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Dutch Jazz & World Meeting 2010: December 1-3, 2010

John Kelman By

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December 2: Benjamin Herman Quartet

Just as legendary American groups like Miles Davis' mid-1960s quintet, or fusion groups like pianist Chick Corea's Return to Forever encouraged the emergence of new leaders, Dutch pianist Michiel Borstlap's group of the mid-1990s was the starting point for a number of artists who have since gone on to become significant names in their own right. In fact, Borstlap's unique tribute to '70s fusion supergroup Weather Report, Body Acoustic (Universal, 1999), and his earlier Sextet Live! (Challenge, 1995), both featured a number of then-emergent artists who, by their association with Borstlap's greater visibility in his subsequent duo work with British drummer Bill Bruford on In Two Minds< (Summerfold, 2008) and his own remarkable tribute, Monk (Gramercy Parki, 2009), have since achieved considerable international exposure.

From left: Joost Patocka Ernst Glerum, Benjamin Herman and Anton Goudsmit

Recent releases by saxophonist Yuri HoningWhite Tiger (Jazz in Motion, 2010), and trumpeter Eric Vloeimans (Heavens Above! (Challenge, 2009), with the electric Gatecrash quartet playing at DJ&WM the following night) have both received their share of press, and the same can be said for saxophonist Benjamin Herman, whose Misha Mengelberg tribute, Hypochristmastreefuzz (Dox, 2010), augments the original 2008 studio recording with a second disc containing a live performance from the North Sea Jazz Festival the following year.

Herman's DJ&WM performance at Melkweg's The Max—the venue's largest room—focused largely on music from Hypochristmastreefuzz, with the same core trio of bassist Ernst Glerum and drummer Joost Patocka, and the complete participation of guitarist Anton Goudsmit, who appeared on two of Hypochristmastreefuzz's studio tracks, as well as the North Sea set. It was a set high on style, but also rich with substance.

With Herman a previous winner of the VPRO / Boy Edgar Prize (The Netherlands' Grammy), Glerum a winner in 2009, and Goudsmith receiving this year's award, it was easy to see why this all-star quartet of critically and popularly acclaimed musicians was so ear-catchingly accessible, despite sacrificing absolutely nothing to make it so. The quartet swung, it grooved...it got, at times, downright crazy, all within the context of freewheeling music that traveled from '60s swing to the largely free-improv of "Arm Wiel (Poor Wheel)," a song dedicated to, well, a donut. The impeccably dressed Herman—no surprise, given he also won Esquire Magazine's 2008 prize for "Best Dressed Man"—blew with the confident strength, occasional lyricism and bop-driven extroversion, and with "Brozziman" (dedicated to Peter Brötzmann), a power and volume shocking for his relatively diminutive alto saxophone, bolstered by Patocka's hard-rocking go-go beat on a song that sounded like something from Quentin Tarantino movie.

Goudsmit—a guitarist who seems to have suddenly lept onto the scene despite being around for decades—was also voted, by his fellow musicians, as The Netherland's best pop guitarist for 2010, an award that might be curious were it not for the guitarist's remarkable melding of jazz-centricities with rock energy and, at times, rock volume. If Bill Frisell were a raving extrovert, he might sound something like Goudsmit, whose stage presence was eminently charismatic as he demonstrated effortless virtuosity on a blonde, hollow-body Gretsch guitar that's largely atypical in jazz, but from which Goudsmit pulled a bevy of textures ranging from volume-swelled and delay-drenched chords to gritty overdrive and crunching power chords.

It was a tremendously exciting set that also included the gypsy-driven, Pink Panther-esque "Do the Roach," which not only got the crowd going, it set the stage perfectly for The Ploctones set, next up in the same hall.


December 2: The Ploctones

After a short break, Goudsmit was back, but this time with his own group, The Ploctones. Goudsmit may be the primary writer for the group, but it's clearly still a collective. The follow-up to 050 (Challenge, 2009), being prepared for release in 2011, is a case in point: Goudsmit wrote all the tunes, but he left the task of choosing the best takes and mastering to his band mates: saxophonist Ephraïm Trujillo; bassist Jeroen Vierdag and drummer Martijn Vink, who was heard earlier in the evening with the Jasper Blom Quartet. Even more stylistically unfettered and at times, flat-out absurd than Herman (but in a different way), The Ploctones ran the gamut from New Orleans Second Line to flat-out funk, driven by Goudsmit's Steve Cropper-on-steroids rhythmic support.

The Ploctones, from left: Martijn Vink, Jeroen Vierdag, Ephraïm Trujillo, Anton Goudsmit

The group played a lot of material from the forthcoming record and represents, if anything, further consolidation and growth over 050, and the quartet's first release, Live op het Dak! (VPRO, 2005), released prior to the quartet finding its name. As attention-grabbing as Goudsmit was throughout the set, he was equally matched by the rest of the group. Vierdag, in particular, demonstrated a retro-tradition on acoustic bass, but pulled out the groove on electric—more Alphonso Johnson than Jaco Pastorius—and no shortage of his own improvisational prowess when he finally took a solo during the set-closer. Vink's solo, over a relentless ostinato from earlier in the set, combined the unshakeable groove of New Orleans' Johnny Vidacovich, the potent swing of Art Blakey and the hard-edged surf-rock of The Adventures in Jazz Orchestra' Melvin Taylor...with an occasional hint of the late John Bonham's thunder. California-born, but an Amsterdam resident since 1980, Trujillo mixed surprisingly consonant multiphonics and a percussive edge with dexterous thematic development on both tenor and soprano; a melodic foil for Goudsmit, whose largely tart tone was a fundamental to The Ploctones' underlying harmonic complexion.

As a writer, Goudsmit is as eclectic as they come, with the contrapuntal, polyrhythmic complexities of "Muchacho" sounding more than a little like Lost Tribe, the 1990s American group that helped launch the careers of saxophonist David Binney and guitarists Adam Rogers and David Gilmore. Intricate, but never taking itself too seriously, The Ploctones delivered a set that, much like Herman's preceding performance, was both substantial and fun, with plenty of eye contact, smiles, and sometimes outright laughter shared between Goudsmit, Trujillo, Vierdag and Vink. It was a terrific way to close out the Thursday evening's showcase at Melkweg, with many of the DJ&WM delegates returning to the Eden Amsterdam American for more, as saxophonist Susanne Alt led her group at a late-night jam session.

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