Friday, July 10, 2015

ICP Orchestra, East of the Sun

Over the long and fruitful career of the Dutch ICP Orchestra, the humor, vitality and unpredictability of the band and what it does have remained constant. Their new disk East of the Sun (ICP51) affirms all that. Through the course of the album the band burlesques old-time pop-folk, dwells in new music and avant-free realms and gives us unusual versions of jazz and song standards and not-so-standards.

Han Bennink presides as the masterful clown-prince of serious drumming. With him are an excellent mix of players known and less-known: Ab Baars, Michael Moore, Tobias Delius, Walter Wierbos, Thomas Heberer, Mary Oliver, Tristan Honsinger, Ernst Glerum and Guus Janssen.

As the Instant Composers Pool, compositions and arrangements are still key and still breathe via some excellent, very spontaneous improvisations. Misha Mengelberg's spirit hovers over the ensemble with four compositions, Ab Baars gets one, Honsinger and Janssen one apiece, and Michael Moore contributes one and arranges the versions of "Moten Swing," "East of the Sun," and Ellington's "A Little Max."

Their anything goes approach may sometimes make you think of a Dutch version of Sun Ra's band in its prime, but of course in a different zone for the most part. The collective free improvs and the rearrangements of the older compositions, the interjections of vocal elements, all have some kinship with Sun Ra. Yet of course this is a band with its own identity.

They still sound great. East of the Sun continues the madcap adventures and of course in the process makes some seriously good outside large band music.


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