Misha Mengelberg/ Ab Baars Trio | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Misha Mengelberg/ Ab Baars Trio


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Nineteen ninety-eight has been the year of the flying Dutchman in Chicago--in May the Empty Bottle Jazz Festival imported reedists Peter Van Bergen and Ab Baars and the fabulous Clusone Trio, featuring drummer Han Bennink and cellist Ernst Reijseger; now, in conjunction with a Dutch presentation at the Chicago International Film Festival, we get this rare treat. Pianist Misha Mengelberg, like Bennink, is a founding father of the reverently irreverent, antihierarchical form we know today as Dutch jazz. American jazz guides will lead you to believe he played on Eric Dolphy's Last Date and not much else, but at home he's known as a founder of the Instant Composers Pool, which has become as much a school of thought as an organization for Dutch improvisers (as Kevin Whitehead explains in great detail in his recent book New Dutch Swing). On first listen Mengelberg's last two recordings sound like they were made by two different musicians, but patience draws out the commonalities. Last year's superb trio date, No Idea (DIW), with bassist Greg Cohen and drummer Joey Baron, consists primarily of standards, which at his Monkish best Mengelberg keeps derailing. (On an earlier trio album he turned his original cha-cha "A Bit Nervous" into an elaborate joke, the notes piling up as if he'd run into a wall but just kept playing.) Like fellow Monk devotee Steve Lacy--with whom Mengelberg last appeared in Chicago, at a late-80s Jazz Festival--he can pluck the oddest harmonies out of the air, and every tune on No Idea is chockablock with them. Comparatively, The Root of the Problem (Hatology) is an austere, all-improv outing, but on a piece like "IC Root no. 4," with saxist Steve Potts, you can still hear Mengelberg's trademark yin and yang of gorgeous chords and discordant, jagged runs. Baars is of the post-Mengelberg generation, and he lacks his predecessor's sense of humor, but his music's just as potent. He appears here in his marvelous trio with bassist Wilbert de Joode and drummer Martin van Duynhoven--a sensitive, elastic group that can accommodate the leader's hearty tenor squawks and delicate clarinet melodies, navigating the tight parts of his compositions with remarkable precision and then swinging like maniacs on the straightaways. The trio plays first, then Mengelberg solo, then a series of Mengelberg-Baars duets. Sunday, 8 PM, Velvet Lounge, 2128 1/2 S. Indiana; 312-791-9050. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photos.

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