Duke and Duck
They’ve got a lot of perverts in Holland. Quite a few geniuses, too, and it can be hard to tell the difference.
Sort it out Friday, when Instant Composers Pool Orchestra visits. The leading pervs of the 10-member ensemble are pianist Misha Mengelberg and drummer Han Bennink. When in their 20s, they were among the first Continentals to grant cred to the American jazz avant-garde, and their chops and scope have teamed them with statesiders from Marion Brown and George Lewis to Lee Konitz and Sonny Rollins. And of course they’ve gotten down with all the Euro-weirdoes such as Peter Brötzmann and Derek Bailey.
Luckily, they perform every gyration necessary to avoid getting revered — Mengelberg has even wrinkled his proboscis at John Coltrane, saying he didn’t dig all that one-chord jamming. The latest ICPO album, Aan & Uit, maintains the group’s peculiar tilt of absurdity and excellence, flying from Dixie to Mexico to Mingus’ New York in ever-shifting textural perspectives, deriving its only consistency from the satanic mastery of the players. When Ellingtonian orchestrations swell wonderfully at the beginning, it’s only seconds before Mengelberg pokes in with his gibbering vocals or contrarian piano — and here’s where the challenge comes in. You can either let knee-jerk irritation spaz you out, or marvel at the perfect awfulness of the interruptions. The voice is precisely opposed to the rhythm; the piano splayings don’t contain a single note that’s in the chords behind. You’re like Donald Duck with a little angel at one ear and a little devil at the other; in other words, the art is just like life.
Maybe Mengelberg and Bennink are exorcising a grudge about their greatest claim to American fame: their 1964 appearance on Last Date, almost literally the last thing Eric Dolphy ever recorded. They never got paid for that, and they’ve divined a way to punish us (for getting stiffed) and reward us (for the notoriety) at the same time.
The ICP Orchestra plays Club Tropical on Friday, March 24.
He Loved Him Madly
Across the North Sea in Norway, Terje Rypdal and his electric guitar have been floating on cloud and mist for more than three decades. Sometimes Rypdal just evaporates, but other times, as on his new Vossabrygg (ECM), he gets inhaled into the lungs, where he can warm up and permeate the whole bloodstream.
At first, Bugge Wesseltoft’s Rhodes chords on “Ghostdancing” may make you think you’ve slotted electric Miles by mistake, but this is no jam, it’s 18 minutes of humble, purely focused and loving tribute. The rest of the album fans out into tone poems, electronic grooves, silences and distant thunderings of a similar aesthetic but of heart-deep originality; it plays as a whole. And it plays as a family, with old friends like trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg (who did such great work on Miles’ Aura) and drummer Jon Christensen aboard, and turntablism etc. by Terje’s son Marius.
If life were like this, we wouldn’t need art.?