is a review that I'm personally really happy I could write (there's a long,
boring story that appears as a p.s. at the end of this review) about this
excellent and extremely well recorded album, which I unexpectedly found
waiting for me in my mailbox.
got reason to believe that Coconut is the fifth album by the Eric Boeren
4tet, a line-up that - according to the liner notes to the CD, penned by
Boeren himself - came into existence in 1997. The degree of communication
between the musicians here is really apparent starting from the first listening
session, but there's also something that tells of the group's conscious
decision to make the music really come alive: the music featured on this
CD comes from the last of a series of three concerts played by the group,
which makes the music even more lively and "telepathic-sounding" than
one could hope for.
concert was recorded live on Sunday June 3rd 2012, by Marc Schots in what
to me sounds like a room with good acoustic properties, the music later
being mixed by Schots himself, and two members of the quartet. The fine-sounding
whole makes it possible for the listener to "see" the musicians
performing inside the stereo spectrum, so making it easy for the listener
to catch the instrumental interplay "in the moment", ideas flowing
back and forth. From the left, we see Wilbert de Joode on double bass,
Han Bennink on snare drum, Eric Boeren on cornet, and Michael Moore - the
only American of a group featuring three Dutch players - on reeds, mostly
alto saxophone. But I think the mixing process here to be of an "interventionist" type,
not merely acting as a photo camera.
is way better than a thousand words, and here the music is very captivating
"user-friendly". Sure, there's a degree of complexity that will
keep listeners busy and interested for a long time, but the music immediately
sounds beautiful - which could come as a surprise, should one take into account
that the ultimate source here is Ornette Coleman's "perennial avant-garde"!
to the first track, Coconut - five minutes that are gone in a moment -
will immediately make the point apparent, a vivacious calypso - ably supported
by Han Bennink's snare, here even impersonating a pair of timbales - which
reminded me of Una Muy Bonita, a composition featured on the Coleman masterpiece
titled Change Of The Century.
has to be clarified that Boeren's 4tet doesn't play "covers".
And that the group's timbral palette is (obviously) quite different from
Coleman's, Boeren's 4tet lacking the shrill, "barely-controlled hysteria" which
in the context of those times was perceived as being a feature of Coleman's
let's hear from Boeren's liner notes to this CD: "The improvisation
space is considered as common ground from which new forms and ideas can
be launched. This contrasts with Ornette's group where improvisations are
treated more as solo space."
think that listening to Coleman's Change Of The Century side-by-side with
Coconut could make young listeners incredulous about the reality of those
polemics from long ago about Coleman's music, so swingin' and bluesy is
the music performed by his quartet half a century ago. The music in question
has to be seen in the context of the times, and so placed inside a framework
where those compositional ideas were a hypothesis waiting to be tested,
not something that could be taken for granted. The music featured on Coconut
is, by comparison, much more "elastic" and rich, since the palette
of possibilities musicians have at their disposal is nowadays a lot richer.
nothing is a good substitute for listening (I suggest listeners listen
to this CD at an adequate listening volume, music will become more lively),
here are a few quick notes about the featured tracks.
stated above, Coconut reminded me of the calypso-tinged Una Muy Bonita.
Here, as elsewhere on the album, Han Bennink's snare will make those who
consider playing "only" a snare drum as a limiting choice change
a bit more that 15', the medley of What Happened At Conway Hall, 1938?
and Shake Your Wattle is the only long episode of the whole album. Theme,
then it accelerates ("Yeah!"), there's a fine Latin-tinged melody,
a solo by Moore plus rhythm, all flowing towards the more "rarefied"
improvisation of Shake..., where a muted cornet frames an
"African-sounding" reed solo that reminded me of something Coleman
played in the Howard Shore-penned soundtrack to The Naked Lunch.
a pedal from the bass, a hushed alto, cornet (here it sounds to me that
winds have a bit of added echo in the mix), The Fish In The Pond features
a mournful melody played unison that's not too far from the world-famous
Coleman composition titled Lonely Woman, even if in the end the track also
appears to allude to those more "bluesy" moments played by The
Art Ensemble Of Chicago which were composed by the late, great Lester Bowie.
Very fine snare, played brushes.
Symphony is a composition by Coleman off Twins, the version here having
the same convoluted theme. A "motivic" alto solo, with an episode
for circular breathing that has Han Bennink explode. There's a very fine
cornet solo, played con brio.
very rich combination of moments which also features a... drum solo by
Bennink, Crunchy Croci inhabits a highly rhythmic universe.
has a "swing" melody, and a relaxed Moore solo, followed by the
leader's muted cornet.
three tracks that follow come from the concert's encore, to my ears sounding
quite different from those that came before, with more added reverb, Bennink's
snare being placed more to the right (audience's perspective).
theme to the Coleman-penned Joy Of A Toy is quite easy to recognize, so
swinging and fast, with a duet of cornet and what to me sounded like a
clarinet. Fast and quiet moments follow each other.
has a fine theme, and more excellent "swing" by the cornet and
the snare, while the bass part reminded me somewhat of the highly-celebrated
riffage played by Charlie Haden on Ramblin'. I'll use this moment to laud
the fine performance by Wilbert de Joode on the whole album, halfway between
Charlie Haden, Scott LaFaro, and ... Wilbert de Joode.
appropriately, the album ends with a blues - by Booker Little, it's BeeTee's
Minor Plea - the quartet choosing different colours from their palette,
Boeren sounding a bit like Freddie Hubbard, and Moore like Eric Dolphy
(to me, anyway). There's also a "slap" bass by de Joode.
put a personal anecdote here at the end as a little p.s. About twelve years
ago I happened to read - on Down Beat - a very positive review of Joy Of
A Toy, an album where The Eric Boeren 4tet, a line-up I'd never heard before,
played a mix of Coleman-penned tunes and originals which had Coleman as
their source/starting point. I immediately called my favourite record shops,
but none of them had ever heard of this group - with one exception, but
they didn't have this CD.
few years passed, and it was time for a new album by The Eric Boeren 4tet
- don't remember the title, I just remember there was a clown on the cover
- but by now I was on the Internet, so I sent an e-mail to the Dutch distributor,
and I was told that there were no more copies of the CD, that - just released!
- it was already sold out. I was happy for them, but a bit incredulous,
so I wrote back. I was told that the whole pressing had been sent to a
big USA distributor, and so I had to ask them (!).
will have no trouble imagining my surprise when I happened to find in my
mailbox, for free, the most recent title by a group that I never managed
to listen to by paying money. The distributor is not the same, I think.)
© Beppe Colli 2012
| Nov. 12, 2012