This weekend Amsterdam's mighty ICP Orchestra rolls through town for a series of performance as a full ensemble and in small groups. The group was founded by pianist Misha Mengelberg (who's sitting out this tour) and drummer Han Bennink in 1974, and it's existed ever since with a goodly amount of turnover (past members have included John Tchicai, Peter Brötzmann, Alan Silva, Enrico Rava, Giancarlo Schiaffini, Steve Lacy, and George Lewis, among numerous others), though the current lineup has remained more or less the same for a decade and a half. Yet before this particular ensemble started, Mengelberg and Bennink had a very long history together dating back to 1961: in 1967 they formed Instant Composers Pool with reedist Willem Breuker as a musical cooperative. Among its efforts was launching a record label to chronicle some of its activity.
Last year ICP turned 45, and to mark the anniversary the label released a staggering box set containing the label's entire 50-item catalog on CD; the set also includes two CDs of previously unissued material and two DVDs of live performances. There's a gorgeous 120-page 12 x 12 book packed with photos by Pieter Boersma that documents much of ICP's history, along with a blueprint of Mengelberg's Fluxus-like "camel-chair" piece, and the cover of each set is customized by Bennink. The collection ain't cheap—€539 post paid from the Netherlands, which equals about $700—but it's a truly remarkable object packed with thrilling music, much of it incredibly hard to fine otherwise. Getting a genuine grip on this material could take several years of your life, and it would be time well spent. In fact, I've barely made a dent thus far. On the downside, there appears to be some sloppiness in the digital transfers—parts of ICP 025 (Extension Red, White & Blue)—which features ICP Orchestra playing the music of Herbie Nichols and was originally released only on cassette—sound like hell. Below you can check out a couple of pieces from some of the rarest items: "Rumboon" is a Mengelberg composition from the first ICP tentet album Tetterett, while "The New Duck" is the opening track from a 1974 Steve Lacy album with Bennink and synthesizer experimenter Michel Waisvisz called Lumps.
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photo courtesy of ericreed.net
Last evening the pianist Eric Reed kicked off a four-night stand at the Jazz Showcase—he's joined by bassist Mike Gurrola and drummer Wesley Anderson. The Chicago visit comes on the heels of the pianist's second recent album examining the music of Thelonious Monk. The Dancing Monk (Savant), from 2011, was a trio effort, while last year's The Baddest Monk (Savant) was a quintet outing, and with the exception of saxophonist Seamus Blake most of the collaborators were new to Reed: trumpeter Etienne Charles, bassist Matt Clohesy, and drummer Henry Cole (rising singer José James makes a guest appearance on a reading of "'Round Midnight"). In his liner notes Reed writes, "The truth here is that we behaved in a most appropriately irreverent manner—we had our way with Monk." And indeed, Reed and company don't handle the indelible compositions of Monk (an iconoclast if there ever was one) with kid gloves, although they don't exactly work them over either. There's a driving funk in their version of "Rhythm-a-Ning," and "Bright Mississippi" receives a brisk 7/4 treatment. Below you can hear one of the strongest pieces on the album, a trio version of "Evidence" where Reed really digs into the knotty rhythms of Monk.