Bik Bent Braam

Bik Bent Braam Goes Bonsai

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Further evidence of the extraordinarily creative mind of composer/pianist Michiel Braam, Goes Bonsai engages the 13-piece Bik Bent Braam (Braam Big Band) in an unusual strategy that combines improvisation and composition. Braam selects bandmembers to improvise the beginning of each of his compositions, and the players are then responsible for setting such elements as dynamics and tempo, after which the entire band participates in the process. It the sort of daring concept that leads to innovative results when it works but by its nature cannot be expected to hit a home run each time. While Braam's Ellingtonian compositional talents rival the best anywhere, he is more dependent here on the skills of his players. Some, like the underrated saxophonist Bart Van der Putten, cornetist Eric Boeren, and Braam himself (on piano) are consistently splendid. The astonishing breadth of the music impresses, reaching back to the closing John Sousa-tinged "You" and incorporating influences from the entire 20th century to the present, including modern free jazz. Unfortunately, the packaging makes it difficult to identify all the bandmembers, and the individual soloists are not listed by track. While this is not Braam's most accomplished work, it is still an important recording and filled with pleasures -- another example of the vibrant Dutch scene at the turn of the 21st century.

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