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Posts tagged ‘Terrie Ex’

ICP in Friesland

Back in the 1970s it was an exquisite shock to hear musicians associated with Instant Composers Pool, the Amsterdam-based collective of free improvisers, playing a dance-band version of “Our Day Will Come”, the old Ruby and the Romantics hit, with no outward signs of irony. It was post-modern, in a way, but it wasn’t arch or condescending. It was just the way they saw things. And that was one of their contributions to the jazz of the last half-century.

Founded in 1967 by the pianist Misha Mengelberg, the saxophonist Willem Breuker and the drummer Han Bennink, ICP is still going strong, despite losing its state funding last year, and its members are still playing dance-band tunes, as you can hear in the clip above, where they perform “De Linkerschoen, de Rechterschoen”, a delightful tune by their bassist, Ernst Glerum, in best palais-glide style. It’s the first of two versions of the tune included in the latest album on their own label: Komen & Gaan by the ICP Septet + Joris Roelofs, Terrie Ex and Mara’s Pianola, which shows the ICP bunch to be as full of irreverent life as ever.

Recorded live at Le Brocope, a jazz and theatre café in Oldeberkoop, a village in Friesland, in north of the Netherlands, it represents an interesting response to the problems presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. To celebrate the venue’s 10th anniversary last October, the musicians were invited to spend a weekend there, eating and drinking and socialising and playing. I don’t know what the lockdown deal was in the Netherlands at the time, but the clip shows the congenial atmosphere they created.

I like this quote in the sleeve note by Mara Eijsbouts, the proprietor of Le Brocope: “As a painting chef, who also happens to be an interior designer, or a designing music lover who loves to cook, a mother of two beautiful daughters, and a historian who likes to write about matters that touch upon the future, entrepreneur, scatterbrain, and hostess in a house with walls that are made of musical energy, and as a jazz lover, I adhere to the adage of jazz: Just play what you like, as long as it fits.”

Throughout the album there are other fragments of the musical history in snatches of “The Sound of Music” and “Ain’t Misbehavin'”, thrown into the mix with the now familiar Dutch mixture of skill and irreverence. But there’s also a lot of free improvisation — sometimes unruly, sometimes exquisite — from the likes of Ab Baars on reeds and shakuhachi, Mary Oliver on violin and viola, Wolter Wierbos on trombone, the pianist Guus Janssen, Michael Moore on alto and clarinet, the great Bennink, the last survivor of the original founding trio, whose inimitable artwork is to be found on the album’s cover, and the two guests, the guitarist Terrie Ex and the bass clarinetist Joris Roelofs.

It’s hard to imagine a more gleefully anarchic piece of music being released in 2021 than the variations on Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor perpetrated on this album by Janssen and Ex. While Janssen fractures and reorganises Bach’s notes at a ridiculous speed, Ex strafes his efforts with skittering bottleneck noise before the two musicians accelerate together into a grandiose finale that includes a few seconds in which they sound as if they’re falling over each other’s feet. Ending with a pratfall thud, it’s a typical piece of ICP surrealism, being simultaneously funny and rather beautiful.

* Komen & Gaan is available, like other ICP albums and publications, from

Han Bennink at Cafe Oto

Han Bennink

Cafe Oto, 12 August 2017: John Coxon, Han Bennink and Ashley Wales

The great Dutch drummer Han Bennink is famous for his anarchic humour and his resistance to orthodoxy: he’s known for using the heel of his boot to alter the tone of his drums on the fly, and for finding the music in the scenery of a club — if there are pillars or heating pipes in the vicinity, he is likely to start playing them. He has an unparalleled gift for terminating a collective improvisation with a slap of two pieces of metal or the sort of rimshot that brooks no negotiation. What’s sometimes overlooked is his ability to swing in the traditional meaning of the term. Of all the European drummers to emerge in the modern era, maybe only Phil Seaman commanded the same deep sense of swing.

But he’s always been a hard man to pin down. I first heard him with the German tenorist Peter Brötzmann in Berlin in 1969, playing the most uncompromisingly loud and violent free jazz you could imagine. Maybe 20 years later I heard him in Paris with a band led by the Italian trumpeter Enrico Rava, playing the music of Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven, and you could tell that here was a man with a profound understanding of what Baby Dodds had been up to.

On Saturday, Han ended a three-night Cafe Oto residency in celebration of his 75th birthday with a series of collaborations in which his partners were the two men, the guitarist John Coxon and the electronics exponent Ashley Wales, together known as Spring Heel Jack; two guests from Amsterdam, the American violinist Mary Oliver and the Dutch guitarist Terrie Hessels, also known as Terrie Ex; and the pianist Steve Beresford. Amid the swirling anarchy, there were many moments when you could detect traces of the drummer who served a conventional rhythm-section apprenticeship with such visiting American giants as Eric Dolphy, Dexter Gordon and Wes Montgomery.

Since then Han’s career has taken him through countless collaborations. He first appeared with Coxon and Wales on Amassed, an early Spring Heel Jack studio album, in 2002. The following year they took him on a short Contemporary Music Network tour of Britain, along with the saxophonist Evan Parker, the pianist Matthew Shipp, the bassist William Parker and the guitarist J. Spaceman (Jason Pierce, with whom Coxon played in the band Spritualized). I saw that fascinating line-up give an epic performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall — particularly in the second half, which began with a hyperactive duet between drums and bass and reached its climax in a long passage of richly textured improvisation over a mesmerising sequence of slowly descending piano chords that seemed, like an Escher staircase, to have no end. An album titled Live was assembled from the tour’s concerts in Bath and Brighton, and contains a version of that second half.

On Saturday, Han began with a trio set but soon left Beresford and Oliver to their own devices, listening from a chair at the side of the stage as they created a graceful two-part invention. Then the drummer was joined by Spring Heel Jack, creating a very different type of trio, the music constantly changing colours and momentum, restless but intensely satisfying (I loved a passage in which Coxon suddenly started running close-voiced jazz chords on his cherry-red Guild Starfire). Eventually Hessels, a member of the Dutch band the Ex, joined in, energetically lunging and retreating as he added jagged bursts of post-Hendrix noise.

After a third set in which the musicians joined in one by one until all six were together on stage, Han closed the evening with a short unaccompanied piece: brusque, urgent, very physical, unmistakably him but also unmistakably in the lineage of solo pieces by Dodds, Papa Jo Jones and Max Roach. This is a musician who stretched the vocabulary of his instrument, even changed it, while honouring and preserving the music’s essence.