Cor Fuhler: Corkestra
Though a significant number of fluxus and neo-dada artists were in fact American and American expatriates, the penchant for obtuse, referential destructuralization did not catch on in American jazz as much as it did in European improvised music. One has only to leaf through the Fluxus Codex to find Misha Mengelberg and Peter Brotzmann's names among the participants. Perhaps it is because the rebuilding of postwar Europe required an art built on destabilization and change as a response to almost immobilizing political atmospheres, whereas civil rights and Vietnam required a different sort of engagement among the artists on this side of the pond. Holland has seemingly had the strongest tradition of dadaism among its improvisers, as the theatrics and contradictions in Mengelberg and Han Bennink's Instant Composers' Pool and the Willem Breuker Kollektif exemplify. This tradition seems almost as old as Coltrane's modes in Dutch improvisation, and a significant number of recent composers and improvisers have taken cues from this lineage.
Pianist and composer Cor Fuhler is well-entrenched in the contemporary Dutch jazz community, having studied with Mengelberg in addition to his conservatory training and work with luminaries like Bennink, Maarten Altena, and the ICP. Corkestra is a large-ensemble hybrid of Fuhler's more jazz-oriented work (such as his trio with Bennink and ICP bassist Wilbert de Joode) and his less idiomatic improvised work (with analog electronic outfit the Flirts, for example). Joined by ICP stalwart reedmen Ab Baars and Tobias Delius and bassist Wilbert de Joode, guitarist Andy Moor (the Ex), percussionists Michael Vatcher and Tony Buck, classical flutist Anne La Berge and Nora Mulder's cimbalom (a large Hungarian dulcimer), Fuhler's Corkestra certainly has a wide sonic palette.
Fuhler is not just a pianist, howeverhis piano is rarely heard without augmentation from various preparatory tools and contact mikes, and is sometimes replaced by analog keyboards, melodicas, electric lamellaphone, and a pervasively raspy clavinet that makes Mike Ratledge sound like a cathedral organist. One of Fuhler's hallmarks is the merging of sounds in such a way as to make their origins require a sleuth. Prepared piano, dulcimer, abused guitar, and the array of percussion that Vatcher and Buck employ make for a stew of plucks, thumps, and odd sounds that nevertheless give a slippery, loose sense of time, and bring the music a percussive yet sinewy swing (witness the carrying on behind Baars' solo on "Zand I" for starters). Rhythms rise from the clangs and indeterminate masses sometimes gradually, often at the steady hand of de Joode, whose insistent, angular basslines gird what might otherwise turn out a mess ("Zwerfduin"). Yet, like forebear Theo Loevendie, Fuhler's music remains poised and logical, its humor that of a lengthy, if somewhat surrealist smirk rather than the slapstick high jinks that pervade ICP, Breuker, and their ilk.
One might pause to wonder what makes offbeat irony and sonic pastiche necessarily in line with the jazz tradition, but only for a second: jazz might merely be dressed-up blues without, say, Sonny Rollins' unexpected thematic references and dry wit, or the Ayler brothers' seemingly garish hybrids of European marches and instrumental glossolalia. It is this quality of multileveled experience that gives jazz its depth, and Cor Fuhler is well versed in this fact.
Tracks: Zand I; Triangle Sun; Green Peppers; Zwerfduin; Lollipops/Woestijntrol; Dromedaris; Cosinus; Zand II; Zout I; Rockpool; Water Supply.
Personnel: Cor Fuhler (prep-p, clav, org); Ab Baars (ts, cl); Tobias Delius (ts, cl); Anne La Barge (fl); Andy Moor (el-g); Nora Mulder (cimbalom); Wilbert de Joode (b); Tony Buck (perc); Michael Vatcher (perc, saw, dulcimer).