Monday, October 26, 2015

Willem Breuker Kollektief, Algouleme 18 Mai 1980

The late Willem Breuker (1944-2010) started out years back as one of the founders of the Amsterdam-based ICP (Instant Composers Pool) Orchestra with Mischa Mengelberg and others. (He was also an early, important member of the Gunter Hampel Group and the Global Unity Orchestra.) It rapidly got attention for its extraordinary eclectic mix of avant jazz, historic jazz and you-name it, of compositional fearlessness and improvisational prowess. Breuker was one of its prolific composers and a reedman of larger-than-life brilliance.

Around 1974-75 he formed his own mini-big band, the Willem Breuker Kollektief, and created an even more eclectic mix of unpredictable sounds. We cut ahead to May 18th, 1980, and a live performance of the then nine-member band at Angouleme (FOU 09 & 10), which happily was well-recorded and sees the light of day on the 2-CD set (one full length and one an EP) at hand today.

It is in many ways typical of the Kollektief in full-bloom. Hoary old pop tunes rub shoulders with folk, jazz, classical and arcane elements of all sorts, with an avant jazz superstructure that incorporates it all in a stream-of-consciousness, contrastive totality and a brash sense of humor.

The six-horn front line (including Breuker on clarinet, soprano, alto and tenor) and pianist Henk de Jonge bear much of the thematic and improvisational heft of the ensemble, while the rhythm section has much to do with initiating the sometimes abrupt stylistic segues from genre to genre.

It was a band that had the herculean task of realizing the compositional parts with precision yet also keeping the spontaneously loose avant exuberance alive at all times. Where else would you hear a spoof on the Goodman-Krupa drum-clarinet doings of "Sing, Sing, Sing," a rabid pastiche centering around a somewhat obscure Weill number, a take-off on Bo Diddley's "Bo Diddley" hambone rhythm, torrid Tango burlesques and romantic piano potboilers, all done with a forkyew sort of faux insouciance? The answer might be the ICP Orchestra. But the Kollektief takes all that even further than ICP usually did and does today. And throughout it all there is some excellent big little band moments, where you realize they are quite serious after all, or no, not entirely! "Marche & Sax Solo with Vacuum Cleaner" gives you a good sampling of the "here, no there" multiplicity of the music.

This is the Dutch Jazz revolution gone wild. For that there is nothing quite like it. The Kollektief sounds as great as they ever did on this recording. And partly that's because they thrived in a live setting. But in all ways they have a little something even more bold here, even bolder than usual.

For all these reasons this is an album to get if you don't know Breuker's Kollektief, or one to add to your collection if you already know Willem's music at its peak. Listen up if you will!

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