It takes a master to speak like a child. Pianist Misha Mengelberg (1935-2017) was such a giant at the keyboard that he could shed all pretension and improvise with a simple innocence. Call it Zen enlightenment or just a blunt brilliance. His music is often absurd and paradoxical, like an inside joke, except he graciously lets us all in on the pranks.
Rituals Of Transition is a collection of solo performances recorded from 2002 through 2010 in The Netherlands, Ukraine, France, and of course Italy, the home of AngelicA, Festival Internazionale de Musica in Bologna. This sample taste of Mengelberg can best be described as a gift to listeners. Opening with "Amsterdam," Mengelberg engages a child in the audience with a make believe language that cascades into a similar make believe piano language. The pianist, although conservatory trained, favors eccentricity throughout. His language is spontaneous, unbidden by conventional styles, much like that of his personal heroes Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols.
That said, "Kiev" parts 1-3 serve tastes of Duke Ellington's flowing style, Bill Evans' romanticism, some classical passages, and that probing percussiveness we might associate with a modernist like Matthew Shipp. "Pantin" and "Bologna" dissect bits of Monk as if we were hearing it in a nostalgic dream. Was Mengelberg sentimental for the days he Roswell Rudd, and Steve Lacy were certifying Monk's genius? Yes, plus his performance at AngelicA expands into fragments of cabaret song. Singing not for that child on the first track but the child inside the adult he has become.
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