Willem Breuker Kollektief: “Angoulême 18 Mai 1980” (Fou Records)
Rui Eduardo Paes
Responsável da Fou Records e ele próprio músico com actividade na área da improvisação, Jean-Marc Foussat é como que o Martin Davidson (o documentalista britânico que tem revelado os subterrâneos do jazz de vanguarda e da música improvisada do Reino Unido, além de dirigir a editora Emanem) de França e da cena continental europeia – a sua vida tem sido dedicada a gravar concertos. O espólio que foi reunindo é imenso e alguns dos documentos por si guardados ganharam uma enorme importância histórica.
Este é um deles, testemunhando uma actuação do holandês Willem Breuker Kollektief no saudoso Festival d’Angoulême, em 1980. Ou seja, num período de transição em que alguns dos membros da orquestra estavam a mudar – por exemplo, tinha saído o pianista Leo Cuypers para entrar o jovem Henk de Jonge e o cornetista Jan Wolff abandonara o navio, ainda se aguardando pela entrada de Andy Altenfelder para o seu lugar.
Nessa altura, o Kollektief disfrutava plenamente da fama e do proveito de ser uma das melhores coisas que tinham acontecido na década de 1970 ao bigbandismo, sendo habitualmente comparado com a Arkestra de Sun Ra. Para quem estivera associado com o mais seminal dos discos da “improv” do Velho Continente, o “Machine Gun” de Peter Brotzmann, estranhou que o projecto misturasse o free jazz tal como era entendido na Europa do movimento estudantil com tendências jazzísticas de mais remota confecção, como o swing de Stan Kenton.
E com os hinos revolucionários de Kurt Weill, a escrita operática de Rossini, o minimalismo de Philip Glass, as bandas sonoras que Ennio Morricone fazia para o cinema “spaghetti” ou a loucura metódica de Erik Satie. Fosse através de arranjos das suas respectivas obras ou de peças originais concebidas “ao estilo de” e funcionando como piscadelas de olho.
Tudo isto com um embrulho teatralizado, humorístico e com elementos do vaudeville, incorporando músicas populares como o tango ou marchas de fanfarra. Sempre com um alcance político óbvio, de acordo com as ideias socialistas de Breuker. É o saxofonista e clarinetista que assina a maior parte das peças reunidas neste duplo álbum, a sós ou em parceria, mas no que à composição respeita fica bem clara a importância que o trombonista Willem van Manen tinha no colectivo – duas importantes faixas da selecção, “Pale Fire” e “Big Busy Band”, são de sua autoria.
E lá está a inevitável versão de Weill, com “Song of Mandalay”, o que podemos tomar como um emblema do experimentalismo da época, “Marche & Sax Solo with Vacuum Cleaner”, e ainda um punhado de “standards”, a exemplo de “Sentimental Journey” ou “Oh, You Beautiful Doll”. Antes de se falar em pós-modernismo, esta insana combinação de estilos, géneros e estéticas, surgindo para mais com uma forte personalidade musical, era algo de surpreendente e resultava eficazmente em situações ao vivo. Sobretudo quando cada elemento introduzido, e tocado com a maior das seriedades, era logo depois parodiado por um abrupto e contrastante elemento ou por um “gag” de efeito hilariante.
Isso fez com que os puristas do jazz desdenhassem as propostas de Breuker, mesmo que estas tivessem devolvido acessibilidade ao jazz e chegassem a uma audiência mais alargada. Nada que incomodasse o músico, tendo este inventado provocatoriamente, para si, um novo rótulo: música para seres humanos. O certo é que o público dos festivais que adorava os concertos etno-cósmicos de Sun Ra e as gingantes misturas de jazz e kwela da Brotherhood of Breath de Chris McGregor ficavam em estado de rebuçado com uma actuação do Willem Breuker Kollektief. Ouvir o ensemble em disco não é o mesmo, mas ficamos lá próximo…
Angoulême 18 Mai 1980 (Fou Records)
Willem Breuker Kollektief
Willem Breuker (clarinete, saxofones soprano, alto e tenor); Boy Raaymakers (trompete), Willem van Manen, Bernard Hunnekink (trombones); Bob Driessen (saxofones alto e barítono), Maarten van Norden (saxofone tenor); Henk de Jonge (piano); Arjen Gorter (contrabaixo); Rob Verdurmen (bateria)
Monday, October 26, 2015
Willem Breuker Kollektief, Angoulême 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 Angoulême (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!
Posted by Grego Applegate Edwards at 6:10 AM
Willem Breuker Kollektief
Angoulême 18 mai 1980
Rappelant tout à la fois les heures joyeuses des formations iconoclastes comme le Workshop de Lyon et les grands moments de la free music afro-américaine (on songe évidemment au Mama Too Tight d’Archie Shepp ou encore à Albert Ayler et son Live At The Greenwich Village), la réédition par Fou Records d’un concert du Willem Breuker Kollektief en 1980 à Angoulême permet de redécouvrir l’enthousiasme folâtre qui animait ces Néerlandais.
Formé de neuf musiciens (trompette, deux trombones, trois saxophones, section rythmique avec piano) sous la baguette de Willem Breuker (1944-2010), cet ensemble fondé en 1974 développe un son débridé et généreux. Doublé d’un humour extraverti, il déborde largement du cadre strict de la musique et s’appuie à la fois sur une théâtralité scénique tout à fait perceptible à l’écoute du disque (le public rit souvent ; les notes et photos de pochette sont à ce sujet tout à fait instructives) mais aussi sur une écriture foisonnante. Par une accumulation de citations drôlissimes, de réinterprétations (Kurt Weill notamment, dont Breuker était, par ailleurs, un éminent spécialiste), de détournement de genres (“Tango Superior” lui permet de glisser quelques mesures de… rock’n’roll), le spectateur ne sait plus s’il doit se situer dans le jeu ou le contre-jeu, la partition ou sa représentation.
Faisant feu de tout bois, ce collectif semble, en effet, ne rien respecter ; pourtant, la mise en place millimétrée, les arrangements savamment agencés et toujours ingénieux et la justesse des interventions solistes écartent toute idée de simple blague potache. D’autant que le swing point régulièrement derrière cette ironie sympathique. Un swing caféiné (voire cocaïné), digne des grandes heures du Count Basie Orchestra - preuve irréfutable de l’amour de Breuker et ses complices pour un jazz ouvert à toutes les formes.
Par sa portée documentaire, ce double CD (parfaitement enregistré) apporte une nouvelle lumière sur des personnalités qui ont joué, en leur temps, dans le monde entier, et tenté de mettre en place une utopie sonore (une uphonie ?) : un lieu qui embrasserait toutes les musiques.
Willem Breuker Kollektief Angoulême 18 Mail 1980 Fou Records FR-CD 9&10
Anthony Braxton & Derek Bailey First Duo Concert Emanem 5038
Brötzmann/Van Hove Bennink 1971 Corbett vs Dempsey CD 020
Free Jazz Group Wiesbaden Frictions/Frictions Now NoBusiness Records NBCD 79
Something In The Air: Preserving Rediscovered Free Music Classics
By Ken Waxman
Fully grasping the intricacies of musical history often depends on the availability of recorded documents. That’s why many musical histories are re-evaluated once hitherto little known performances become accessible. This is especially crucial when it comes to completely or mostly improvised sounds. Reissued and/or rediscovered sessions, which preserve ephemeral moments, confirm the music’s wide dissemination. More importantly they add the equivalent of additional sentences that provide a fuller understanding of the free music story.
Consisting of almost 78 minutes of music, First Duo Concert (Emanem 5038) is particularly relevant because it captures one dozen interactions between American multi-reedist Anthony Braxton and British guitarist Derek Bailey. Recorded in 1974, it displays the similarities and as significantly the differences between free music concepts. Even at this early date Bailey and many of his London-based colleagues rejected the idea of playing anything but in-the-moment music. But as true to the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (ACCM) ethos as knight templars would be to their creed during the Crusades, the saxophonist/clarinetist brought not only familiarity with the blues form, but also an interest in semi-composed material and extended explorations in certain techniques to the date – concerns that remain with him more than 40 years later. When the completely improvised Area 3 (open) is reached, congruence turns to cooperation. What originally could have been the jolts produced when two blindfolded player collided with one another turns into a motley garment whose patchwork can envelop grinding string buzzes and harsh clangs as well as resonating timber wolf-like saxophone snarls and moderated bass clarinet ostinato. If gating banjo-like reverb plus internal body tube puffs and renal-like vibrations from his reed collection on Braxton’s part still disturb the evolving continuum like pointed flecks in rough wood grain, then his unexpected peeps and pops lessen as both aim towards measured expression. Allowing each partner’s full expression during single unaccompanied tracks, the duo reaches the zenith of mutual understanding on the extended “Area 11 (Open)”. While each still test the limits of the other’s conviction’s with the zeal of a small child taunting the family pet, harsh, oblique strums and quivering aviary-styled peeps from the clarinet finally dovetail enough so that aggressive string thumb taps fit into an accompanying groove, as later circular tweets from sopranino saxophone, clarinet and flute settle uneasily next to guitar strokes. The concluding “Area 12” with its corkscrew reed squeaks and rugged string quivers gives notice that neither improvisational philosophy has bested the other. But the framework for future reciprocal idea exchanges has been set.
Three years earlier the protean trio of German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann Belgian pianist Fred Van Hove and Dutch percussionist Han Bennink was constantly touring the continent confirming that a bellicose interpretation of free jazz wasn’t confined to Americans. The CD 1971 Corbett vs Dempsey CD 020 reissues the band’s justly famous furiously unyielding set at that year’s New Jazz Meeting, but adds almost an additional 16 minutes of sound recorded four months earlier that demonstrate the hair-trigger-like technical skill that goes into what initially seems like relentless bombast. Like the proverbial tough guy with the gentle interior, Van Hove for one uncovers elegant near romantic phrasing on “Filet Americain”, which he expands with harsh clanging sounding as if he prepared the piano with thumbtacks. Bennink confines himself to clattering reverberations and Brötzmann blows with a burr-like tone. “I.C.P. No. 17” is more aggressive, with the saxophonist’s subterrestrial exposition echoed by Bennink probably honking through a Tibetan radung or long metal bass horn. “Just For Altena” the nearly 26½-minute final showcase then shows how a palpitating rhythm can be maintained even as the players push techniques past expected instrumental limits. Spelled by the percussionist’s smashing cracks, horn-blowing and yells, Brötzmann’s virtually endless honks and glottal punctuation sound as if he’s soon going to be pushing blood out of his horn as well as air. Still he manages to work in quotes from Bavarian marches, polkas, Mexican hat dances and limitless free-jazz glossolalia as he plays, often unaccompanied, to attain beyond the highest imaginable altissimo slur. Like a hyperactive canine, Bennink is also in motion, shoving everything from a conga-drum interlude to bass drum resonation to gong and cymbal clashes into his accompaniment as if boiling a potluck stew. Van Hove marathon-runner-like glissandi share space with crackling kinetic expositions that whack the keys and strings as frequently as they play them. Is it any wonder that at this time this trio could challenge any electrified rock band for pure excitement?
Another band that could do the same was the Willem Breuker Kollektief (WBK), like Bennink part of Amsterdam’s fertile improv scene. Mixing anarchistic stunts, parody, constant motion, classic tune recreations plus free-form playing with top-line musicianship, the nine-piece group led by saxophonist/clarinetist Breucker (1944-2010) was the epitome of post-modernism. Yet unlike more academically oriented Fluxus or Dada experimentalists, the WBK was so entertaining that this two-CD set recorded live in France, Angoulême 18 mai 1980 (Fou Records FR-CD 9&10), ends with the raucous audience demanding three successive encores. A European equivalent of Sun Ra’s Arkestra, but infinitely less serious-minded, here the group mixes the precision of Glen Miller’s band, the romping swing of Count Basie’s and the humour of Laurel and Hardy. During the concert modern jazz originals, a tango, Kurt Weil’s “Song of Mandalay”, Les Brown and his band of Renown’s theme song “Sentimental Journey”, and finally the hokey “I Believe” – to disperse the crowd – race by at record pace. Additionally following “Big Busy Band” where the group’s solid brassy power is broken up by Rob Verdurmen’s flashy drumming à la Gene Krupa, plus bassist Arjen Gorter playing “Blues in the Closet”, Breucker exposes his inner Benny Goodman and tenor saxophonist Maaren van Norden outscreams Big Jay McNeeley. Eventually an episode of pseudo-show-biz banter introduces “Marche & Sax Solo with Vacuum Cleaner” where Breucker does just that, improvising in tandem and in opposition to the whining household appliance. Like a squad of quick change artists the WBK is capable of taking on any persona, with pianist Henk de Jonge for instance, comping like an bopper, knocking out stride piano asides, beginning and ending “Flat Jungle” with romantic flourishes and extravagant glissandi that could be Vladimir Ashkenazy playing Chopin, channels Cecil Taylor’s contrasting dynamics in the song’s centre, and mocks the saxophonist’s appropriation of the highest altissimo notes in existence with studied, flamboyant quotes from “Rhapsody in Blue”. Gorter’s bass line and Verdunen’s back beat ensure that foot-stomping elation is always present, even if the rhythm team may sometimes feel like extras in a Marx Brothers’ movie with all the musical mayhem going on around them. Still any band that on “Potsdamer Stomp” mocks rock music’s overwrought yakkity saxes via dueling solos from Breuker and baritone saxophonist Bob Drissen, at the same time as playing “Name That Tune” as fragments of everything from Chick Corea’s “Spain” to the “Marine Hymn” to circus music loom into earshot, confirms that these discs do a lot more than fill in a three-year gap in the WBK discography. They’re a jubilant listening experience on their own.
If music’s value is judged by its pervasive acceptance, then the tracks on Frictions/Frictions Now (NoBusiness Records NBCD 79) are as notable as the better known efforts by Breuker, Braxton-Bailey and Brötzmann. Independent of other connections, members of the Free Jazz Group Wiesbaden (FJGW) developed a caustic and punchy free music variant, which mixed music concète and chance notions from notated music, folkloric instruments and tropes plus improvisation that went beyond freebop into sonic intoxication, Recorded in 1969 and 1971 and released in limited edition the German band members eventually pursued other paths. Like Quebec’s Walter Boudreau, who went from leading the Zappesque ensemble like L’Infonie to become a composer and artistic director of Société de musique contemporaine du Québec, trumpeter Michael Sell abandoned improvisation for fully notated work in the 1980s; saxophonist/pianist/flutist Dieter Scherf played with major German free jazzers later in the decade before abandoning music because of dental problems; drummer Wolfgang Schlick and guitarist Gerhard König history are even more obscure. However the three tracks here demonstrate the band’s originality. Coming across like a spiky combination of Jimi Hendrix, Sonny Sharrock and Earl Scruggs, König’s chord-shredding flanges insinuate into whatever spaces the horns leave open with a style that includes surf music intonation, single-string finesse and preparations that could come from double bass. Schlick’s coiled rumbles and consistent thumps range from marital to miasmatic; he doesn’t swing but keeps the pieces moving notwithstanding, even when slamming his metal bracket for unusual rhythms. Squeezing death rattles and hunting-horn-like blares from his trumpet, Scherf’s tone resembles those of ur-New Thing players like Earl Cross and Don Ayler. Yet when he unites with Schlick they harmonize enough to approach contemporary jazz, and even flutter out rounded grace notes on the final “Frictions Now Part II”, to reach a meandering, delicate tempo. Leaping among his instruments like an unsupervised child in a music store, Schlick brings something different to each one. On alto saxophone, obviously influenced by the atonal techniques of American free jazzers, his honks, snorts and blats include crying vibrations that add an unconventional Teutonic melancholy. Brief shenai and oboe interludes introduce World Music allusions to the middle of the extended Frictions, while his inner-piano strums join with König’s finger-style ornamentation on the same piece for stark tonal outlines, finally climaxing with a moving motif that appears to judder from cadence to cacophony and back again.
Like crate digging in a second hand vinyl store, reissues like these can reveal unexpected values. They confirm the talents of the known or introduce unfamiliar stylists who should have been better known first time out.
—For The Whole Note April 2016