ICP small groups, Han Bennink Critic's Choice Recommended Soundboard

When: Sun., April 10, 10 p.m. 2011

Amsterdam's brilliant ICP Orchestra, founded in 1967 by pianist Misha Mengelberg and drummer Han Bennink, turns in an unexpectedly straight reading of the Thelonious Monk standard "'Round Midnight" on its most recent album, the vinyl-only !ICP! 50 (released on the band's own label, it's named after its catalog number). But even though nobody upends the performance with a burst of characteristic prankishness, it's playful and surprising in other, more subtle ways: the gorgeous arrangement calls on the members of the ten-piece group to juggle its melody among themselves, and they're constantly changing roles. The ICP Orchestra is well into its fifth decade, and by now its shenanigans are familiar—such is its predilection for self-sabotage that someone in the band often drops a new tune into the middle of a song everybody else is already playing—but those old tactics can still produce fresh and original music. !ICP! 50 and its CD-only predecessor, ICP 0rchestra (both from last year), make it clear that the group hasn't lost an ounce of potency: it leaps from wide-ranging composed material to equally eclectic improvisations with a wildness that seems chaotic but actually arises from graceful, invisible communication among the musicians. This is the group's first trip to town since its appearance at the Chicago Jazz Festival in 2008, and now as then, both Mengelberg and Bennink will play solo before the full-band show. Tonight's concert, part of the tenth-anniversary celebration of the Hungry Brain's Sunday Transmission Series, moves from those solo sets into ad hoc groupings drawn from the rest of the band's roster: trumpeter Thomas Heberer, bassist Ernst Glerum, cellist Tristan Honsinger, trombonist Wolter Wierbos, violinist and violist Mary Oliver, and reedists Ab Baars, Michael Moore, and Tobias Delius. It might seem like the ICP Orchestra plays pretty often here, but I wouldn't take it for granted, not with Mengelberg turning 76 in June. See also Monday. Update: Due to fatigue Mengelberg has returned to Amsterdam and will not join the group for this weekend's shows. —Peter Margasak

Price: $15 suggested donation

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