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The Amsterdam based ICP Orchestra (meaning improvisation defined as an “instant composing pool”) can best be described to Americans as Carl Stalling directs the Duke Ellington Orchestra playing chamber music. Pianist Misha Mengelberg and drummer Han Bennink lead their brand of instant composing. Mengelberg, a master of the music of both Herbie Nichols and Thelonious Monk, is the poster-child for the Dutch creative scene. He prefers odd angular melodies and playing spin-the-dial for differing styles. Drummer Han Bennink seems to never repeat himself, swinging an eccentric beat and landing a roundhouse punch from the listeners proverbial blind side.
The ICP’s latest disc, Oh, My Dog recorded in June of this past year, follows the most excellent 1999 Jubilee Varia. But where that recording was organized as two suites, this Dog hunts here, there, and everywhere. Bennink, as he has done so often with his Clusone trio, leaps from brass bands to Latin influences mixing Kurt Weill with the Modern Jazz Quartet. This band plays a Sousa-like march on “A Close Encounter with Charles’s Country Band,” only to be followed with a buttoned-down chamber piece, “A la Russe.” The genius of the ICP is presenting cartoon music without the animation. Tristan Honsinger’s “Oh me Deer!” plays like the score from a post-apocalypse West Side Story with and urban pulse and a nod to American theatre circa 1958. The band frowns on the seriousness of music, opting to set their instruments aside to whistle or bark out the title track. Their dog sounds accompany the Albert Ayler-like march, quickly deconstructs into the vocalist calling for his dog, Kafka, who runs to chase a deer. Either look deeper for meaning, or just enjoy the ride.
Track Listing: Write down Exactly; A Close Encounter with Charles
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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