doek festival blog #5
Blog #5 June 7
by Kevin Whitehead
The Doek/Tri-Centric orchestra was playing the slow parts of Ingrid Laubrock’s “Offering,” soundchecking on Saturday afternoon. Glowing chords wafted up from the ensemble, and the beautiful blend of distinctive voices sounded eerily like some lost Gil Evans classic of the early 1960s: you could listen to those harmonies all day. This band/ensemble/musicians pool of 19 achieved that delicate balance of individual voices and collective strengths that makes jazz such a popular metaphor for societal relationships (and vice versa).
The ideal large jazz ensemble remains Duke Ellington’s: a band of distinctive accents and musical tics and speech patterns, of myriad timbres and idiosyncratic viewpoints. It’s an ideal more aspired-to than achieved, but this band had it. Not enough Duke had extra-strong stylists Johnny Hodges, Jimmy Hamilton, Paul Gonsalves and Harry Carney among his saxes; they also had to meld in section—voicing the harmonies even as you hear them as individuals. It’s as rare as it is beautiful. We have been lucky to hear that luminous sound all week.
Those voices bubbled out all over on Saturday, the last night they all played together this week. For the second set, arranger Michael Moore (whose rhythmically fiendish “Toujours Maintenant” premiered in the first set) roadmapped various highways and byways through a mess of familiar and less common compositions from Misha’s ICP book — an honest simulacrum of that orchestra’s fluid method. (The stukjes, for the record: Kneushoorn; Tetteretet 5; Waar bleef je 1 & 2; Kwijt for strings; Kafel; 3 haiku-like miniatures Misha wrote on one sheet of paper: Meelwurm/Tuinhek/Reukzoot; his ballad theme De sprong, O romantiek der hazen; Kachel; Brozziman; Weer is een dag voorbij; and the encore Kraloog).
That most raucous set was at times a Charles Ivesian/Braxtonian/Mengelbergian hubbub of conflicting musical statements converging on the same point. On “Waar bleef je,” when the main band played part one, trombonist Wolter Wierbos, bassist Wilbert de Joode and drummer Michael Vatcher huddled together, doing their best to play the other part in a different tempo. Players came and went as the action flowed from one tune to another, or the seas parted to make way for a solo. A stupendous “Brozziman” was all full-bore ass-braying for riffing horns; John Dikeman played the machine-gun Peter Brotzmann role; his flamethrower approach is well deployed in a band that generally administers solo space in small, concentrated doses. (Didn’t Misha say a little free-jazz squalling goes a long way?) The Nate Wooley solo that followed was one of the week’s most audacious: muted, quiet, reflective, the last thing you’d expect. Everybody had their say: the whole Ellingtonian panoply.
Misha Mengelberg came with his whole family, hung out with his old trombonist George Lewis (who’d spoken at the daytime Misha symposium, and who was practically a member of the family when he lived in Amsterdam in the ’80s), Misha also checked out the band soundchecking his tunes. He was in a visibly good mood.
As I write, the ensemble is already dispersing. Some players are winging toward the States, some stayed to play today’s A’dam bike tour. Closing party, Zaal 100 where it all started, at 9 tonight: Yedo Gibson’s trio with ICP’s Ab Baars sitting in play still more Misha. No time to mourn the orchestra. We have more gigs to get to.