Instant Composers Pool Orchestra. What a great name and concept. Getting rid of worn-out schemes – or using those very commonplaces as means to mock “serious” ensembles – seems to be Misha Mengelberg’s unit primary objective. But there’s plenty more behind bounciness and sarcasm as these numbers, recorded in November 1997 in Zurich and Middelburg, clearly demonstrate.
Jubilee Varia is a rare event, for Mengelberg doesn’t deem much of the band’s live materials creditable enough for ending on disc. He’s not a respectful celebrator of rites, and the way in which his pieces are (de)structured is assured to cause perplexity in audiences trained to the “evolution” of jazz’s archetypal canons. Yet ICP’s components play with a fun-loving joyfulness – enriched by a spectacular instrumental command – that’s typical of the finest large groups from the recent (or remote) past. Add a measure of synchronized palpitation, derived from the leader’s penchant to change the cards on the table while the game is going. A unique combination of highly developed intuitiveness, entertainment and capriciousness will materialize in front of your ears.
There are several moments worthy of recollection. Han Bennink’s stunning polyrhythmic display in the title track’s first movement (oh, well – practically everywhere); the entire second part of the same, constructed on a magnificent string trio involving cellists Ernst Reijseger and Tristan Honsinger, and contrabassist Ernst Glerum; the absurdly squared trumpet lines (courtesy Thomas Heberer) characterizing “Rollo I”. However, the collective yield of the whole Orchestra – especially when implicated in luscious arrangements “led” by MM’s erratic piano and rendered sturdier by Michael Moore, Ab Baars and Wolter Wierbos’ excellent blending of reed and brass – is superior to anything else. Being staggered by this unsparing album’s constant mutations, repeated interruptions and deviations to paradoxical easygoingness is an utmost pleasure, delivered in copious doses over 57 minutes in which tiredness is totally debarred.