Of course, it wasn't entirely the architecture of a musical statement that Mengelberg found valuable, for the personality of an artist factors in just as much, if not more. "I made a difference between the friendly and the unfriendly piano players. Monk was a very unfriendly pianist; he made fun of people and was not interested in making a nice appearance anywhere. The same went for Nichols; he was interested in form and how to get things going, but he was [also] difficult to get along with. Bebop saxophonists like Charlie Parker, whose music was similarly kinetic to that of Nichols, were nevertheless (as with Bud Powell) a 'sideline' for Mengelberg, because harmonically it did not operate the same way as Monk or Nichols. In Mengelberg's view, in fact, most saxophonists other than Lucky Thompson (and later, Dolphy and Lacy) did not understand MonkColtrane, Rollins, Rouse and Griffin all seemed an insufficient match for Monk's harmonies and rhythms, as well as his personality.
Mengelberg and Bennink were, in 1964, part of the backing group for Eric Dolphy's final studio recording, issued as Last Date (Fontana). In addition to music by Dolphy and Monk, Mengelberg contributed the composition "Hypochristmutreefuzz to the proceedings, a notoriously difficult piece with extraordinarily long intervals. "I knew he would not have enough breath to play the theme through [without circular breathing] and I thought it was funny, but for somebody who was going to die the next week maybe it wasn't right to make fun like that.
Mengelberg and Bennink were the instigators of a relatively subversive but rarely discussed small group active in Holland from 1964 to 1967. With altoist Piet Noordijk and bassist Rob Langreis, the Misha Mengelberg Kwartet toured Europe and, interestingly, played the Newport Jazz Festival in 1966 (the concert was later released by the Dutch label Artone). In 1967, Mengelberg, Bennink and reedman Willem Breuker formed the Instant Composers Pool, a loose collective of free improvisers rooted in the idea that improvisation is "instant composition , utilizing one's existing compositional knowledge to inform improvisation as well as improvisation directing the formation of composition, all in direct physical response to internal and external stimuli. Trombonist Willem van Manen, bassist Maarten Altena and altoist Peter Bennink were early collaborators, though the loose organization began to include a significant slice of the prevailing European avant-garde (including at various points Peter Brötzmann, John Tchicai and Derek Bailey). Though Breuker and his camp officially split from the ICP in the early '70s, forming the Willem Breuker Kollektief and BVHaast Records, the ICP continued as an orchestra and various aggregations, as well as the record label that in 1967 heralded the organization. The orchestra, though touring only occasionally, remains one of the most active big bands of the last 30 years, performing Mengelberg's often highly theatrical situations as well as pieces by Herbie Nichols and members of the group, which today includes reedmen Ab Baars and Tobias Delius, trombonist Wolter Wierbos, trumpeter Thomas Heberer, cellist Tristan Honsinger, bassist Ernest Glerum and violinist Mary Oliver in addition to Mengelberg and Bennink.
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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