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Misha Mengelberg: Two Days in Chicago

Robert Spencer By

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Like Jubilee Varia (hatOLOGY 528), this 2CD-set illustrates the dangerous, death-defying, life-enhancing pianistic and compositional talents of Misha Mengelberg, the world's challenging Dutch leader of these ever-memorable Two Days in Chicago. Also like Jubilee Varia, this disc features some of the foremost improvisers on the scene today, all stoked to new heights by the combustible talents of Mengelberg. Here the standouts are tenor saxophonists Fred Anderson, Ken Vandermark and Ab Baars (who doubles on clarinet), plus cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and drummer Hamid Drake. (Not to slight the other heavyweights, including bassists Kent Kessler and Wilbert de Joode, plus drummer Martin van Duynhoven).

What is Mengelberg doing? Everything. With Ken Vandermark and Hamid Drake he plays Monk virtually straight, with just a few thrilling flashes from all three players to show that they know what's happened since Monk and Rouse first laid down these tracks. But they burn through "Eronel" and "Off Minor" with magisterial assurance, making it all the more surprising (which is just the way Mengelberg wants it) when the other horn man travel with him into completely different sphere. The tracks labeled "Chicago Trio" and "Chicago Quartet" are occasions for Anderson and Baars to explore soundscapes and sound effects, minutely followed everywhere they step, no matter how unpredictable, by the Lonberg-Holm, Kessler, and/or Mengelberg himself.

Then on the second disc Mengelberg takes the stage by himself to deliver a nearly thirty-minute "Chicago Solo," which travels from Schönberg to Debussy and back again and all around the block the other way until it arrives at a piquant and plangent "Round Midnight." As if all that weren't enough, Mengelberg and Baars take the program out with a series of prickly duets that culminate in a "Body and Soul" for the ages.

Mengelberg is a great master. Don't on any account miss these discs!

Hatology discs can be obtained from North Country distributors, Cadence Bldg., Redwood, NY 13679. Phone/fax: (315) 287-2852 and (315) 287-2860. Email: orders@cadencebuilding.com. Website: http://www.cadencebuilding.com.

Title: Two Days In Chicago | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Tzadik

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