258

Leo Cuypers: Heavy Days Are Here Again

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Leo Cuypers: Heavy Days Are Here Again Dutch pianist Leo Cuypers makes his political statement in the title of this 1981 quartet disc, an ironic anti- Reagan reference dating to the period during which this record was made. In a couple of ways this disc documents a reunion: at the time, both Cuypers and drummer Han Bennink had been estranged from reedist Willem Breuker after tenures in the Breuker Kollektief and the ICP, respectively. They get back together here, and the result is a burst of rediscovery and reunification. The cover design, as an illustrative example, consists of four photos containing three players each. Each picture is labeled with a player's name. But the great irony is that these labels correspond to which player is absent in the frame.

On Heavy Days, Cuypers and his quartet focus on in&out group improvisation. In a way, it's ironic how the structure of Cuypers's compositions belies a dramatic yet self-conscious similarity to traditional straight-ahead jazz. Each piece starts off with a hummably simple melodic head, then proceeds to unravel and deconstruct it before eventually returning to a familiar denouement. The beauty of Heavy Days lies in the way this quartet steers toward fragmentary free improvisation from a situation of prearranged order, then manages to recover the original conjoined motif. The message is that a coordinate arrangement written down on a sheet of paper can be functionally equivalent to one arrived at through the winding road of improvisation.

Heavy Days represents a peak in the history of European free improvisation. While each player brings an independent spirit and an personal approach to the quartet, Cuypers performs the necessary unification to make the group work. His arrangements lend an open-ended context for the out improvisations of Breuker et al., and his own playing generally subserves their coordination. When Cuypers breaks out, as in a passage toward the middle of the title track, he demonstrates a fantastic technical fluency and a mind-twisting, fragmentary approach toward rhythm and melody. Saxophonist/clarinetist Willem Breuker appears comfortable in the role of melodic leader, yet he also facilitates the improvisations of bassist Arjen Gorter and drummer Han Bennink. Because the sound on this disc is so well resolved, Gorter's independent voice is never lost—assuring the listener that this group indeed consists of four interacting individuals.

Heavy Days originally appeared on BVHAAST, Willem Breuker's record company. This welcome reissue, prepared from the original master tapes, represents the only digital documentation of any of Cuypers's work. Most people probably haven't heard of Cuypers, but that's no reason to hold back. His ideas are solid, his playing conveys a sense of celebration, and his quartet articulates its impromptu deconstructions with savoir faire. In this reviewer's opinion, Heavy Days represents the apex of Atavistic's UMS, which continues to present a steady stream of (predominantly) European free improv reissues.


Track Listing: Happy Days; Asdat de Olifantstand; Misha; Stefanus; Be-Bach; Blue Tango; Couperin.

Personnel: Leo Cuypers, piano; Willem Breuker, saxes and clarinet; Arjen Gorter, bass; Han Bennink, drums, C soprano saxophone, trombone.

| Record Label: Atavistic Worldwide | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Final Concert CD/LP/Track Review The Final Concert
by John Sharpe
Published: February 19, 2017
Read On Hollywood Boulevard CD/LP/Track Review On Hollywood Boulevard
by Budd Kopman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read Desire & Freedom CD/LP/Track Review Desire & Freedom
by Glenn Astarita
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Motorman's Son CD/LP/Track Review The Motorman's Son
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 18, 2017
Read "HUJE 2015" CD/LP/Track Review HUJE 2015
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 2, 2016
Read "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" CD/LP/Track Review Let's Call the Whole Thing Off
by Edward Blanco
Published: August 29, 2016
Read "The Way You Say It" CD/LP/Track Review The Way You Say It
by David A. Orthmann
Published: April 7, 2016
Read "Omío" CD/LP/Track Review Omío
by James Nadal
Published: August 31, 2016
Read "Ed Calle 360" CD/LP/Track Review Ed Calle 360
by Edward Blanco
Published: July 17, 2016
Read "Checkpoint" CD/LP/Track Review Checkpoint
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: August 6, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!