When: Sat., May 2, 8 p.m. 2015
Amsterdam’s mighty ICP Orchestra have been without 79-year-old founding pianist and primary composer Misha Mengelberg their last couple of times through Chicago, and their most recent album, East of the Sun (ICP), is the first without him. The liner notes explain that Mengelberg’s dementia has forced him to retire from playing music. That development is undeniably sad, for listeners as well as for the pianist, whose cranky mien never hid his love for playing. Lots of groups carry on when an important member steps aside, but few are equipped to continue producing strong work while honoring the restless spirit of their old leader. Here each player in the band, including cofounder and drummer Han Bennink, is a student of the pianist’s irascible sense of humor, his creative spirit, and his disdain for predictability. East of the Sun is a fantastic effort marked by a lovely sprawl. Aside from several Mengelberg rarities, the album features expert arrangements by reedist Michael Moore, like his sour take on Ellington’s “A Little Max,” or his mix of a kwela piece by fallen Dutch comrade Sean Bergin with driving Count Basie (“Lavoro/Moten Swing”). Plus the absurdist humor of cellist Tristan Honsinger’s “Bolly Wolly” nods to Mengelberg’s love for jazz tradition and his simultaneous refusal to be hemmed in by its strictures. Occupying the piano chair now, the deft improviser and accomplished composer Guus Janssen is charting his own path rather than trying to fill someone else’s shoes, and it’s given the band an added lift. Long live the ICP Orchestra. —Peter Margasak The orchestra breaks into small groups to perform on Sun 5/3 at Elastic, while on Mon 5/4 at Constellation the foursome of Bennink, Oliver, Moore, and Honsinger performs an improvised set.
Price: $20, $15 in advance