Globe Unity: Holland
Ab Baars/Ig Henneman/Misha Mengelberg
Dutch jazz has been around since the 1920s and changed radically in the aftermath of World War II and Nazi Occupation. Today, there is great variety and vibrancy in this country of just over six million people's jazz though its avant-garde scene is best known.
The father of that arena is pianist Misha Mengelberg, the inscrutable co-leader of the Instant Composers Pool (ICP). He, in contrast to ICP partner/drummer Han Bennink, has always presented a different face to the humor most listeners expect from Dutch improvised music and his recordings away from ICP have been relatively infrequent, the most recent being a trio session with countrypersons Ab Baars (tenor sax, clarinet and shakuhachi) and Ig Henneman (viola). The latter are a longtime couple and duet so Sliptong, a small type of fish the trio had for dinner before this improvised session, has moments where Mengelberg is a "derde wiel" and others where he drives the improvisations like a favorite uncle at a family meal. The sparseness and lack of melodrama may surprise many.
Baars makes an appearance on the latest recording from ICP trombonist Wolter Wierbos, Deining. This live recording taken from several July 2006 concerts on an Amstel houseboat also includes other Dutch and international improvisers in duets with Wierbos: bassist Wilbert de Joode, Bennink, violist Mary Oliver (ex-pat from California) and Surinamese guitarist Franky Douglas. The tracks with de Joode (7 of 18) are perhaps of most interest to fans of prototypical European improv while the few pieces with Baars are more elemental in their soundscape and Bennink's contributions are unsurprisingly the most manic. Mengelberg is here in spirit with two versions (with either clarinet or viola) of his "Peer's Counting Song."
Pianist Michiel Braam is tangentially related to the ICP world, employing players like Baars and Wierbos in his bands. His two main vehicles have been the long-standing Trio BraamDeJoodeVatcher and his large ensemble Bik Bent Braam. A more recent project has been his Wurli Trio. Apparently Braam discovered the instrument while in music school and playing in pop bands in the early '80s. The group is filled out by musicians with whom Braam doesn't play regularlyelectric bassist Pieter Douma and drummer Dirk-Peter Kölschand Non-Functionals! is their second album, following a 2006 debut. Braam is an iconoclast in a community full of them and this album is a take on many soul-jazz traditions, not entirely serious but never irreverent. You might not even realize it's Dutch, which would probably please Braam very much.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Leng; Sliptong; Mizu-iro; Fishwalk; zee-engel; Is that Solly?; Misha started whistling; Oystercatchers.
Personnel: Ab Baars: tenorsax, clarinet, shakuhachi; Ig Henneman: viola; Misha Mengelberg: piano.
Tracks: Aan Lager Wat; Op Stoom Raken; Voor de Wind; Loefzijde; In Het Want; Fuik; Visions; Buitengaats; Peer's Counting Song; Dageraad; Innermission; Op de Werf; De Drie Gebroeders; Geusje; Hoog Aan de Wind; Peer's Counting Song; Ma; Overstag.
Personnel: Wolter Wierbos: trombone; Ab Baars: tenor saxophone, no: kan; Wilbert de Joode: double bass; Mary Oliver: viola; Han Bennink: snare drum, toys; Franky Douglas: electric guitar.
Personnel: Michiel Braam: Wurlitzer 200A; Pieter Douma: acoustic bass, electric bass; Dirk: Peter: Kölsch drums, all possible soundobjects.