April-2nd-2005, 02:32 PM
ALL EARS, 4/1/05, Ann Arbor, MI.
A concert that greatly exceded my expectations. I'd heard the "Foamy Wife Hum" disc and enjoyed it, but the concert last night was so much more lively and vital.
Frank Gratkowski - alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet
Frans Vermeerssen - tenor sax
Herb Robertson - trumpet, pocket trumpet w/many many mutes
Michiel Braam - piano
Wilbert Dejoode - bass
Michael Vatcher - drums
The amount of free improvisation is what surprised me the most. Much of the music started with the Dutch Swing, folkish melodies, even some funk and a riff that sounded like a Dutch reggae. But even when the group was playing it straight, at least one or two members were totally messing it up in a great and creative way.
I think that major culprits were Robertson and Dejoode. There were moments where the group settled into a straight ahead swing and Dejoode would yell out and totally twist the rhythm, really incite a riot within the music, while still keeping that sense of pulse. Herb, well if you know him, he can insert those bleats and flurries of notes, using the mutes to the highest sense of creativity, inciting rises in the music in his own way.
Michael Vatcher was perhaps playing perhaps the most animated that I'd ever heard him as well. I began to think that, well, Han can't be the only one persuing his path of percussion style. Nice to know that there's a disciple out there playing a major role in the music.
Gratkowski was in fine form on all three horns. Frank, of course is probably at his best when involved in his own music or a freer form of improvisation, but there was plenty of space for free improv allowed here and Frank was right there with some great creative play.
All in all, a great blending of composition and free improvisation, with plenty of truly spontaneous moments, bolts of thunder, corny melodies, and such antics that make the Dutch scene so much fun.
They're in Boston tonight (saturday) and Sunday in NYC at The Stone.