Willem Breuker Kollektief


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Driebergen-Zeist is one of two or three albums released by Breuker's Kollektief in the early- to mid-'80s that represent this band at the absolute peak of its considerable powers. At this point, all the energy that had been a central part of the group since its inception in 1974 combined seamlessly with Breuker's elaborate and complex compositional skills to produce music unlike anyone else's at that time or since. It was a music both experimental and surprisingly accessible, connecting disparate points between 20th century classical music, street songs, and avant-garde jazz, all soldered firmly together by Breuker's devilish sense of humor. Much of the album is given over to covers, all of them performed superbly. Breuker's long-time affinity for Kurt Weill is made clear both in the version of "Benares" (from Mahagonny) and, utterly wonderfully, in his "Pirate Jenny," featuring vocals and new lyrics by the gruff, elderly Dutch actor/singer Dick Swidde, who growls and sputters his way through hilariously. There's also a lovely and straight reading of Prokofiev's Dance of the Knights (from Romeo and Juliet) and a creamy, adoring rendition of Ellington's "Creole Love Call" with guest clarinetist Michiel de Ruyter. Many a "traditional" jazz band could take a lesson from this heartfelt performance. Breuker's own cleverly titled composition "What?" comes about as close as possible to duplicating "Take the 'A' Train" without ever quite getting there -- a bravura demonstration indeed. But the real highlight of the disc is the title piece. Ten minutes long and apparently through-composed, "Driebergen-Zeist" sounds like some otherworldly melding of Ellington, Gershwin, and Carl Stalling as themes collide, disappear, and arise from nowhere, each more gorgeous than the last, and are undermined by false starts, fake endings, and composed "mistakes" (the latter including a delightful section where drummer Rob Verdurmen makes several "wrong" entrances). It's an astonishing work and illustrative of what this ensemble was capable of at its best. Very highly recommended.

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