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All Ears played the music that appears on these two albums during two concerts in March 2003. While the recordings capture what transpired over those nights, they have been divided into compositions from Michiel Braam and Frans Vermeerssen. The approaches are different and set up defined parameters. Both tangents are interesting.
The musicians are top notch, carrying their impress across the throb of the Dutch music scene, a witness and a haven for music with a calibre and dimension to make anyone salivate. First up is Foamy. As the title suggests, the first tune delivers through "Tenor man" Vermeerssen. Wilbert de Joode sets the mood on bass, the pulse curling in but certainly not cueing in the listener to the caterwauls and catapults of the tenor. But as is the dialect of the tunes, Vermeerssen probes a certain melodic presence to the pith. The heat is on, transmitted to the conversation between the tenor/alto of Frank Gratkowski and trumpet of Herb Robertson, nudging them on with jabbing phrases. The music is a roller coaster ride of sound and color, flourishes wrought with panache, a slowing down for a becoming interlude, a foray into theatre, introspection that can delineate the path of the horns.
The final tune, “Drumming,” is anything but, as it captures the silvery, light tones of the trumpet and the gentle dialogue with Braam’s piano and the sax. But drummer Michael Vatcher does turn rhythm into a scintillating fabric on “Up To.” Does this stem from a sense of humor, or was it meant to catch sleeping reviewers off guard?
Vermeerssen too can go at odds with the initial conception. “Day See” is a case in point as it moves from a fractured rhythm set up by de Joode and Braam to a free explosion of the horns, before it dips for open ended playing by Robertson, who slips, slathers and finally slides into a churn stirred by the band. It seems to be cherry blossom time as “Line” comes in on an Oriental refrain but the journey to resolution moves in another direction formed by the de Joode's quiet bowing, the jingle of percussion and the clarinet wisping across. The composition takes on an ethereal air, gliding lightly, minimalism devising a charm of its own. The written and the imagined make compact bedfellows. There is indeed much to kindle interest on these records.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.