Various Artists

October Meeting 1987, Vol. 1

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There is no mistake that this festival of jazz and improvised music took place in October 1987. After all, 23 years earlier the October Revolution took place across the ocean in New York and players such as Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, Paul Bley, Sam Rivers, the Ornette Coleman Trio, and many others took over Greenwich Village and created the Free Jazz movement that changed the music forever. The Dutch Jazz Foundation sponsored the October Meeting, an eight-day festival under the direction of Huub van Riel. Musicians were allowed to pick their own collaborators and choose their own programs to perform -- dissimilar to the way most festivals work, especially the corporate-sponsored events in the United States. This disc highlights three collaborative performances: John Zorn with a quartet featuring Guus Janssen on piano, Mark Dresser on bass, and Martin von Duynhoven on drums; Janssen with a trio of trombonists including Walter Wierbos and Jonathan & Conrad Bauer; and finally, a duet between turntablist Christian Marclay and French reedist Louis Sclavis. The Zorn piece is of particular interest because it revisits three 1960s-era compositions by pianist Misha Mengelberg. The first is a standard blues called, appropriately enough, "Number One." Zorn plays in the manner he did on Voodoo with the Sonny Clark Memorial Quartet. His chops are raw, rough, and ready for the hard bop blues Mengelberg created. Janssen, however, extrapolates upon the piano solo, moving it into territory favored more by Herbie Nichols than anybody else, especially with his arpeggiated chords in the middle of the break. When he brings it back, Zorn reveals how he has slightly altered the harmonics in the tune and has the band sprawled out over a three-chord vamp while he nips and tucks at the intervals with angular, bleating lines and squeaky responses to Dresser's bass call. On "G-Blues," Zorn turns a standard blues into a modal workout for quartet. The sounds of the Miles Davis Quintet emanate from the band as Zorn does his best Jackie McLean during his solo, while Janssen creates an off-key modality with timbral shifts on the middle register flats, playing them against the major G blues. Janssen's original composition, "Et on t'a Fait Douter," is a variation on a theme by Yannis Xenakis that was originally conceived for one piano, two trumpets, and three trombones. He makes due with the trio of trombones and his own pianism. The interplay between the four instruments is fascinating, particularly in the places where the trombones have to speak among themselves -- often in one harmonic, timbral voice, sometimes bickering, sometimes complementing one another. The anchor is always Janssen's piano, even if he is the contrapuntal element in the conversation. His cadences and shimmering glissandi offer respites tonally and harmonically from the brassy raucousness. Finally, the Marclay/Sclavis improv steals the show because it's so weird, so completely out to lunch that it had no choice but to work. With Marclay providing atmospheres and textures as well as rhythmic shifts and turns, Sclavis is truly free to explore any tonal universe he chooses on all three of his instruments (the soprano saxophone, the clarinet, and the bass clarinet). The interesting use of dynamics by Marclay -- since he basically controls them with his mash of sounds and noises -- forces Sclavis to examine how timbral and microtonal changes in color and texture further sound as a universe, rather than as an elemental part of composition or improvisation. For almost half an hour this pair dance into sonic and musical terrains never imagined before that date and seldom visited since. Judging by this small offering from over eight days of sessions, the October Meeting was a tremendous success that produced startling and pleasurable revelations for both the musicians who participated and for the audiences that bore witness to these startling new directions.

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