Listening to the beginning of "Three Grazing Arches," On the Move's leadoff track, you might think you understand Michiel Braam's Hybrid 10tet, but you're likely unprepared for the surprises to follow. After the horns announce themselves and Braam alternately pounds and glides with wild but cleanly articulated piano runs above a hammering rock vamp, the horns and string quartet (yes, string quartet) enter with fairly conventional roles, low brass harmonizing together as the strings accent in counterpoint. Cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum and trombonist Nils Wogram splatter their notes across the top as the rhythm section's backing becomes more skewed and dissonant. But the pounding vamp remains as the band churns toward more harmonically outré territory, then abruptly stops halfway through the track to let the strings sketch out calming lines against the horns' conversational babble -- notably including low sputters and vocalizations from tubaist Carl Ludwig Hübsch -- and clattering percussion from drummer Dirk-Peter Kölsch. That the whole group coalesces in a dirge pitched somewhere between New Orleans jazz and disquieted chamber music at the track's conclusion may seem surprising to some, but those acquainted with Braam from the avant big band Bik Bent Braam to the jazz-funk Wurli Trio know that he is a musical mixologist supreme, always on the lookout for intriguing juxtapositions within an overall jazz framework.
And so it goes elsewhere across the CD, as bassist Pieter Douma and drummer Kölsch (from the Wurli Trio), brass players Bynum, Wogram, and Hübsch, and the strings of the classical Matangi Quartet aid and abet Braam's able pianistics in the Latin jazz segment of "Cuba, North Rhine-Westphalia"; "A View to a Sound," as punchy horns and strings face off, the rhythm section madly swings, and solos burst through the fray; the melancholy ballad "Pit Stop Ball Ad," with Douma's lovely introductory singing basslines; and the concluding "Rich Rabbit Research," as pizzicato strings restate an earlier cartoonish theme or the entire ensemble sails through a tight unison chart. The biggest surprises arrive with Braam's writing with strings at the center, often sparse, subdued, and even eerie with most if not all elements of "jazz" dropping away or at least disguised (the ample use of glissandi notwithstanding), the music becoming less a hybrid of forms than pure modern classical. When the others reenter, however -- particularly Hübsch, a fine improviser who is not immune to his instrument's comedic possibilities -- darkness is swept away within moments. And true strangeness lies in wait with "El Frecuentemente," which is just plain messed up. Popping bass, blurting tuba, and down'n'dirty piano lay down the funk but the impossibly skewed rhythm turns the very idea of funk on its head, and the tune's warped harmonics are beyond queasy. Each of On the Move's tracks is inspired by a different venue where the Hybrid 10tet played while on tour. The venue that inspired "El Frecuentemente" is probably quite nice. Still, perhaps, enter at your own risk.