dOeK Festival #9: Amsterdam, The Netherlands, December 4, 2010
Mix and Match #1
The first set of Mix and Match sessions brought together a variety of configurations, ranging from duo to quartet, and from the semi-regularly configured to more unorthodox contexts.
Available Jelly saxophonist Michael Moorean American expat living in The Netherlands for the past three decadesand The Thing's drummer (and ubiquitous star in his own right, a frequent collaborator with Ken Vandermark, Peter Brotzmann, and a member of the longstanding Scandinavian group, Atomic), Paal Nilssen-Love came together for a short encounter that focused on the purity of Moore's tone and the value of motivic development in free improv. It also demonstrated why both players are so highly regarded in this space: the listening quotient was high, making the twists and turns taken by the duo, if not exactly predictable, then at least understandable, in the context of where they were going being based on where they were coming from.
From left: Cor Fuhler, Oren Marshall, Mats Gustafsson
More eminently visceral was a quartet combining Available Jelly's tubaist, Oren Marshall, and drummer Michael Vatcher (another three decade American expat), The Gap's Cor Fuhler (on piano), and The Thing's Mats Gustafssonwhose constant physical motion, as he tilted his tenor saxophone up and down, mirrored the sounds emanating from his horn. This was, at times, the musical equivalent of spontaneous combustion, as Gustafsson proved here, and throughout the evening, to be a player of near-relentless energy, but again without sacrificing the ears needed to make even the most reckless abandon somehow find its way to oblique form.
A third collaboration, this time between two bassists (The Thing's Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, The Gap's Jan Roder) and two drummers (The Ambush Party's Marcos Baggiani and The Gap's Steve Heather), may have seemed like it would emphasize the low end of the sonic spectrum, but with Baggiani playing as much harmonica as he did percussion, there were upper end sonics as well...and, with Baggiani sporting strange, brass-like headgear, the levity factor was also in full flight. Håker Flaten swirled his hand around the strings while Roder bowed furiously, as Heather and Baggiani pulled textures from their kits and sundry extras that were, quite simply, completely unexpected.
From left: Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, Marcos Baggiani, Jan Roder
Finally, Håker Flaten, Wollo's World pianist Kris Defoort, Available Jelly trumpeter Eric Boeren, and Ambush Party cellist Harald Austbø, and saxophonists Natalio Sued came together for a more curious exploration. Boeren's muted horn and Sued's long, low tones created a gentler backdrop for the near-chamber combination of bass and cello.
The final set, before a two-hour break for dinner, was delivered by Available Jelly, dOeK Festival's group with the longest history, having formed nearly three decades ago, when reedman Michael Moore and drummer Michael Vatcher emigrated from the United States to The Netherlands. The group's lineup has changedin fact, only Moore and Vatcher remain from the group that released its self-titled, Ramboy debut in 1984, and the quintet's most recent recruit, tubaist Oren Marshall, was cited as having joined the group "about six hours ago." Still, the underlying premise of Available Jelly remained.
From left: Oren Marshall, Walter Wierbos, Eric Boeren Michael Moore, Michael Vatcher
Unlike The Ambush Party's completely spontaneous music, Available Jelly does work with structureat times, even complex form. But the improvisational prowess of its current lineup, which also includes trumpeter Eric Boeren and trombonist Walter Wierbos (two of the dOeK collective's five founding fathers), meant that even predictable constructs were delivered with unpredictable behavior. The group's music was almost encyclopedic in its referencing of jazz history; with such a brass-heavy frontlinetuba replacing acoustic bass, and no chordal instrumentAvailable Jelly sometimes sounded how the early jazz of New Orleans might have, had it been twisted and turned, pushed and pulled, and sent through a dense prism.
The groups most recent release, Bilbao's Song (Ramboy, 2004), is a quirky collection of original music and idiosyncratic takes on music by Hoagy Carmichael, Burt Bacharach and Kurt Weill, and the group dipped even further back into its early repertoire with "Wigwam," from Monuments (Ramboy, 1993), and forward with plenty of new music like "Chill, Chill Sun," a particularly beautiful piece where the horns delivered a melody in a staggered fashion, to turn its simple melody into a rich, vertical harmony, with Vatcher's bowed saw adding to the otherworldly landscape.
Amongst a group as accomplished as this, where the collective whole transcended the sum of its individual parts, Marshall and Wierbos were particularly noteworthy, if only for the trombonist's stunningly ability to mine the truly vocal nature of his instrument, and the tubaist's surprising timbral breadth. Free improvisation blended with strong written music, with sometimes the subtlest of cues signaling the shift from one to the other, to create a short set that was, for those hearing the group for the first time, a compelling reason to make sure they didn't make it their last.