The new group of Dutch pianist Michiel Braam, the 8-piece Flex Bent Braam, is a scaled-down continuation of Braam's 13-piece Bik Bent Braam, one of Braam's main projects in the last twenty five years, a group that evolved from traditional big band to a flexible improvising unit, but it is also an attempt to challenge his skills as a composer, bandleader and musical thinker. The line-up of the new band is supposed to change on every new project, combining such experienced musicians from the vibrant Dutch scene as trombonist Wolter Wierbos and trumpeter Angelo Verploegen with young, new talents from different backgrounds such as the young German baritone saxophonist Oleg Hollman.
Both bands feature musicians who are well-versed with the history of jazz but do not bind themselves to any conventional interpretations of its legacy. Flex Bent Braam focuses more on iconic standards that shaped jazz as we know it today, standards that were written by Cole Porter, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Tadd Dameron, Charles Mingus and even a challenging composition of George Russell. These standards were picked because they were mentioned in a telegram from 1965 by Dutch CoBrA painter and poet Lucebert (1924-1994), a jazz lover, who commenting on the position of Dutch literary movement (De Vijftigers, who were influenced by CoBrA artists who stressed complete freedom from form). Lucebert inspired Braam to offer fresh arrangements to these standards and to tie them together with original compositions based on Japanese epigrams that Lucebert wrote. Lucebert is known for his line: "alles van waarde is weerloos" (all things of value are defenseless) from the poem "De zeer oude zingt" (the very old sings), now written on the wall of an insurance company building in Rotterdam. Accordingly Braam's arrangements of the seminal standards emphasize its passionate and playful spirit as well as its strong, melodic themes as popular songs, played in ballrooms, and often before dancing audiences. These arrangements are often faithful to the nuances of the conventional performances of the standards. But the bridging original pieces offer another perspective on jazz history, less reverent and more inclusive. Jazz as an open-ended concept, an artistic movement that constantly converses with other artistic movements, inspired and inspires, and enriches continuously its myriad musical references.
Lucebert suggests a wild and unwinding journey in the history of jazz and the history of music in the 20th century. There are echoes of early minimalism in "SpijtRue" that correspond beautifully with the irregular repetitiveness of the rhythmic core of Monk's "Straight, No Chaser," and this irreverent, free spirit climaxes in the following intense, screaming improvisation of "DriftUrge." Braam plays with Miles Davis' modal "So What," leaving only the essence of the theme, few, brief notes that say all by now, and wraps it with a much more old-time arrangement of the standard "I May Be Wrong" that Davis used play in the Forties. The delicate arrangement of Monk's "Let's Cool One" highlights its swinging core and orchestral possibilities. Braam closes the 80-minute arresting program with an intense and wild abstraction of Russell's "The stratus Seekers" coupled with a sweet, rhythmic piece "HerfstFall."
Better Git It In Your Soul; Rijp - Rime; Dizzy Atmosphere/Misty; Roes--Whirl; Get Out of Town/When Your Lover Has Gone; Spijt--Rue; Straight, No Chaser; Drift--Urge; I May Be Wrong/So What; Oord--Place; Let’s Cool One; Zorg--Care; Hot House; Plek--Spot; The Stratus Seekers; Herfst--Fall.
Michiel Braam: piano; Joost Lijbaart: drums; Angelo Verploegen: trumpet; Tony Overwater: double bass; Wolter Wierbos: trombone; Bart van der Putten: alto saxophone; Oleg Hollmann: baritone saxophone.