Misha Mengelberg has never gotten the recognition he deserves; this new release from his ICP (Instant Composers Pool) Orchestra is yet another indication of how much recognition he does indeed deserve.
Mengelberg is a premier pianist with a superb skill for instant composition. He manages to create coherent wholes out of the sounds of utter surprise. Here and there in the "Jubilee Varia," which is a feature for several soloists that forms the first half of this disc, he'll tinkle around with apparent aimlessness, falling into a playful line with a naïve melody, edging it over into the prickly sonorousness of modern classical music, and then ranging who knows where.
His associates here are particularly congenial, especially the towering cellists Ernest Reijseger and Tristan Honsinger, who ply their trade in conjunction with bassist Ernest Glerum during the second section of the "Jubilee Varia." Their bowing, and the harmonies they create, are invested at once with the supreme and spare dignity of classical string works, but never venture anywhere even close to cliché or easy musical catch-phrase. The improvisations here and throughout this disc are obviously the products of great virtuosity, and give the lie to anyone who thinks that "free jazz" equals aimless noodling.
The second half of the disc consists of "Jealousy," a suite by Mengelberg for the whole ensemble. It's part waltz, part marching band, part circus music, part jazz, all underpinned by Mengelberg's false-naïve simple tunes, which the musicians here treat with a breadth of imagination, humor, pathos, and brilliant insight that is simply breathtaking. Trumpeter Thomas Heberer even strikes some notes out of the Renaissance, and trombonist Wolter Wierbos out of tailgating Dixieland; this music is expansive enough to handle it all.
A tremendous example of composition, improvisation, and their interplay. Enthusiastically recommended.
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