The mostly self-taught saxophonist of The Netherlands Luc Houtkamp reveals a style spawned in the freedom of the 1960s but beholden to no one period. Houtkamp, born 1953, has collaborated with Han Bennink, Ernst Reisjeger, Jon Rose, and Eugene Chadbourne. Last year he was featured on the American release Luc Houtkamp In Chicago (Entropy Stereo) along with bassist Kent Kessler and drummer Michael Zerang. The Chicago disc revealed a thoroughly modern ensemble sound, whereas his self-produced series, entitled The Field Recordings for his X-OR label, tend toward experimental, improvisational music. The Field Recordings are produced in a limited edition of 500 and are highly personal statements from the outer edges of creative music.
The first in the series Live In Geneve & Luzern is a solo saxophone session recorded in 1994. Switching between alto and tenor saxophone Houtkamp works his extended horn techniques through several long and short pieces which, although free, have a thread of composed thought running throughout. His composition “Towards A Definition Of Flow, part 1” is performed as the first and last track. Both versions, one at 26 the other at 17 minutes, state and restate a repetitive theme. Houtkamp’s saxophone recites a multi-phonic chant full of slap-tongue, chirps, clucks, and wobble. You can’t dance to it, but his repetitive devises breed a familiarity and thus a satisfying experience. On other tracks he works high register squeals and vocal inflection upon his horn. Houtkamp has the ability to flex his approach through dynamics and speed changes that keep this 64 minutes interesting throughout.
Session number 6 is a single-track trio recording that lasts nearly 74 minutes. Joining Houtkamp are pianist Fred van Hove (also on accordion) and percussionist Gert-Jean Prins, a long-time collaborator, who doubles on electronics. Van Hove gained fame from his 60’s and 70’s work in Peter Brotzmann’s wild, free jazz bands. He played on the famed Machine Gun (FMP 1969), last year’s reissued Nipples (Unheard Music Series 2000/1969) and has been recently heard on the enormous two-disc solo record Flux (Potlatch 1998). Unlike the solo session above, this trio reacts to each other at times with conflict, at other with good natured call-and-response. This marathon of sound advances without pace at times, solos rise and are given space and collaborations bubble. Some of this works, other parts don’t.
The Duo Recordings, assembled between 1993 and 1998, deliver a variety of musical options, human and non-human. Houtkamp’s “Duo For Man Alone” is a piece recorded with IMISAM II, the interactive computer program he authored in which software’s disklavier responds to Houtkamp’s tenor. While the computer never initiates, its accompaniment can easily pass for human. Let’s not tell Han Bennink about this, he might never play with Misha Mengelberg again.
The remaining duets with carbon life forms offer an array of sound. Trombonist George Lewis goes toe-to-toe with Houtkamp’s slap-tongue surges as does saxophonist Ned Rothenberg. The sessions have quieter moments too, surprisingly with the percussionist duos. Instead of wrestling, Gert-Jan Pris rakes his timpani as Houtkamp finds the same key and Martin Blume finds a mostly quiet common ground of bells and mallets in which to work. There is some beautiful guitar a la Derek Bailey work from John Russell. The diversity of sound is key to the success of this recording.
Houtkamp will appeal to creative music fans of such artists as Mats Gustafsson, Evan Parker, and Jack Wright. His field recordings can be found at X-OR Records .