The Flatlands Collective is a small big band in the Chicago tradition of various Ken Vandermark ensembles. Its leader, saxophonist Jorrit Dijkstra is Dutch, which confuses the clear picture, in that this music is at times more folkishly American than American music.
But then again, this whole Chicago revival of jazz has had deep European roots.
The saxophonist builds this ensemble around Chicago players clarinetist James Falzone, trombonist Jeb Bishop (formerly of the Vandermark 5), Fred Lonberg-Holm, cellist and newest V5 member, along with drummer Tim Mulvenna, and bassist Jason Roebke.
The music is a satisfying combination of composed and free jazz sounds. The music draws heavily on American forms of composition: cartoon music, chamber jazz, minimalism, folk, and circus rhythms. In and around these compositions, players are allowed to improvise, seemingly, not on the theme, but in an outward manner. But we are not talking noise here; these are determined artists making some very interesting sounds. The beauty here is Dijkstra's ability to organize these sounds into coherent passages.
Elsewhere, like on "Alp Doodler, the music plays like a soundtrack to an animated detective series. Dijkstra's passion for electronics is displayed on a vintage analog synthesizer as he trades sounds with strings on the title track.
But, this disc is more inside than out. The Collective has a strong sense of song and a responsibility to carry listeners along for the ride.
Personnel: Jorrit Dijkstra: alto saxophone, lyricon, analog synthesizer; James Falzone: clarinet; Jeb Bishop: trombone; Fred Lonberg-Holm: cello; Jason Roebke: bass; Tim Mulvenna: drums.