeren’s 4tet. Bennink may have the Dannie Richmond or Ed Blackwell role on Coconut’s 11 tracks, but at junctures his beat emphasis relates as much to Jo Jones or Baby Dodds, putting De Joode in the Walter Page or Israel Crosby position, with Moore sometimes channeling Goodman or Artie Shaw on clarinet. Nevertheless Moore’s saxophone playing stays resolutely modern, as does Boeren’s work, despite the cornetist playing Classic Jazz’s favorite horn. Still the piping-hot tremolo interaction that the quartet members demonstrate on “Shake Your Wattle” [sic] could slip into a Chicago-style or Dixieland session with no one the wiser.
On his CD, Boeren telegraphs his personnel hierarchy by including two Coleman tunes and one by Booker Little – who co-lead a band with Dolphy in 1961 – on the disc. Even more transparent is the program of Bennink’s trio. Among the 12 tracks, mostly consisting of group improvisations and spiky po-mo originals by Badenhorst and Toldam, are warhorses like Friedman and Whitson’s “Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland” and Billy Strayhorn’s “A Flower Is a Lonesome Thing”.
Taking these as jumping-off points, notice how the Strayhorn standard is approached backwards, from improvisations to the theme, with sliding and juddering lines from the reedist, tremolo passages from the pianist and such stentorian control from Bennink that his smacks and ruffs appear to move from one side of the sound field to the other. Ultimately after Badenhorst plays the familiar head, his glissandi are challenged by the drummer’s bell shaking and snare pops. Similarly Bennink’s ratcheting sprawls and rat-tat-tats defiantly disrupt the reading of the Friedman-Whitson tune as the other two cohesively spin out its moderated line.
Radical deconstruction isn’t reserved for mainstream fare however. On the Badenhorst composed “Ganz”, for instance, the drummer adds a furious display of pre-modern syncopated clanks and clunks to complement the clarinetist’s irregular vibrato and flutter-tongued note popping that is decidedly 21st Century, while Toldam galloping comping advances the theme. In the same way, the reedist’s impelled puffs and aviary split tones plus the drummer’s ruffs and smacks create a contrapuntal challenge to the pianist on the reflective “Dog”. Defying the other two with thicker chord patterns and note clumps Toldam manages to bypass their sonic traps to recap his melody by the finale.
On the other CD, having devoted part of his time since 1995 to re-interpreting Coleman’s music with De Joode, Boeren has no problem lovingly deconstructing it here. Moving past the happy, up-tempo head of “Joy of A Toy” for example, the cornetist builds his solo out of rubbery brays, while Moore contributes cyclical obbligatos. At the same time Bennink breaks up the time with ruffs and rim-shot clatters. “Little Symphony” follows a similar pattern, although here the staccato exposition played by unison horns survives a subsequent detour into dual flutter-tonguing plus the drummer’s brush raps plus timbre shattering. On the other hand Little’s “BeeTee’s Minor Plea” comes across as a straightforward blues line, build on buzzing, capillary notes from the brass man and hand heel-slaps plus a bowed counter line from the bassist.
Other tracks create their own identities but speak to different currents of the Jazz tradition. There’s a jittery Latin feel to “Journal” with an impressive pumping solo from De Joode, plus a half-shuffle/half-martial beat from Bennink. Some of the remaining tunes take on a loose Count Basie small band Swing feel, especially with an emphasis on Boeren’s muted grace notes and slithery passages from Moore’s clarinet.
Overall the most impressive romp is “What Happened at Conway Hall, 1938” – could composer Boeren be referring to Lord Thomas Jeeves Horder’s lecture on Obscurantism from that year? Ignoring the unanswered question, the piece sashays back and forth between Swing to the New Thing, with Moore’s slithery textures resembling those of Dolphy, Coleman and John Handy at various times; while De Joode discordantly slaps and scrapes his strings; the composer contributes plunger triplet; and Bennink’s contrapuntal cymbal clattering, climaxes with a fortissimo pop to signal the ending.
Despite moving into his eighth decade, Bennink evidently still has plenty to contribute rhythmically and sonically. And on the evidence of these two CDs he has plenty of confreres to aid him continue making high-quality jazz.
Track Listing: Coconut: 1. Coconut 2. What Happened at Conway Hall, 1938? 3. Shake Your Wattle 4. The Fish in the Pond 5. Little Symphony 6. & 7. Crunchy Croci 8. Padàm 9. Joy of A Toy 10. Journal 11. BeeTee’s Minor Plea
Personnel: Coconut: Eric Boeren (cornet); Michael Moore (alto saxophone and clarinets); Wilbert de Joode (bass) and Han Bennink (percussion)
Track Listing: Bennink: 1. Klein Gebrek Geen Bezwaar 2. Sim March 3. Suite in a Sea 4. Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland 5. Dog 6. Laurens S. D.7. Inside Inside 8. Ganz 9. Klein Gebrek Geen Bezwaar No. 2 10. Kiefer 11. Postlude to Kiefer and a Piece of Drum 12. A Flower Is a Lonesome Thing
Personnel: Bennink: Joachim Badenhorst (soprano and alto saxophones, clarinet and bass clarinet); Simon Toldam (piano) and Han Bennink (drums)
April 26, 2013
Mood Music for Time Travellers
Keeping a musical ensemble together for any length of time is an accomplishment. When it’s a 10 piece Improvised Music group, and the period is a quarter century, the achievement is even more remarkable. But that’s what Mood Music for Time Travellers celebrates: the 25th anniversary of the Massachusetts-based Either/Orchestra (EO). The EO’s potent mix of Jazz, Rock, Funk and more recently African influences, makes it unique among most American Jazz groups.
This sort of uniqueness is compounded, but expressed in other ways when compared to another long-established tentet, the Dutch Instant Composers Pool (ICP) Orchestra. That’s because that collection of Amsterdam’s most individualistic players has been navigating the choppy waters of Jazz and Improvised Music since 1969. Although over the years, the two bands have been training ground for players who have gone off to acclaim elsewhere, the reason both the ICP and EO remain going concerns, as these CDs demonstrate, is that many first-class players sign on for extended periods. Similarly both depend on the compositional and organizational skills of one man: saxophonist Russ Gershon in the EO’s case, and pianist Misha Mengelberg in the ICP’s. Six of the 10 compositions on the EO CD are Gershon’s; while Mengelberg is sole or co-writer of seven of 12 (049) tracks.
Because it’s part of a celebratory milestone Mood Music for Time Travellers also features guest appearances by a couple of EO alumni. However, while everyone gets proper blowing space, the nagging complaint about the CD is that no soloists are listed, a hindrance when the band has two trumpeters and three saxophonists. Otherwise the CD has few other faults.
Showing Gershon’s generosity – or sonic smarts – in fact, two of the most notable tunes, “Thirty Five” and “History Lesson”, are compositions of Rick McLaughlin, the band’s long-time bass player. Reflecting the EO’s collaborations in person and on record with different Ethiopian singers and instrumentalists, the first mixes Ethiopian modes with Jazz harmonies, while the latter salutes Nigeria’s best-known music star, Fela Kunti. With a theme expressed by every member of the band differently, high-pitched unison brass articulation, tough syncopated piano lines and slick doubled-tongued soprano saxophone lines stand out on “Thirty Five”. As for the latter piece, clanking piano runs and note clusters from Rafael Alcala, plus McLaughlin’s repetitive bass patterns set the pace, allowing space for a riffing saxophone solo from either a high-pitched baritone or mid-range tenor.
Perhaps as influenced by Duke Pearson and Duke Fakir as Duke Ellington, Gershon is an accomplished, if more funkified, composer himself. The first track, “The (One of a Kind) Shimmy”, is an unabashed boogaloo, for instance, encompassing piano chording that seems to have stepped out of “The Sidewinder”, call-and-response section work from mellow muted brass and tremolo shimmies from the composer’s soprano saxophone. Meantime, “The Petrograd Revision” takes it shape from African, Funk and the better parts of Jazz Fusion material. Melding Pablo Bencid’s back-beat drumming, a walking bass line, slapped conga drum rhythms, Alcala’s quivering organ timbres plus contrapuntal vamps from the horns, the tune ends up being simultaneously clean and funky. And there’s still room for Gershon’s exposition and a linear, graceful trumpet solo.
Funk may be absent from (049), but that’s one of the few genres upon which the band doesn’t touch. A group of individualized soloists, the ICP also has a string section – Mary Oliver’s violin and viola, Tristan Honsinger’s cello and sometimes Ernst Glerum’s arco bass – which the EO lacks. Plus with Honsinger and ICP co-founder drummer Han Bennink on board, disruptions are common along with unexpected musical avenues which suddenly leading to more exploration.
Consider “Busy Beaver”, for instance. Sounding for all intents and purposes like a jolly march perfect to be played by a European street band, the tune turns out to be a composition by pianist Herbie Nichols. Re-imagined by reedist Ab Baars, the performance includes trombonist Wolter Wierbos’ bell wiggles and plunger work, altered sul ponticello from the cellist that’s harmonized with Glerum’s ostinato and pops, plus slaps and rebounds from Bennink.
Mengelberg’s own “No Idea’, also takes on many shapes in an arrangement by reedist Michael Moore. At points an atmospheric ballad, the string section appears to be channeling mood music of the 1950s, as the horns riff harmonically and the composer plinks out Errol Garner-styled runs. Meanwhile on the other side of the bandstand, trumpeter Thomas Herberer’s half-valve effects seemingly exist on a different plane than the trombonist’s pedal point. Plus Bennink insists on steadily increasing clatters and bangs, as if he was Sonny Greer goosing an Ellington killer-diller.
At the same time the CD – which also includes a DVD track linking Amsterdam visuals to a jokey, swinging band improvisation – is studded with other musical references as well. The pianist spends one track mumbling to himself in Dutch – or is it double Dutch? – and another showing off his Monk-like chops. Honsinger and tenor saxophonist Toby Delius combine for one number that posits what would happen if cello lines were added to an R&B-like saxophone showcase. Additionally, Baars showcases mellow clarinet vibrations during his arrangement of Ellington’s “Sonnet in Search of a Moor”. Baars’ solo may be strictly in mid-1950s Jimmy Hamilton mode, but Glerum’s solid walking and string-popping suggests that of Wellman Braud, a ducal bassist from a much earlier Ellington epoch.
Perhaps this thoughtful mélange of styles frequently demonstrated is one reason for the long-term existence of both the American and the Dutch groups. Changing a slogan slightly to “if it sounds good, do it”, the ICP and EO apparently follow that dictum. By also adding unique elements that result from the players’ individual skills, both can create exceptional CDs.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Mood: 1. The (One of a Kind) Shimmy* 2. Beaucoups Kookoo* 3. Coolocity; 4. Portrait of Lindsey Schust# 5. Ropa Loca# 6.Thirty Five* 7. Latin Dimensions* 8. The Petrograd Revision* 9. Suriname 10. History Lesson
Personnel: Mood: Tom Halter, Daniel Rosenthal (trumpet); Joel Yennior (trombone); Godwin Louis (alto saxophone); Russ Gershon (tenor and soprano saxophones); Charlie Kohlhase, Kurtis Rivers* ( baritone saxophone); Henry Cook# (flute); Rafael Alcala (piano and Hammond B3 organ); Rick McLaughlin (bass and electric bass); Pablo Bencid (drums) and Vicente Lebron (congas, bongos and percussion)
Track Listing: (049): 1. Niet Zus, Maar Zo 2.Wake-up Call 3. Sumptious 4. Hamami 5. Busy Beaver 6. Mitrab 7. The Lepaerd 8. Het Zoemen 9. Erma 10. No Idea 11. Sonnet in Search of a Moor 12. Steigerpijp
Personnel: (049): Thomas Heberer (trumpet); Wolter Wierbos (trombone); Ab Baars (tenor saxophone and clarinet; Michael Moore (alto saxophone and clarinet); Tobias Delius (tenor saxophone); Misha Mengelberg (piano); Mary Oliver (violin and viola); Tristan Honsinger (cello); Ernst Glerum (bass) and Han Bennink (drums)
February 22, 2011
BBBCD 12 & 13
How can a trio be a quartet? That Dadaist query is more serious than is initially evident. For adding another musician to a long-established triangular entity, doesn’t necessarily result in a quartet sound if the thought processes don’t mesh. However Trio BraamDeJoodeVatcher here craftily avoids the phenomenon of merely creating music for three plus one. Using pieces from pianist Michel Braam’s “Q Book” as a basis, the three integrate guests’ sounds into their longstanding connection.
With six guests, of course, some of the quartet – and truth in packaging alert, one quintet – tracks work better than the others, depending on the tempo and intensity of the interaction. Interestingly enough, a divide affects two members of the trio as well. When the extra participants’ improvising burrow deep into rough and ragged atonalism, the scrubs, swabs and pulses created by veteran bassist Wilbert de Joode predominate. But when the interaction calls for more cohesive and harmonic patterning, the piano’s traditional role prevails, as Braam literally plays along. Drummer Michael Vatcher sticks to his accompanist role in either case.
American-in-Amsterdam saxophonist/clarinetist Michael Moore is the most frequent guest here, with four appearances. A couple seem little more than capriccios, with the reedist’s coloratura obbligatos and melodic trilling answered by low-frequency chording from the pianist, unhurried bowed bass lines and subtle drags from the drummer. Although there are glimpses of splayed reed bites from Moore and even some string scrubbing from de Joode at those times, other narratives are more expansive.
“Q14” for instance, while appearing to be built on a maddeningly familiar yet unspecified melody the performance is tauter and more abrasive. Perhaps it’s because Moore introduces a yearning alto saxophone line which is met by metronomic piano pulsing, displaying substitute chords to modify the saxophonist’s diatonic squeaks and flutters. More impressive still is “Q23”, which highlights genuine four-person blending. Outputting a fluid, almost Benny Goodmanish tone, Moore comfortably trades fours with Vatcher’s flams and pops, de Joode’s thumps and plucks and Braam’s kinetic runs. The double-counterpoint finale is constructed out of reed trilling and bass slaps.
LOOS mainman, tenor and soprano saxophonist Peter van Bergen brings out a completely different side of the trio in his chapters of the Q book. When he widen the vibrato of his thin tone to volley atonal cries on “Q01”, the pianist methodically strums piano keys and pedal pumps, leaving enough space for the bassist’s sul tasto and col legno pitch-sliding. “Q03”, with van Bergen displaying soprano split tones and glossolalia, first draws out staccato voicing from Braam, then settles the entire combo into an R&B-styled backbeat. Together reed flattement and harsh ruffs from the drummer build up the exposition’s intensity as it unrolls.
A similar heavy beat is present on a different version of “Q01” via accelerating, high frequency piano overtones, drum whaps, bass thumps and muted plunger cries from American Taylor Ho Bynum’s trumpbone. Eventually, the brass man’s braying escalates to fire engine-like squeals as Braam’s patterning keeps the narrative moving.
British saxophonist/bagpiper Paul Dunmall on “Q41” introduces enough dynamic energy with his two horns to almost need no additional help. First his soprano undulates and snakes, and then his chanter and bellows vibrate multiphonic yelps that deepen his initial tone measures. It’s up to de Joode to use the skills he utilizes playing with saxophonists as different as Frank Gratkowski or Ken Vandermark to keep the program from running off the rails. High-pitched buzzes and scrubs, plus quivering string smacks do the trick.
Luckily Braam’s purposeful key flailing and Vatcher’s swelling ruffs are both available on “Q51”, when Swedish baritone saxophonist Mats Gustafsson shows up to violently scream and snort. Canadian clarinetist François Houle vibrates andante split tones as well. But it takes concentrated interface from the trio members to mute the pressurized reed work and push it towards a final moderato variant characterized by strummed pulses from Braam and quiet paradiddles from Vatcher.
Quartet also includes five examples of Trio BraamDeJoodeVatcher’s alternately rhythmic and lyrical harmonies. But anyone familiar with the trio members already knows how well they work together. The challenge here is to use the Braam-composed material as jumping off points for diverse improvisational strategies from each guest. That they are able to direct each approach into a unified whole without compromising the clear trio sound is a tribute to their skills and adaptability.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: CD 1: Q16* 2. Q02 3. Q18 4. Q14* 5. Q51^ 6. Q27+ 7. Q01+ 8. Q01 CD2: 1.Q02* 2. Q23* 3. Q03# 4. Q01# 5. Q17 6. Q03 7.Q08 8. Q41&
Personnel: Michiel Braam (piano); Wilbert de Joode (bass) and Michael Vatcher (drums) plus Taylor Ho Bynum+ (cornet or trombone); Michael Moore* (clarinet, bass clarinet or alto saxophone); Peter van Bergen# (soprano or tenor saxophone); Paul Dunmall& (soprano saxophone and bagpipes); and François Houle^ (clarinet) and Mats Gustafson^ (baritone saxophone)
January 13, 2011
Eric Boeren Quartet
Song for Tracy the Turtle - Live in Brugge 2004
Clean Feed CF 186 CD
Translating a profound appreciation for alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman’s 1960s quartet music into something more, Dutch cornetist Eric Boeren expands the structures so the performances reflect the Zunder Zee as much as the Texas Panhandle. Playing both his own tunes and Coleman’s, the brass man also calls on his sidemen’s skills to create more than a Coleman ghost band.
In actuality, since Michael Moore’s clarinet playing seems more personal than his alto saxophone solos, blending the straight horn with Boeren’s cornet produces a sound closer to that of two other Texans – reedist John Carter and cornetist Bobby Bradford – then that of the legendary Coleman Four.
Of course Carter was a long-time friend of Coleman’s and Bradford was part of the alto saxophonist’s band in the early 1970s. Furthermore, over the years, Coleman has adapted his quirky compositions to varied situations, and Ulicoten-born Boeren follows this lead. Each quartet members is sympathetically cooperative as well as suffiently virtuosic. Bassist Wilbert de Joode, for instance, has worked with players as different as pianist Michel Braam and saxophonist Frank Gratkowski. Californian-turned Amsterdamer Moore leads Available Jelly and is in the ICP Orchestra. Boeren gigs with Jelly and Braam’s large groups among many others; and drummer Paul Lovens – pinch-hitting for Han Bennink – has been a Free Music activist since the 1970s playing with everyone from bassist Joëlle Léandre to saxophonist Evan Parker.
Prime example of this skill-blending occurs on the final “Squirrel Feet/The Legend of Bebop” which blends a Coleman and a Boeren tune. Balanced on de Joode’s methodically bowed then plucked strings, the vamping horns recall Bop as much as the New Thing. Following an interlude with Moore expanding the jerky theme with air rasps, the transition section is subtly harmonized. Fluttering contralto saxophone and plunger brass triplets are backed by rattles, pops and jumps from Lovens, plus snaps and dips from the bassist. Finally the child-like Coleman line is smeared away with closely-paced snaps and dips from de Joode and an off-kilter call-and-response horn part.
Instructively enough, the most Coleman-like piece is “Free”, which is ostensibly a free improv but replicates the 1961 Coleman Quartet sound to a T. Boeren plays what could a bugle call charge; Moore offers up multiphonic flutter-tonguing; de Joode picks and plucks and Lovens smacks, ruffs and flams. The tune directly follows Boeren’s own “Charmes” which also has Calvary charge brass inferences as well as tongue-fluttering. Any turns towards legato are nipped later as Moore squeaks stridently and extends slurs while the cornetist bubbles and blasts.
This lyrical vs. atonal tension is maintained throughout the CD. Even the title tune meanders from an uncomplicated muted intermezzo with melodic cornet lines and Moore sounding as if he’s playing a variant on “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” to tauter passages. Here the diminishing wispy timbres from Boeren and Moore’s tremolo wiggles are kept afloat by Lovens’ rolls and de Joode’s walking to link with the backbeat-driven tune, “A Fuzzphony”.
Overall the quartet members pull off the difficult task of honoring a revered elder’s music without losing track of their own identities that have been assiduously honed over the years.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Song for Tracey the Turtle 2. A Fuzzphony 3. Mr. & Mrs. People 4. Charmes 5. Free 6. Soft Nose 7. Memo 8 Memories of You 9. Moon Inhabitants 10. Squirrel Feet/The Legend of Bebop
Personnel: Eric Boeren (cornet); Michael Moore (alto saxophone and Eb clarinet); Wilbert de Joode (bass) and Paul Lovens (drums)
December 4, 2010
Achim Kaufmann/Michael Moore/ Dylan van der Schyff
Red Toucan RT 9329
Flexible and inventive in his playing, Vancouver percussionist Dylan van der Schyff uses his rhythmic muscle to keeps this session properly focused.
Recorded in two Canadian and two American cities during a 2005 tour by this European-North American trio – plus guest Dutch trombonist Wolter Wierbos on two tracks – the drummer’s skill is such that he reins in German pianist Achim Kaufman and American reedist Michael Moore when they seem to become a bit too romantically cloying in their contributions.
Both based in Amsterdam, and veterans of bands like the ICP Orchestra (Moore) and the Astronotes (Kaufmann), these versatile players are as familiar with notated as improvised music. But on pieces like “Roadside” and “Kopfspinnennetz” if not for the drummer’s clinking cymbals and woodblock smacks respectively, the organic keyboard patterning and trilling reed lyricism would push the renditions into mere prettiness. Imagine a combination of Mozart and the Benny Goodman trio.
Luckily, the pianist, who composed most of the tracks here, uses tremolo voicing and resounding string slides to toughen his renditions other places. His spiky runs, key clipping and hesitant chording plus Moore’s intense, rappelling alto saxophone trills make “Corybant” sound like a forgotten Monk tune.
Wierbos’ distinctive triple-tongued runs and elongated slurs back up van der Schyff’s blunt flams and marital rolls when he appears. Additionally, the trombonist’s shapely plunger movements encourage the pianist to batter harpsichord-like on the keys and the alto saxophonist to wiggle out his most atonal split tones.
-- Ken Waxman
-- For CODA Issue 330
January 1, 2007
Dylan van der Schyff
The Definition of a Toy
Songlines SGL SA1554-2
Half of Vancouvers first family of improvised music with cellist Peggy Lee drummer Dylan van der Schyff organized this international contingent for a hometown concert.
The results prove that when musicians have a connective history, an exceptional program can be developed after one rehearsal. Trumpeter Brad Turner and van der Schyff have played together since the 1990s; New York bassist Mark Helias and Amsterdam-based reedist Michael Moore met in 1978; and German pianist Achim Kaufmann has toured with Moore and the drummer since 2000.
Except for a trumpet-bass duo track and an abstract feature for drums, piano and reeds, the pieces are full-flavored and remarkably consistent. Tight compositionally, theyre loose enough for individual expression. Van der Schyff is a model of restraint throughout, rhythmically guiding the tracks without turning up the volume. Turner impresses with muted echoes and sluicing tones on his own moderato Queen of the Box Office, while the pianist can switch from the off-centre dynamics he exhibits on Helias romp, Broken which also has some liquid flutter-tonguing from Moores clarinet to committed mainstream comping elsewhere.
Kaufmanns chord strumming and patterning shape the title tune. Encompassing slapped drum top and rattled cymbals, col legno bass pulsations and bugle-like brassiness from Turner, it culminates in bumpy dance-like rhythms. Before that, composer Moores trilled alto saxophone cadences imply a bulked up version of Paul Desmonds tone.
Locking disparate component parts into a groove, the CD confirms van der Schyffs talents as a top session organizer as well as a first-rate percussionist.
-- Ken Waxman
January 10, 2006
DAVE DOUGLAS & NOMAD
Greenleaf Music GRE-01
Focused around moods and memory, trumpeter Dave Douglas 22nd recording and first on his own label cements his reputation as the most accomplished mainstream trumpeter around.
Unlike a certain other famous brassman who spends his time looking backwards to what jazz was, Douglas is forward looking enough in his playing and composing, to adapt other influences, from European folk airs to contemporary classical sounds,. At the same time, like most of the CDs hes made recently, the 13 melodic and muted themes on the CD wont upset even the most casual jazz listener. If that unnamed trumpeter and his Young Lions hadnt retarded the improvisation tradition so, the minute deviations from 4/4 swing and blues tonalities here wouldnt be heard as far out. Douglas may play often with John Zorn, but MOUNTAIN PASSAGES is nowhere near experimental sounds.
Resulting from a commission from a Northern Italian festival in the Dolomites, for music to be played following a mountain hike to an elevation spot between 9,000 and 12,000 feet, the sounds serve a double function. Drawing on the areas local Ladino music, the trumpeter adapts both its devotional calmness and the riotous celebration that characterize it. At the same time Douglas themes are intended to honor his father, a mountain runner and mapmaker, who died within a month of the recording, never having heard it.
One piece, North Point Memorial, a picturesque, chamber-like number, is specifically dedicated to his father. Built on Peggy Lees moderato cello lines and cymbal reverberation from drummer Dylan van der Schyff, the theme and variations depend on chromatic, contrapuntal harmonies from clarinetist Moore and Douglas trumpet. As the adagio theme unfolds, its given additional heft by accompaniment in broken chords from Marcus Rojas tuba.
Husband and wife Vancouverites, Lee and Van Der Schyff have recorded with the trumpeter elsewhere and are part of the faulty at the Banff [Alberta] International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music, where Douglas is director. They also play internationally and in their hometown with the pick of improv musicians. Rojas, on the faculty at New York University, is better known for his contributions to reedist Henry Threadgills bands. The only non-part-time academic, Moore, who plays bass clarinet and alto saxophone here, is a Californian turned Amsterdam resident, with a long-time tenure in Hollands influential ICP Orchestra.
A Nasty Spill, the most liberated composition here reflects that blend of classicism, folklore and jazz that characterize European ensembles like the ICP or Gianluigi Trovesis Octet. Episodic and thematic, with an underscore which sounds as if it was lifted from Minnie the Moocher, the tune features twirling clarinet lines, tuba burps, and rim shots and nerve beats from Van Der Schyff. While all this is going on Douglas unleashes triplets that could zip along mountain trails as quickly as his father could run on them. Semi-growls and slurs from the trumpet as well as a call-and-response section between the strings and higher-pitched horns characterize the final variation.
One of the most self-effacing of leaders, Douglas sometimes seems like a sideman on his own dates. He never hogs the microphone, and gives every one his or her fair shot at solo space. An outstanding arranger nonetheless, he voices the instruments in such a way that the harmonies are full and inclusive, making it sound as if a larger ensemble is playing on many of the tracks,
Mixing Romay, Latin, dance-like and brass band infections, other tunes featuring Moores liquid clarinet tone, Douglas rubato variations and Rojas tuba pedal point could be Italianized Dixieland especially when the drummer plays a shuffle. Still others, like Cannonball Run, which features the trumpeters showiest and most open-horned solo, mixes a percussion-lead Second Line Shuffle with almost formal, Europeanized alto saxophone lines wrapped within stop-time.
Drawing both on solemn devotional calmness of Ladino sounds and Anglo-Saxon understatement thats part of the brass mans heritage, several of the other numbers resemble dumps not garbage repositories but melancholy old English dances, usually in 4/4 time. Here adagio movements from the cellist are used to color these lamentations, which are kept fully grounded by a contrapuntal funereal tuba line. The matter-of-factness is such that even if the piece bears a picturesque title such as Bury Me Standing, Douglas solos, more often than not are lightly legato, not overwrought.
Anyone interested in a first-class CD that matches the best of European continuity with the freedom of the exemplary improvised music should investigate MOUNTAIN PASSAGES. Theres very little hard climbing here despite the source of the commission.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Summit Music 2. Family of the Climber 3. Gnarly Schnapps 4. Gumshoe 5. Twelve Degrees Proof 6. North Point Memorial 7. Cannonball Run 8. Palisades 9. A Nasty Spill 10. Purple Mountains Majesty 11. Off Major 12. Bury Me Standing 13. Encore: All Is Forgiven
Personnel: Dave Douglas (trumpet); Michael Moore (clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone); Marcus Rojas (tuba); Peggy Lee (cello); Dylan van der Schyff (drums)
September 19, 2005
Aan & Uit
Up to their old tricks, the 10 members of the Dutch ICP Orchestra prove once again that having a good time and swinging doesnt 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 bands 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 trumpeters Lets climb a hill provides one glimpse into the ICPs 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 isnt producing a rickety-tick vamp as if he was a member of Jelly Roll Mortons 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, doesnt 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 Mengelbergs 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 trombonists double-tonguing and the spiaccato glissandi from the strings dont exactly mesh with the concept -- nor should they.
Additionally, theres no sizzle cymbal or cowbell in earshot even on Hoagy Carmichaels 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 wasnt an altogether reverent reading when the trombonists 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 tunes purity dissolves with a staccato trombone run and a finale more appropriate for a barn dance hoedown. Then theres 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.
Mengelbergs version of Monks 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 Benninks 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, Benninks 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, its 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. Lets go to the river 5. And have a Picnic 6. Play some badminton 7. Lets 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. Lets 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)
December 6, 2004
Oh, My Dog
MYUMI PROJECT BIG BAND
Rooted: Origins of Now
Southport/Asian Improv S-SSD 0092
Performing with a mid-sized band of improvisers is widespread because it provides freedom both for the composer(s) and the players. Nine plus instruments often provide enough variations to illustrate a writers vision; and with fewer than 12 bandmates, musicians can contribute much more than if theyre mere section placeholders.
Small big bands can also be used to express radically different concepts as these skilled CDs demonstrate. Together for almost 30 years, the Dutch ICP Orchestra has featured many different soloists over time, but with laissez faire direction coming from pianist/composer Misha Mengelberg, theres a consistency there. Tatsu Aokis Myumi Project, on the other hand, is mostly a recording ensemble, put together to give flesh to the bassist/composers musical portraits of Asian American improvisers in particular and Asians in North America in general.
One of the reasons the ICP has lasted so long is Mengelbergs anarchistic view of music and refusal to assert himself as leader except by example, a strategy Duke Ellington operated with as well. Then again you wonder if Duke would have had as his closest associates and longest lasting member of the band someone like drummer Han Bennink, who often plays too loudly and seems to relish upsetting regular routines.
OH MY DOG is unique, however because its one rare instance where Bennink is forced into a secondary role. Thats because among the many exceptional soloists who now make up the ICP is cellist Tristan Honsinger. A longtime expatriate American who has cycled through the band before, not only is the cellist responsible for the linked compositions that make up the back half of the CD, but between his wild string forays -- arco and pizzicato -- and vocalizations, he makes the usually conspicuous drummer become just another one of his straightmen -- and woman.
Beginning with Oh my Deer! and compressing five tracks into a sort of mini-suite, the cellist has the band referencing many countries, styles and musical history. The first tune, for instance starts off with some laughing Classic Jazz trombone smears courtesy of Wolter Wierbos, with the sprightly melody advanced by Honsinger and violinist Mary Oliver sounding as if its being played by The New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra. Its probably versatile Ab Baars who produces the Johnny Dodds-style clarinet lines here, while Bennink reveals his inner Baby Dodds as a two-beat specialist.
A romp between Wierbos and trumpeter Thomas Heberer runs the tune right into the next that features the cellist slicing sounds out of his strings, Satchmo-high brassy notes from the trumpeter and discordant wails from the horn section. Reconstituting the ensemble as a marching band on Out back/Chickadee, Honsinger interrupts the musicians with a chorus of whistling and growls. This, in turn introduces Sparking, that seems unable to make up its mind whether its a cha cha or a mazurka. Oliver bends enough notes to send them bouncing all over the place, while Bennink indulges himself in rim shots and the trumpeter appears to presage a bullfight.
All this attains its head in the title tune where the scraped strings play one melody bisected by that pseudo marching band ensemble puffing out La Marseilles or perhaps its cousin, Ghosts. Following nonsense curses -- in Italian? -- in Dutch? -- someone replicates the sound of a dog barking as Honsinger tells the story of walking through the woods, unsure of what animal he sees. Is it oh my deer or oh my dog?
That a performance like this fits right into the CD program without an eyebrow being raised shows just what Mengelberg has created with the ICP. Various band members take on different persona during the rest of the CD, with the most impressive exhibitions of polyphonic pandemonium appearing on two group instant compositions: Travel Agent and the nearly 15½-minute climax, Happy dreams.
On the former, it almost appears as if the band is warming up, until Ernst Glerums bowed bass and fiddle intimations from Oliver lead the pianist to express himself in full Cecil Taylor keyboard-punishing mode. Vocal cries and slurred whoops from Baarss tenor cant disguise the romantic theme, which flirts with modified waltz time. As always, Bennink is banging away as if hes a little boy trying to get past a locked door, Heberer slurps out some sweet Harry James-like tones and Michael Moore provides a fruity, Earl Bostic style alto solo.
Happy dreams, on the other hand, is all plucks, purrs, growls, trills, whines and toots. The strings play staccatissimo, the trombone and saxophones pump out bent notes and switch in and out of movie matinee-style accompaniment, Mengelberg turns to low intensity playing, creating overtones so supine that even the dampers buzz. Duetting with Bennink, who shakes gong and bell tones from his kit, the pianist counters with cascading single notes and a final Chopinesque cadenza.
If OH, MY DOG is disorderly, then ROOTED is just the opposite, depending as it does on one mans -- Tatsu Aokis -- compositional conception. Japanese-born, but a resident of Chicago for nearly half his life, Aoki has established longtime playing situations with such Association for the Advancement of Creative Music as drummer Famadou Don Moye, tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson and baritone saxophonist Mwata Bowden, the last of whom is featured on this disc.
More catholic than ICP projects, this and other Asianimprov projects mix Oriental and Afro-American roots sounds with new ones created when these cultures melt into one another in North America.
Throughout, Aoki uses, and with three others plays, traditional taiko drums, using its ritualistic sound as a continuum. As early as Part One: Now, though the sound is interrupted by floating trumpet lines from the late Ameen Muhammad, best known for his association with Ernest Dawkins bands, and rhythmic swing from saxophonists Taku Akiyama and Toru Hironaka. Bowdens Aboriginal digeridoo soon adds a sound distinct from all others, eventually adding to the undercurrent as drums turn to jazz time and the sax and trumpet combine for boppish swing.
Elsewhere, as on Part Three: 1.5 Generation, a generic Asian pantatonic scale played by taku or rei bells, gives way to unvarying bass work from Hiroshi Eguchi that reconstitutes the tune as a funky foot tapper. Muhammad gracefully bends notes, Bowden honks out some gritty asides and drummer Mia Park lays on the rock-like rhythm. As the saxman and hornman continue to trade slurred, irregular tones, the unvarying taiko-led percussion beat begins to resemble that of Native American music, and violinist Jonathan Chen adds some electric manipulation.
By the same logic, while Chens violin intro on Part Two; Origin is based on traditional Chinese music, the result sounds almost Eastern European. The following, highly rhythmic bass solo has the delicacy of a kayagum, but the strength of Oscar Pettifords lines. Saxophone expositions chase each other though the piece over a walking bass line, followed by another digeridoo interlude. Wadaiko or Japanese percussion allusions arise from the massed drummers as one bassist -- Aoki likely -- produces bottleneck guitar like pulses. Finally the whole thing ends on an elongated digeridoo tone.
By the time Part Four: ... of Now, As Well arrives, youre so used to the musical disconnect, that when Yoko Noge, who is a Chicago-based blues vocalist, sings the traditional Jongara Buchi in Japanese backed by additional violin, cello and taiko accompaniment, it doesnt sound strange at all. Soon the irregular beat turns to steady jazz time and the horn section begins passing a riff around. Muhammad has a fine, brassy solo as the consolidated percussion put you in mind of primitive washboard bands at times and sophisticated mega-kit rockers at others. Before the tune ended with accelerated percussion rhythm, a disco whistle has been blown, a baritone line has snaked through the proceedings and theres been a slap-bass break and suggestions of arco filigree.
Small big bands, big ideas: Aoki and Mengelberg easily show what can be done with the right musical ideas -- and right sidepeople -- on these CDs.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Dog: 1. Write down exactly 2. A close encounter with Charles's Country Band 3. Precise dimensions and weight 4. A la Russe 5. Travel agent 6. Ham on air 7. Hand and checked luggage 8. Oh my Deer! 9. Wild turkey 10. Out back/Chickadee 11. Sparkling 12. Oh my dog! 13. Happy dreams
Personnel: Dog: Thomas Heberer (trumpet); Wolter Wierbos (trombone); Ab Baars (clarinet, tenor saxophone); Michael Moore (clarinet, alto saxophone); Mary Oliver (violin and viola); Tristan Honsinger (cello); Misha Mengelberg (piano); Ernst Glerum (bass); Han Bennink (drums)
Track Listing: Rooted: 1. Part One: Now 2. Part Two: Origin+ 3. Part Three: 1.5 Generation 4. Part Four: ... of Now, As Well* 5. Origin: Chamber Version+
Personnel: Rooted: Ameen Muhammad (trumpet, percussion); Taku Akiyama (alto saxophone); Toru Hironaka (tenor saxophone); Mwata Bowden (baritone saxophone, digeridoo); Jonathan Chen (violin, electronics); Tomoko Hayashida (cello*); Satoru Iga (bass*); Hiroshi Eguchi (bass); Tatsu Aoki (bass+, taiko); Ryan Toguri, Hide Yoshihashi and Jason Matsumoto (taiko drums); Mia Park (drums); Yoko Noge (vocal)
June 30, 2003
between the lines btl 023/EFA 10193-2
Creating impressive chamber jazz is a fiendishly difficult challenge. Play too gently and the sounds begin to resemble background music; play too aggressively and the raison dêtre- is gone. Luckily saxophonist and clarinettist Michael Moore has avoided both those pitfalls on this CD.
Of course it helps that his trio is completed by two inventive types, who never allow the parameters of a given form to mute their exuberance. American-born, long-time Dutch resident cellist Tristan Honsinger has been exhibiting his anarchistic tendencies since the 1960s and can even upset established mischief-makers like the members of Misha Mengelbergs ICP Orchestra, with whom he frequently plays. Younger Dutch keyboardist Cor Fuhler isnt content to be a fine improvising pianist. He also moonlights with electronic equipment as an eccentric DJ/turntablist and expresses himself on unique home-made inventions, like the keyolin, a two-string violin on a frame, which he plays on this set.
California born, long-time Amsterdam resident Moore is more grounded, but his reach exceeds that of most conventional chamber players -- jazz and classical. Bands he participates in, including the ICP Ork, the since disbanded Clusone 3 and his own Available Jelly, are as likely to play a song by Bob Dylan as Duke Ellington and pay homage to African as well as European and American music.
In a way, with AIR STREET, Moore and the others are extending the advances of clarinettist Jimmy Giuffre -- another Westerner who transplanted himself east -- and whose reeds-piano-bass trio despite its brief life in the 1960s has been highly influential, especially in Europe. Giuffre, though, didnt partner with the likes of Honsinger and Fuhler. One of the fascinations of the almost 66 minutes of this disc is how Moore, who wrote all but two of the tunes, manages to reign in the other two musicians exuberance for the sake of the entire project.
As early as the first track as Moore expels a legit clarinet tone and Fuhler busies himself with semi-classical, romantic piano musings, Honsinger starts audibly mumbling to himself as he plays. Soon hes grunting and banging on the cellos face and literally laughing: ha ha ha ha. Moore counters with some kazoo-like sounds and aviary honks, and Fuhler goes full bore on both Hammond organ keyboards. By the end the reedist and cellist are buzzing around like angry wasps as Fuhler produces accentuated bottom chords.
Despite using a Hammond, the keyboardist is more 16th century choirmaster Giovanni Palestrina then jazzman Johnny Hammond Smith, as he demonstrates on Still Beating. Using a swelling, near ecclesiastical drone, he gives the steady arco cello sweeps and clarinet trills a platform upon which to improvise. At times it appears as if the three are uniting to play Rock A Bye, Baby until Fuhler varies the drone with what sounds for all the world like a ringing telephone.
A whistling sax mouthpiece enlivens the title track, mixed with ghost-like atonal shrieks from the cello and some koto-like thumb picking from the pianist. Here, as the cellists mock fury continues unabated and Moore resorts to tongue slaps to get attention,
Fuhler bangs on the instruments sides and begins exploring the piano innards. He mutes the strings and presses down on the sustain pedals so that the muffled notes echo for a protracted period. Alternately, as on Nobodys Blues, when Moore and (surprisingly) Honsinger stick to the regular ranges of their instruments, Fuhler yanks out his keyolin to double stop and create the sound of a string section.
Its probably the pianists home invention that produces the flute-like string parts on De Ford, Moores tribute to harmonica whiz De Ford Bailey. Then, appropriately enough, as the strings mesh, the reedman detaches the mouthpiece from his clarinet and begins whistling through it, producing a spirit-like harmonica sound. Outside of the billy-goat whinnies the black stick produces a few times elsewhere, its probably the oddest inflection he gets from his instrument and shows just how dissonantly he could play, if he wasnt the voice -- or sound -- of moderation on this disc.
All of these strands are tied together in Honsingers Ladida. A compendium of sounds and effects, it starts with a dark, reed-biting bleat from the clarinet, that subsides into glissando trills, while the cellist plucks at his instrument like a bass guitar and the pianist sounds as if hes tuning his instrument. Soon through, the three are jointly sounding out a gigue-like pastoral melody so realistically that Honsinger conjures up the image of a cartoon violinist in the midst of playing a concerto, all rapt expression and flying curls and coat tails. The theme then downpedals into waltz time, which is just as quickly deconstructed. By the coda Moore is alternately dipping into his chalumeau register or honking like a bar-walking baritone saxist; the cellist creating legit arpeggios upon arpeggios; and Fuhler somehow Scruggs picking on his keyolin.
Looking for chameleon chamber music? Youve come to the right place.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Train Chords/Spiky-Haired Boy/Mule Standing in Field 2. Participants 3. Air Street 4. Nobodys Blues 5. Laddida 6. Basket 7. Still Beating 8. Related to Harry 9. De Ford 10. Eyes Fixed 11. Freies Geleit
Personnel: Michael Moore (clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone, bird calls); Cor Fuhler (piano, keyolin, Hammond organ); Tristan Honsinger (cello)
November 4, 2002
Bvhaast CD 1501
Foghorn Records FOGCD03
Back when the CD first came on the market, one of its heralded advantages was longer running time. No longer would creativity have to be limited to 45-odd minutes of music, abruptly bisected when one LP side ended.
Putting aside the anomaly that many pop bands still struggle to fill CDs with 10 three-minute tracks, even improvised musicians sometimes find that inspiration runs out before the time limit. What that means is that less-than-satisfying CDs of up to 75 minutes are being released that could have been classic sessions if 10 to 20 minutes had been shaved off the playing time.
Cornettist Eric Boerens SOFT NOSE is a case in point. No failure, but no masterwork either, its a respectable-enough inside/outside date by two horns and two rhythm playing a combination of originals by Boeren and Ornette Coleman. In this case, over 65 minutes of this minimal instrumentation and these tonal colors is a pretty long haul. Maybe it would have worked better if all the Coleman lines had been eliminated.
No bandwagon climber, Boeren, a longtime member of the Available Jelly band, has been involved in interpreting the American alto saxophonists compositions for more than a decade. But considering that his tunes resemble those of Colemans, there are times here when it seems that the same melody is being played over and over again in three to four minute bursts.
Calling on the combined talents of multi-woodwind player and Available Jelly leader Michael Moore, astute bassist Wilbert de Joode, who often works with clarinetist Ab Baars, and Hollands clown prince of percussion, Han Bennink, Boeren has the talent and instrumentation of Colemans classic quartet down pat. With the drummers and reedists experience in the anarchistic ICP Orchestra and his own background in rural fanfare bands, the four are able to internalize the march tempos and quasi vaudeville that highlighted many of the Texas-born saxophonists tunes.
Its no problem for a brass band graduate to play rhythmic triplets or a bugle-like vamp; to call on his extensive jazz history to slap on a Harmon mute for more lyrical passages; or to brassily gleep and beep like a frenzied Energy player when he wants. Creating trilling yakkity-sax lines, R&B honking or squeaking away on a quasi-Dixieland sounding clarinet doesnt phase Moore either, who has played many strange gigs since he left his native California to live in Holland almost 25 years ago. Furthermore, as these compositions often encompass free forms, near show music, Cool Jazz lightness, proto-freebop as well as march tempo, the drummer can show off his versatility -- but thankfully not his shtick. Foot-lifting martial beats, irregular free jazz pulses and Gene Krupa-like swing revival press rolls appear if needed. As for De Joode, hes a straightahead, pizzicato tower of strength at all times, as Charlie Haden was in the Coleman group. Yet hes also able to scrape out arco runs and create bass percussion like David Izenson, another Coleman confrere did in his time with the American saxist.
Still this compendium of effects becoming wearying in the short salvos of condensed compositions. More to the point, during the two extended numbers -- of more than 18 and more than 12 minutes respectively -- the effect is further weakened by shackling Boeren and Coleman compositions together, as well as adding -- in the former -- Eubie Blakes Memories of You. Although Moore can channel Artie Shaw on clarinet and Boeren use a cup mute for some sweet Swing, the transitions are awkward, as if the compositional vehicle was going from a dirt road onto a superhighway and back again.
Rather than this pastiche, British-based saxophonist Tony Bevan comes up with, fewer tunes and one which are more varied in tempo and color on NHAM. The five instant compositions give enough breathing space on a CD of a little more than 55½-minute duration for mutual discovery and ingenuity to be on tap as well. Unlike the Boeren Four, which have been playing as a unit for four years, this was a first meeting between two Brits -- bassist John Edwards is the other -- and two advanced Chicagoans -- trombonist Jeb Bishop and percussionist Michael Zerang.
Recorded in London just before the quartets mini-tour of England was completed, the strength of the CD shows in each musician feeling out the quirks and reflexes of the others and piling on various challenges to see what develops.
No Jazz At The Philharmonic contest of strangers, each musician has had some contact with at least another one of the four before this date. Tenor and bass saxophonist Bevan, who leads a British trio with Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders, had played and recorded with Bishop and Zerang in Chicago a years earlier. Zerang, who has played with musicians as varied as Chicago veteran tenor man Fred Anderson and Swedish reedist Mats Gustafsson, has worked in a trio with Bishop and bassist Kent Kessler, while both he and the trombonist are part of German saxophonist Peter Brötzmanns Tentet. Bishops experience also included membership in saxophonist Ken Vandermarks quintet, while Edwards has worked with other impressive saxists like Evan Parker and Elton Dean.
Although there are some march tempos on display here, this is much more a free improv session than Boerens disc, with the only signpost for comparison, the 1960s New York Art Quartet with saxist John Tchicai and trombonist Roswell Rudd. Bishop whose tongue flutters and growls frequently suggest that older bone man is in good company, few contemporary innovative brass stylists can escape Rudds influence.
At the same time this is no tribute record. The conception is transmogrification not emulation. On the nearly 11-minute Relics and elsewhere, for instance, Zerang is as apt to sound a doorbell peal from his cow bell for emphasis, than play elsewhere on his kit, while buzzing bass lines and colored noises being pushed through the horns have the same legitimacy as more conventional soloing would. Here Edwards bows up a storm before Bishops elongated slide pitches give way to waves of bitonality as the trombonist sounds several notes at once. Bevans monster sax makes its appearance as well, almost chomping through the foliage as it takes centrestage. Using circular breathing, honks and trills, the reedist produces note flurries that are usually likened to bird in smaller horns, but resemble donkey brays from his instrument of choice. Finally adagio, Bevan ends the tune with an elongated honk that takes up most of the available soundfield.
No tribute to crooner Crosby, Bing is instead a slow-moving showcase for the lockstep meshing of Bishops plunger tones and what sounds like Bevan on ascending and descending tenor saxophone runs. With a strong pizzicato undertow and accents and suggestions from every part of the drummers rig, Edwards and Zerang are in constant motion, as much a part of propelling the composition as the front line.
Almost 23 minutes long, the title track, which celebrates a gig in -- and an old joke about -- Cheltenham that apparently creates mirth in the United Kingdom, serves as the sessions centre. True to their respective cultures, Bishop, plunger mute in place, darts in and out of the themes like a possum, while Bevan on chirping tenor, burrows inside them like a hedgehog. Matching cries and trills, the two suggest the mammals at the height of nocturnal playfulness. Meanwhile Zerang produces constant drum rolls and Edwards slaps his bass strings.
Soon the trombonist is tonguing deep into his mouthpiece or clipping off staccato slide runs as Edwards bounces his bow onto his strings for more of a percussive sound and Zerang turns to brushes and cymbal movements. Splitting apart and joining together as they improvise, Bevan and Bishop, to extend the animal metaphors, sometimes work like a tandem carriage team or speed off like racing fillies. Unobtrusively Zerang quietly changes tempos several times, speeding it up at one point with drum work that sounds like the clip clop of horses hooves. Languidly decreasing in speed and volume, space appears for Edwards arco bass thrusts and the drummers speedy percussion stresses and cymbal scratches. Finally all this gives way to rolling split tones and smears from the trombonist, tongue slaps, false fingering and reverberating reed whistles from the saxophonist and ends with drum stick upon drum stick punishment.
Two quartet sessions and two examples of a mixing European and American musicians are showcased on two discs. But the lesson seems to be that appropriately timed free improv wins out over truncated or protracted compositions -- at least in these circumstances.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Soft: 1. Soft nose 2. Ciz 3. Mr & Mrs People 4. Moon Inhabitants/Memo/Memories of You/Soft nose 5. For Rosa 6. As we see fit 7. Bosch/Alpha 8. Chips 9. Charmes 10. Swizzle 11. Eos 12. I heard it over the radio
Personnel: Soft: Eric Boeren (cornet); Michael Moore (alto saxophone, clarinet, alto clarinet, contralto clarinet); Wilbert de Joode (bass); Han Bennink (drums)
Track Listing: 1. Nham: 1. Running with scissors 2. Relics 3.Scraps 4.nham 5. Bing
Personnel: Nham: Jeb Bishop (trombone); Tony Bevan (tenor and bass saxophone); John Edwards (bass); Michael Zerang (drums, percussion)
September 16, 2002
MARTIN FONDSE OKTEMBLE
Bvhaast CD 1401
Add the name of Martin Fondse to the short list of composer/arrangers who are able to create a multi-part suite with sections that are melancholy without being mawkish and celebratory without being frivolous.
Written to honor Fondses deceased twin sister, ERE IBEJI, is based on the language and rituals of the Yoruba people in Africa, who use the ere ibjeii or carved twin figures to bridge the gap between the living and the dead and the seen and unseen world.
In the 13 compositions here, the Dutch composer uses his 10-year-old, 10-member Oktemble in a similar fashion. The delicacy and voicing of some tunes brings to mind similar low-key work for comparable ensembles led by Northamericans Teddy Charles and Gil Evans. Conversely, the sense of fun that radiates from other pieces relates to the jocund musical expressions of Europeans such as Italian Gianluigi Trovesi or fellow Dutchman Willem Breuker.
Fondse, who also teaches composition and leads jazz and improvisation workshops, shows his American influences most strongly on Kehinde, with some Lee Morgan-style trumpeting from Eric Vloeimans and hard bop drumming from Pieter Bast. Vloeimans, who has worked with American big band colorists like Bob Brookmeyer and Maria Schneider and in smaller groups with Italian bassist Furio Di Castri and British pianist John Taylor, easily moves between open horned triple tonguing that morphs into horse neighing, and growling split tones here.
Despite its title, which is in Yoruba, as are the names of all the other tunes, Ibeji also appears to celebrate rock-ribbed Americana. This praise song for twins strong right-handed, classical style piano theme is interrupted by Ernst Reijsegers virtuoso cello work. Probably the best-known soloist here following his stints in the ICP Orchestra and Clusone Trio, the cellist introduces a touch of atonality to his solo as he instantaneously switches from strumming his instrument so that it sounds like a blues guitar to bowing it like a C&W fiddle. Similarly Ejire, a scraped cello and piano duet, has an infectious, folksy melody borne on glissando string flourishes. But its a melody that seems to be Western American or European not African.
Later, baroque intimations issue from the cello on Beji, Beija La, which features the sound of the horn section played off against Fondses piano. This five-minute piece also contains what appears to be a through-composed theme featuring the clip clop of cowbell and drums joined with unison clarinet and soprano saxophone.
Musicologists has always noted a connection between Yoruba praise ritual and early jazz and this is made most clear on Taiyewo, the CDs longest tune, which translates as the celebratory come taste life. Here the twined saxophone lines of Miguel Boelens and Mete Erker work in perfect counterpoint as one or the other probes the skies. With simple, but effective piano chording linking muted but distinct background contributions from the rest of the horns, German trombonist Nils Wogram then moves to the foreground. Wogram, whose experience encompasses a quartet with Russian-American pianist Simon Nabatov, at different times comes across like a combination of urbane, melodic Lawrence Brown with Duke Ellington and gutbucket plunger Al Grey with Count Basie.
If there is one clinker here, though, its Louis Mhlanga singing of Abiku, a poem by Wole Soyinka. Unlike the other musicians who besides Wogram and American woodwind player Michael Moore are all Dutch, Mhlanga is really African, from Zimbabwe. But his heavy accent somehow inadvertently reduces the words to sound, while his soft-spoken delivery seems to owe more to California vocalists like Michael Franks than anyone living near the Yorubas home in Nigeria, Benin and Togo.
All in all, despite its leitmotif, ERE IBEJI is impressive because of what Fondse does with the conception, not how true he is to its source. Pieces like Oriki subtitled song of praise in honor of twins may get their titles from Africa, but the result is pure jazz. Blowtorch saxophone solos and stratospheric trumpet barrages here are certainly not from the African tradition and when the composers version of 19th century drawing room piano rhythmically surges forward it turns to so-called American Black classical music, not anything else.
Fondse bookends his achievement with a first and final composition both subtitled Inhale/Exhale. They provide the perfect frame for an epic session that should awaken the world beyond Holland to another deep-thinking composer.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. EMI I: Inhale/Exhale 2. Ibeji 3. EMI II: Evanescent 4. Kehinde 5. Emi III: Silent Respiration 6. Beji, Beija La 7. Abiku 8. EMI IV: The Joy of Living 9. Ejire 10. Taiyewo 11. EMI V: Lamentation 12. Oriki 13. EMI VI: Inhale/Exhale
Personnel: Eric Vloeimans (trumpet); Nils Wogram (trombone); Michael Moore (clarinet and bass clarinet); Miguel Boelens (soprano and alto saxophone); Mete Erker (tenor and soprano saxophones); Martin Fondse (piano); Ernst Reijseger (cello); Eric van der Westen (bass); Pieter Bast (drums, vibes); Louis Mhlanga (vocals)
August 5, 2002
Buzz ZZ 76012
Comparisons are odious, but if anyone could be characterized as the Thelonious Monk of Europe it would be Dutch pianist/composer Misha Mengelberg. Headman of the little recorded Instant Composers Pool Orchestra, he's also the theoretician behind the creative musical irony which underlines much of what we know as post modern Dutch --and by extension -- European jazz.
Suddenly, though, we have two ways to appreciate Mengelberg's art, discs that could be the 1990s versions of MONK'S MUSIC and THELONIOUS HIMSELF. In fact, on the orchestra CD, you could even say that the pianist has his own Art Blakey in long-time drummer-collaborator Han Bennink and, to stretch the point even further, his own John Coltrane in saxophonist/clarinetist An Baars.
But comparisons can only go so far. Mengelberg can merely be compared to Monk because like Thelonious he never imitates anyone else. A 65 year old European, he's steeped in the classical tradition that naturally inhabit his creations, the same way gospel songs and stride piano are sewn into Monk's musical fabric.
This is more obvious on SOLO, where a certain half-serious Continental formalism creeps into some of the performances, where it gets mixed with an early Tin Pan Alley sensibility. "Koekoek", for instance, is much closer to a 18th century jig than a 1920s slow drag and "Wok Afhaal" almost sounds like a piano lesson gone mad, with Mengelberg leaping from the very highest to the very lowest keys of the instrument. "Knebus", on the other hand -- although much more outrightly harmonious -- resembles Monk's takes on early 20th century pop songs.
Is the intentional literal heavy-handedness on "Salz" intended as a salute to Monk? Maybe. In particular sections there the pianist almost sounds as if he's physically bending the keyboard to follow his ideas. Still, it resembles Thelonious' conception a lot more than "Bill Evans En Dàn" sounds like Bill Evans. And what about "Boezimann"? Although it look as if it's named for Mengelberg's one time trio partner, saxophonist Peter Brötzmann, the improvisations here move back and forth from blues to pseudo show tune music, not exactly the German saxophonist's forté.
Possibly it's best not to try to understand Mengelberg too quickly, but instead listen to the album repeatedly to probe its nuances.
The situation get a little more complicated on JUBILEE VARIA, since Mengelberg is not only a soloist and composer, but also the ringmaster of a circus tent full of distinctive -- and pretty anarchistic -- personalities. Consider the trumpet asides and consistent string undertones that sound like a buzzing refrigerator which underline the most tender passages on "A Bit Nervous Jealous? Me?" or cellist Reijseger suddenly deciding his instrument is a guitar and starting to pluck it that way on "Next Subject". Later on the same tune Wierbos injects a few horse whinnies into his solo before concluding with some velvety phrases. Moreover are those snatches of a Kurt Weill opera coming from the strings on the same tune, or is it a Dutch version of a hoe-down? Here at last Baars gets to let loose on a bombastic Trane-ride, but the explosions are on the traditional clarinet, not the modern jazz-associated saxophone.
Plus there's always Bennink with whom to contend. Rhythm may be his business, but that doesn't mean that there has to be any particular pattern other than his own talents to what he plays. Some might even claim that he goes out of his way to confuse the frontline with odd emphasis and unexpected snare drum attacks. Thus, since the soloists themselves are told to only use Mengelberg's tunes as guides for their own desires -- this is the instant composers pool after all -- something like "Rollo I" may end up barely resembling the Teutonic tango melody that Heberer is trying to play at the beginning.
The composer himself is guilty of sonic subterfuge as well. Note the crafty, out-of-left-field accents he tosses into "Rollo I" and how he feints, fades and frolics when facing Bennink alone on "Jubilee Varia 1".
Like Monk's music in general, anything put on disc by Mengelberg and the ICP Orchestra is a rare commodity that should be treasured. Discover that yourself.
-- Ken Waxman
Solo: Track Listing: 1. Boodschappenlijst IV 2. Koekoek Richard Wagner Gewidmet: 3. Reef 4. Knebus 5. Salz 6. Ik Heb Een Turquoise Muts 7. Wok Afhaal 8. Bill Evans En Dàn 9. Boezimann
Personnel: Misha Mengelberg (piano)
Jubilee: Track Listing: Jubilee Varia Suite: 1. 2. 3. Jealousy Suite: 4. A Bit Nervous Jealous? Me? 5. Next Subject 6. Rollo I
Personnel: Thomas Herberer (trumpet); Wolter Wierbos (trombone); Ab Baars (clarinet, tenor saxophone); Michael Moore (clarinet, alto saxophone); Ernst Reijseger, Tristan Honsinger (cello); Misha Mengelberg (piano); Ernst Glerum (bass); Han Bennink (drums)
September 20, 2000