Ottawa Jazz Festival Day 7: June 27, 2007
As outstanding as Mengelberg's charts were (including an idiosyncratic take on Duke Ellington, in sharp contrast to UMO Jazz Orchestra's performance on Day Five), and as strong as every band member was, it was hard to take one's eyes off Bennink, who combined virtuosity and entertaining showmanship. If there's one musician to define what New Dutch Swing is, it's Bennink. Moving practically instantaneously from using the kit as an orchestral instrument to swinging hard, he delivered a relentlessly creative and energetic solo towards the end of the performance that may answer the question "How does he do that?" on many drummers' minds but won't go any further in helping them to actually reproduce it. Bennink would rapidly put one leg on his kit (then, athletically, quickly switch feet, a remarkable feat for anyone, let alone a 65- year-old man), using it to change the pitch of the drum it was on, not to mention provide yet another object for the intrepid drummer to hit. Yelling out at times, he bounced a drumstick off the floor, hollering "Got it," "Got it again" and, finally, "Didn't get it," before moving on.
Mengelberg, on the other hand, stayed mostly in the background, leaving most of the solo space to his fellow musicians. When he did solo, it was spare and abstruse. With everyone in ICP, there's no denying each musician's understanding of both jazz and classical traditions, the entire stylistic spectrums and chronologies of both musics. But it's that third component, the absurdity, that made ICP's performance another festival highlight, a resoundingly convincing demonstration that it's possible to challenge and entertain at the same time.
Tomorrow: Dr. Lonnie Smith and Dhafer Youssef.
Visit ICP Orchestra and the TD Canada Trust Ottawa International Jazz Festival on the web.