Willem Breuker Kollektief with Vera Miles and the Mondriaan Strings “Gershwin/Breuker/Morricone/Schlippenbach” [BVHaast]
The Kollektief continues to play jazz like it’s going out of style. On this release they continue their Gershwin tribute with the Mondriaan Strings (see other Breuker CDs), offering An American In Paris, Promenade (The Real McCoy), Lullabye, and the Cuban Overture. These pieces succeed (or don’t succeed) on the same level as their previous Gershwin disk: great energy, an old school jazz ensemble, and captivating changes of mood, but underwhelming tutti passages.
There are 4 non-Gershwin numbers on the disc too. As much as I hate to pass over George, they are more interesting. Leading off is Breuker’s Sahara Sack, an elephant-borne trek through a humid northern Thai jungle. Sweat drips over distinctly southeast Asian swinging riffs, all the while Andy Altenfelder plays a delicious pachydermic trumpet . I expect Indiana Jones to come crashing through the undergrowth.
Then there’s Ennio Morricone’s Revolver (we’ve got the original in the library). What ought to be a jaunty ride peppered by fierce timpani, piano, and string attacks alternating with a smooth sax second theme instead turns out to be a frustratingly repetitive nightmare. Never having heard the original, I felt let down by the promise of the first 3 minutes. While definitely still Cool, this track maybe needs more electric/electronic sounds (there’s just a hint here and there) or a video projection of Steve McQueen, gun in hand, chasing bad guys on the 110th floor of a skyscraper that’s under construction.
Breuker’s Hallo Tokyo, Hallo Van Agt is bizarre and the least Kollektief-esque I’ve ever heard. While the ensemble weaves its way through some pentatonic world, a battery of Asian gongs are randomly struck while several people interject with wordless guttural Japanese-y interjections. An aimless shenanigan about an eccentric Dutch prime minister turned ambassador to Japan.
Von Schlippenbach’s Minor Double Blues is the most successful track on the album. On top of the infectious melody and the drummer riding the cymbal, this track has what is sorely lacking on the rest of the album: solos. When the saxophone first starts to wail, I can’t describe what a relief it was to hear after listening to the album from the beginning. But the bass solo that follows is greater; maybe the best bass solo I’ve ever heard (disclaimer: I have not heard a lot).
-Cujo, KFJC, August 2006
Note to future biographers: In case you think I slight Gershwin in this review, I note that the Cuban Overture is my favorite Gershwin, it brought me much pleasure to hear it (and the others), and that the bridge out of the slow middle movement is one of my all-time favorite moments in music.