Sunday, January 09, 2011

Breuker Kollektief's Marvelous Musical Smorgasbord

The website Destination-Out ( has continued its important series of digital reissues of out-of-print vinyl albums from the FMP label. Among the latest is that by the Willem Breuker Kollektief’s “Live in Berlin.” Originally issued in late 1975, it was one of the early works by the Breuker Kollektief which Breuker created after being dissatisfied with existing European free jazz big bands like the Instant Composers Pool and the Globe Unity Orchestra. Breuker, who passed away in 2010, wanted more focus on theatrical and compositional elements, not simply musical free-for-alls.

On the Destination-Out website, “Live in Berlin” is described “This live date finds his big band gleefully incorporating everything from pop standards, light opera, funeral marches, and shoo bop into their freewheeling brand of free jazz. The Kollektief offers both drama and inspired moments of humor, making for sheerly enjoyable music that’s joyful and fun!” The mix of free jazz, bebop, street music, tango, vaudeville and European musical hall fare with more than a few hints of Kurt Weill has long been a favorite of these ears since seeing this band at the original Tralfamadore Cafe in Buffalo in 1976 or 1977 and obtaining the original vinyl album at that time.

The members of the Kollektief at the time of this recordi
ng were Willem Breuker himself on saxophones & clarinets; Bob Driessen on alto saxophone; Maarten van Norden: tenor saxophone; Ronald Snijders: flute; Boy Raaijmakers: trumpet; Willem van Manen: trombone; Bernhard Hunnekink: trombone; Jan Wolff: French horn; Leo Cuypers: piano; Arjen Gorter: double bass; and Rob Verdurmen: drums and if one checked the personnel on various Breuker recordings throughout the years, many of these names would be present or on their own efforts on the BVHasst label Breuker established.

Substantial portions of this are taken from two of Breuker’s extended compositions, “La Plagiata” and “Anthology.” The former piece is ‘plagiarized’ from a variety of sources, both from serious music and street sources as the Snijders’ flute does a funeral march before a frantic sounding march-like tango segment with some blistering tenor set against a hot riff then Cuypers’ trance-like piano as the tenor squeals, honks and twists and turns with another tenor sax adds its own serpentine lines and honks before the full band leads a transition into the Music Hall. It is only the beginning of a whirlwind of musical scenarios and moods that continues throughout.

There is the fiery tango beginning of “Jan De Wit” that sets the tone for some inspired, and soaring, sax as Verdurmen underpins it with a hot march rhythm with Cuypers adding a trance-like piano backing before the horns add a quote “I’m an old cowhand” before the Kollektief restates the main theme and Cuypers takes the spotlight, at times enthralling with his use of repetition before a more linear and melodic approach that quotes japanese folksongs that leads into “
Jalousie-Song” that opens like it was from a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta before the trombones add some gruff commentary. This magical musical circus continues until the closing, “Our Day Will Come,” which opens as if channelling Archie Shepp’s tribute to James Brown (“Mama Too Tight).” They play with similar reckless abandon with a rocking repeated riff until the rousing tango treatment of the melody of the Ruby and Romantics recording and then exuberantly singing it in Dutch.

I recall that the Breuker Kollektief performed “Our Day Will Come,” that night thirty four odd years ago in Buffalo, and the performance that evening was very similar to the overall character of “Live in berlin.” Breuker, of course had many other recordings with the Kollektief as well as other projects. One recording of Breuker, apart from those of the Kollektief, that I am particularly fond of his was “The Compositions Of Eric Dolphy” on BVHaast that was issued in 2006. Bill Shoemaker’s cogent, contemporaneous review of that recording can be found at the Point of Departure music journal,

For more information on this digital download, along with a download of a marvelous solo Sam Rivers album, “Portrait.”

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