Ab Baars Quartet
Kinda Dukish


For a lot of those who started listening to jazz at the end of the 60s the notion of what constituted "jazz today" was quite clear: Coltrane, Coleman, Shepp, Ayler, Taylor and the Liberation Music Orchestra. Later, there was also the Art Ensemble Of Chicago during their "French exile", and also early Gato Barbieri. Of course, there were examples of "classicism" that still managed sounding modern: Mingus and Sun Ra. The notion of "jazz from the past" was just as clear, a category well represented by line-ups such as The Modern Jazz Quartet and The Duke Ellington Orchestra: "easy listening for high society", absolutely out of time even when the mere sartorial presentation was taken into consideration (here the garlic that many rock fans used as their protection was King Kong, the piece which filled side four of the Zappa masterpiece Uncle Meat).

A lot of time had to pass until the past could be reconsidered in the proper way - the one adopted by the avant-garde, that is, not the recipe by the numbers favoured by many revivalists. Here readers can refer to the nice article by Francis Davis from 1987 titled Ellington's Decade, which alongside its twin piece Surviving Ellington was first included in the book titled Outcats and then, quite recently, in the volume titled Jazz And Its Discontents: A Francis Davis Reader.

A good example of a personal approach to Ellington's music is the suite called Ellington Mix which appeared on Vol. I of Bospaadje Konijnehol by the Dutch line-up called Instant Composers Pool Orchestra, whose leader Misha Mengelberg had already arranged, in a similar spirit, pieces by Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols (here the reader can check the CD titled Two Programs). On tenor and clarinet, Ab Baars had been a member of that line-up.

As it's quite common for many members of the Dutch avant-garde, Baars has also spent some time dealing with tradition, a good recorded example of this being his trio CD called A Free Step, his homage to American composer and clarinet player John Carter. The only time I saw the Ab Baars group (it happened a few years ago, at the Controindicazioni Festival in Rome: here trombonist Roswell Rudd was also a part of the line-up) I couldn't help but notice how traditional the Trio's fantastic rhythm section was able to sound, even if the language spoken was extremely modern (it was Wilbert De Joode on double bass and Martin Van Duynhoven on drums, by the way).

Here we have the trio, plus Joost Buis on trombone. Kinda Dukish is a homage to Ellington which can be approached from many points of view, and which could prove to be liked by many kinds of listeners. We have some very famous compositions such as Solitude, Caravan, Prelude To A Kiss, Perdido, and others not so famous. It's a very intelligent approach absolutely devoid of any commercial cheap means. At first listening, the opening notes of Solitude - the piece that opens the CD - could prove to be quite strange to those listeners who only know the original version, or the one for solo piano recorded by Monk, so I hope Ab Baars won't get angry if I suggest that listeners start the CD from piece #3 (Kinda Bear) after setting their CD player in its "repeat" mode.

I completely agree with Ab Baars's decision to play clarinet instead of tenor for a large part of the album; we have a nice use of the trombone, quite often played with the plunger mute; a very tasty rhythm section, where sometimes the double bass (Kinda Bear) directly quotes Jimmy Blanton's style. The album is not at all difficult to listen to, and it features clear and useful liner notes by Kevin Whitehead which will be useful to all those who will want to listen to the original arrangements. Both Jack The Bear and Caravan can work as a charm as an introduction to the album, but it's the tracks Mr. Gentle And Mr. Cool and Half The Fun which, at least for this writer, better illustrate the depth of the arrangements and of the performing side of this album.

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2006

CloudsandClocks.net | Jan. 25, 2006