Gerard Ammerlaan


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Dutch bassist, composer, and bandleader Gerard Ammerlaan has taken the octet setting and used it in the same way -- though to more expansive ends -- that David Murray did back in the 1980s. In the Ammerlaan Octet's Nooderzon, the front line is the same size as the rhythm section. Utilizing soprano, alto and tenor saxophones, as well as the bassoon and bass clarinet between three players, a guitar -- with no less than Winfred Buma as its player -- and three percussionists, none of whom plays a trap kit, and Ammerlaan playing bass, an equanimity is formed in that all parts are balanced. And while it's true that Murray had a larger front line, many of his horns augmented the rhythm section. But the beauty in the Ammerlaan Octet is how rhythm itself -- via the marimba, the djembes, bugurabu, sabar, talking drum, gongs, and other instruments -- becomes a front line of its own, with harmony rearranged to make space for this polyrhythmic assault of musicality. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than on "Augmented Combinations," where counterpoint and harmony are shifted between combinations of rhythm and line players and then sifted down to their essences, traded off for another set by two more players, and finally, all combinations are flowing at the same time in a harmonious tide of idea and exchange, leaving room for individual improvisation. Another delight on the album is the showcase for Buma's subtly enervating playing on "Disco Ordinatie." It's an off-the-wall samba that features the djembes and marimba as the second and third parts of a front line behind Buma; the horns play colorful chromatic combinations in the distant background as Buma plays a lyric that offers a double-stringed lead feel, à la Wes Montgomery, but knottier. The two percussionists usher in a new mode where the horns play stutter-stop, bluesy, melodic counterpoint to the marimba, and the piece ends up whispering out into the stillness with a triad of saxophones. It's completely beautiful, as is the rest of this beguiling collection of tunes by a band that hasn't recorded enough to satisfy this reviewer. The octet is, once again, a new group format to explore thanks to Ammerlaan's rhythmic and quadra-tonic inventions.

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