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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Instant Composers Pool - Incipient ICP (1966-71) (Corbett vs Dempsey, 2021) ****


By Stephen Griffith

Part of the crazy quilt reissue aspect of the Corbett vs Dempsey label involves making available some of the out of print earlier output of the New Dutch Swing musicians on the ICP label. In at least one case, the first release on the ICP label, an additional disc of a later recorded concert in Essen by The New Acoustic Duo, was added. But the first two cuts of the current release predates the ICP label in these fascinating tracks of musicians striving to form an identity by bouncing youthful ideas in progress off each other. The first song, “Session No.1”, was only two years removed from drummer Han Bennink and pianist Misha Mengelberg appearing on Eric Dolphy’s Last Date; the influence of which is evident in Piet Noordijk’s alto playing and post bop motifs. A key addition to the group was reedist Willem Breuker who, at the time was much more interested in Machine Gun like squalling torrents of noise and found in Bennink a kindred soul as illustrated in much of the New Acoustic Duo release. But these three prongs of the ICP fork were striving to form an identity in 1966. Mengelberg was obviously influenced by Monk, which never ceased to be the case; you can hear snippets of something like “Thelonious” interspersed throughout the cut “Session No. 1” as Bennink pounds away and Breuker strives to force feed some bass clarinet into the cut. In addition there are cinematic motifs with jarring dramatic dissonant chords which became a staple of future endeavors particularly by Breuker. There was already some growth of the group entity present in “Viet Cong”, formerly titled “Paper Tiger” and performed at the end of the year at an award ceremony for Mengelberg. Everyone is more individually assertive in establishing musical personae. Mengelberg uses Monkish sing songy melodies rather than drawing directly from the source as Bennink and particularly Breuker become even more individually assertive.

But the next step happened in 1967 as the group performed under the moniker of Instant Composers Pool. Adding a strong voice in Manfred Schoof was important as was the bassist Maarten van Regteren Altena. But these performances seem more in line with the ICP ethos of madcap dada but with an overriding purpose and an assertive tightness when navigating through multiple motifs; accordingly the last six cuts of disc 1 were released as ICP 000 in the massive 53 disc box set Instant Composers Pool. There's more of a united building a group entity feel to these over and beyond “let's try this and see what happens”. The songs, whether composed by Mengelberg or Breuker, have a coherence and polish lacking in the 1966 ones while still retaining a palpable sense of adventure. Unique voices such as Henry Ronde on steel drums, Orjen Gorter on accordion and the violas of Lodewijk de Boer and Hasso van der Westen are seamlessly added to the group sound. What became the New Dutch Swing sound is rooted here.

Disc 2 is from two sessions. The first is a 1969 session of three short Mengelberg compositions, the second of which, “Stch Shuffle”, features a piano melody which would fit in well with the other songs on Who's Bridge, a 1994 release on John Zorn’s Avant label with Brad Jones and Joey Baron. This was previously released on a promotional 7 lp box by Radio Nederland The Dutch Jazz Scene. The final 6 cuts are previously unreleased from a 1971 session of Breuker compositions, except for Albert Ayler’s Angels, recorded under the Instant Composers Pool moniker but not including Mengelberg nor Han Bennink. These feature much more aggressive Breuker saxophone work than the previous cuts.

Even at the time when the three were the faces of the ICP label, Breuker chafed at Mengelberg’s more contemplative nature when he wished to break down more walls and, even though his music developed in more subtle ways over the course of the five years covered in the two discs, the schism would result in him going his own way and forming his Kollektief elsewhere. I believe this provides a valuable document of when three strong musical voices were taking the steps and building musical identities which ultimately defined them.


Nick Ostrum said...

Great review, Stephen. I have been spinning this album repeatedly for a few weeks, now, and still find it exciting. Another worthwhile archival release from the folks at CvD.

Stephen Griffith said...

Thanks, Nick. I too was surprised at the sheer amount of quality music on these discs that still sounds varied and fresh. Too bad Misha and Willem were too much at odds to coexist since they both had affinities for movie music. Oh well, they managed to carve out successfull careers on their own.