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Friday, January 13, 2006


ECM 1409 (1990)

Lately I've been reading New Dutch Swing, Kevin Whitehead's book on the development and current state of jazz and improvised music in Amsterdam, and it made me want to dig this album out for a listen. BCJO is mentioned in the book and features many prominent Dutch musicians such as Willem Breuker and special guest soloist Misha Mengelberg, who composed two of the pieces here. This album also brings back memories of the late, lamented Bluetone Records in Saint John (who for a time were the sponsor of my radio show No Pain for Cakes on CFMH-FM); it was the first recording I ever bought there ($8.00, brand new and still shrinkwrapped).

In his book, Whitehead makes note of the differences between Dutch and German jazz musicians; while the Germans tend to be more straightlaced and formal (both in their demeanour and their playing), the Dutch have a tendency toward more theatrical, even clownish behaviour. This is apparent in the contrast in mood between each side of this record; side one contains "Ana", a moody, gently flowing composition (by Canadian Kenny Wheeler) that is given a gorgeous, respectful treatment by the orchestra (under the direction of conductor Alexander von Schlippenbach), while side two consists of two pieces by pianist Mengelberg ("Salz" and "Reef und Kneebus") that are wilder and more playful in nature. "Salz" features some particularly loony playing from Mengelberg and Breuker (on bass clarinet, sounding like Eric Dolphy jamming with Cecil Taylor) while drummer Ed Thigpen (known for his more staightahead work with Oscar Peterson) soldiers along bravely.

As with all ECM releases, BCJO is impeccably recorded and tastefully packaged, and should be sampled by anyone curious to hear jazz from another continent. (Pick up Whitehead's book for even more recommendations of Dutch and German jazz; it's a thorough history and a great read.)


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