For younger musicians drawn from all over to Amsterdam’s perennially hardy improvising scene, the 1970s when Willem Breuker’s Dutch sound broke out internationally is a distant era. And as movements recede in time, secondary figures and worthy compositions get forgotten. So bassist Raoul van der Weide has assembled an intergenerational septet to play some Dutch classics as they should be played. He’s got fellow second-generation A’dam improviser Michael Moore on clarinet, plus fourth – or fifth – generation colleagues: English drummer George Hadow, Raoul’s frequent partner since coming to town in 2012; the All Ellington band’s Italian bari saxist Giuseppe Doronzo; bass clarinetist Ziv Taubenfeld (who has recorded with Raoul and George in the quintet Zwerv, and studied with Moore); Scottish trumpeter Alistair Payne; and the scene’s new piano dynamo, Poland’s Marta Warelis. (Thus no one in XP7 was born in Holland – Raoul spent his first eight years in France.) There are two vintage tunes each by Bert Koppelaar, Guus Janssen and the leader, and one each from Tristan Honsinger and ringer Fred Katz – tunes too good to ignore during the improvising.
For Van der Weide – Xavier Pamplona is an alter ego, Raoul with another life – it’s a personal tour. Born in 1949, he came up in the 1970s alongside second-generation mainstays Paul Termos and Guus and Wim Janssen. They all got priceless lessons playing (with Peter Cusack, during his two years over) in the Punt Uit Band of character and eccentric trombonist Koppelaar. Among his quirks: he could not come in on an upbeat, and thus often trailed a hare’s hair behind the band. They relished the chaos, which informs several Termos and Guus Janssen compositions where beats go awry. Koppelaar had come up in brass and circus bands, and was in and out of Breuker’s and Misha Mengelberg’s windy collectives in the late 1960s and 1970s; ICP and (later) a Maarten Altena quartet recorded Koppelaar’s “Kwik, Kwek, Kwak” (the Dutch names for Donald Duck’s nephews, incidentally).
Bert’s “Hawkwind” here has a cha-cha main theme, then breaks into too-happy swing for the middle eight: it wasn’t just Breuker writing ‘em zany back in the day. You don’t miss trombone; the swerves and blares from low reeds and trumpet have it covered. The Koppelaar suite “Ambitus Cyclus” has plenty of thematic material to sustain 18-minute treatment. First comes a euphoric bring-on-the-jugglers fanfare (which grows softer at the bridge), a singsong melody you can bend around the block and bring home good as new. Then a Tizol-y habanera, where Payne brings Armstrong peal and rasp; then a slow quiet episode with even slower circular-breathing bari like a plane circling; something like a spiritual, with trembling western-saloon piano; a martial riff theme with plenty of room for obbligatos; yet another bouncy tune to get them swinging, whose dips into the lower register launch Taubenfeld into matador Dolphy’s bull-ring. Here and elsewhere there’s collective improvising in the Dutch style: not too much, varied in dynamics and color and texture, and more apt to subvert written material than neglect it. Which is to say the players get the message. Payne’s Pops exuberance may owe something to Eric Boeren’s declamatory horn. Doronzo and Taubenfeld look for all the colors the big reeds can give up.
There are plenty of opportunities for riff, paraphrase and informal rondos in these over-and-over strains, also including Raoul’s circusy start-and-stop “Feitenleid.” Honsinger’s tarantella-interruptus “Luce nel scuro” (first recording?) sounds like Stravinsky’s “Histoire du Soldat” village band hitting the applejack. The A strain of Raoul’s “Culture Boy” resembles a certain Nat Cole evergreen, but then the B strain goes off. The players atomize these strains in turn and then reassemble them – the band’s general m.o. Michael Moore’s assertive high clarinet can take command on rare occasions when a firm hand might help, and he gives us a glimpse of his Procope vibrato. He’s all over, exhortatory, and featured in a polite chamber trio on an untitled “Someday My Prince”-ish waltz attributed to Fred Katz, a tune Guus and Ernst Reijseger used to play in duo.
They also revisit Guus standbys “Koto a gogo” – built around an elementary hip-hop beat Wim Janssen loved to drum, which has a little more clavé in it in Hadow’s telling – and the jolly bouncing earworm “Jo-jo jive” which suggests what Guus learned from Misha Mengelberg. Some enterprising American leader might champion Janssen’s book of intricate playful tuneful compositions for improvisers. It’s a trove.
Fast-fingered Warelis can play straight and discreet, bonk out the block chords, rattle the strings like Anton Karas’s zither, spackle the keys like Nancarrow, play percussion under the hood, and unreel snaky singing right hand lines. She can mix up all that and more very quickly, as if it’s all one big language. She’s attentive to developing motifs but isn’t afraid to drop them and move on. You’d have to search a while to find another (bassist’s) self-produced record where the leader’s mixed so modestly, but then XP7 isn’t really about him. The band swings, they’re tight when they want to be, and in high spirits. A delightful record.
–Kevin Whitehead, Point of Departure
PERSONNEL & TRACK LISTING
Michael Moore - clarinet
Ziv Taubenfeld - bass clarinet
Alistair Payne - trumpet
Giuseppe Doronzo - baritone sax
Marta Warelis - piano
George Hadow - drums
Raoul van der Weide - contrabass, compositions
1 Hawkwind - (Bert Koppelaar/compositie) 3:11
2 Improvisatie - Michael Moore, Ziv Taubenfeld, Alistair Payne, Giuseppe Doronzo 3:29
3 Ambitus Cyclus (Bert Koppelaar/compositie) 18:14
4 Untitled (Fred Katz/composition) 3:45
5 Koto a GoGo (Guus Janssen/compositie) 7:04
6 Luce nel scuro (Tristan Honsinger/compositie) 3:49
7 Culture Boy (Raoul van der Weide/compositie) 6:17
8 Feitenlied (Raoul van der Weide/compositie) 7:15
9 Jo Jo Jive (Guus Janssen/compositie) 7:48
Contrabassist Raoul van der Weide started this ensemble in 2016. The septet reflects the formative influences of composing improvisers and ensembles with whom he has had the pleasure of working between 1978 and the present. The input – besides senior clarinettist Michael Moore – of 5 young and talented musicians creates new challenges in the interpretation of the chosen material.'
Recorded June 2nd 2018 at 'Splendor' Amsterdam.
Recorded and mixed by Marc Schots, mastered by Arnold de Boer
Cover art by Raoul van der Weide, graphic design by Hidde Dijkstra
Guus Janssen and Raoul van der Weide/BUMA/STEMRA