The Houdini's are in masterful form for this live date from the Kiama Jazz Festival in Australia. They start the proceedings off with a bang with the lively "Headlines," by pianist Edwin Hoorweg. After a high-spirited unison head, tenor man Barend Middelhoff rips through a burning solo; once the band returns to the twisty head, the crowd is thoroughly roused. The unison heads are tortuous and impressive all through the disc: see especially "Don't Abuse Our Patience" and "No Sweat, Big Deal." But on the portentous "Too Heavy to Carry," a showcase for pianist Hoorweg, as well as other tracks like the jaunty "Kickin' in the Frontwindow," the most remarkable aspect of the head is the delicate dynamic and rhythmic blend of the horns - a kind of interaction that can only be perfected with painstaking labor and repetition.
The second track, "Single Breath Orgy," is a downshift, but is no less effective, and showcases the Cherryish/Hubbardian talents of trumpeter Angelo Verploegen - not to mention the titanic blues sensibility of altoist (and this tracks' composer) Rolf Delfos, whose outrageous solo here sings, swings, and stings. The band's sound is massive here and throughout; even though the Houdini's are only six players, they consistently achieve the sound of a much larger ensemble. Verploegen gets another chance to orate and exhort on "Don't Abuse," and he makes the most of it.
The longest track, the modalish "No Sweat, Big Deal," provides the best opportunity to hear the soloists at work. Each is an accomplished post-bop jazzer, with a clear awareness of the developments and innovations of free jazz - which they incorporate with unerring musical sensibility.
Before closing I cannot neglect to mention the roiling Blakeyesque drummer Bram Wijland. A treasure. An excellent mainstream jazz disc.
Track listing: Headlines / Single Breath Orgy / Don't Abuse Our Patience / Too Heavy to Carry / No Sweat, Big Deal / Bouncin' Mario / Gone / Kickin' in the Frontwindow / No More Yesterdays.
Angelo Verploegen, tpt; Rolf Delfos, as; Barend Middelhoff, ts; Erwin Hoorweg, p; Marius Beets, b; Bram Wijland, d.