Chris Corstens Quartet (CCQ) / Chris Corstens


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This fine Amsterdam-based quartet led by saxophonist/composer Chris Corstens has just enough quirky Dutch elements to leave a smile on your face, but the musicians never overdo it. In fact, the Chris Corstens Quartet (aka CCQ) take a while on this 2013 CD to reveal how far they'll bend and twist the expected outlines of the post-bop/modern creative jazz quartet form, although scattered hints are there from Treiffel's opening title track, a Latin-flavored swinger in which five-string cellist Harald Austbø strums his instrument à la Ernst Reijseger. "Bootlegs" is for the most part straight-ahead uptempo post-bop, "3 Vliertjes" is a Coltrane-esque ballad with sensitive tenor from Corstens and Austbø's arco cello adding deep richness to the mood, and the aptly titled "Calypzooi" explores the Caribbean vibe that brought wide recognition to Sonny Rollins. But check out "Kappertjes," which could be straight from the Misha Mengelberg book in not only form but execution: beginning with a tenor/arco cello intro line, it becomes a jaunty little Monk-ish number with left turns into boogie-woogie, but pianist Oscar Jan Hoogland goes where he wants with his sparse and spiky solo, toying with off-kilter harmonics and rhythms, until Austbø explodes the tune and, again demonstrating his arco acumen, brings the dynamic down from rock & roll into a quieter realm, his cello rather like a cross between an erhu and a singing saw. Best of all is Corstens' writing, which provides room in the tune for Jan Hoogland to throw in all sorts of Mengelberg-isms beneath the leader's own able tenor statements, while drummer Martin van Leusden subtly swings, dropping in the errant snare hit in the fine Dutch tradition.

Time becomes utterly elastic in "Kdoelekkewaa," the bandmembers speeding, slowing, stopping, starting, utterly relaxed but with snappy reflexes -- the Dutch tradition at play here might be described as ramshackle tightness. Rather than take the album out with a flurry of oddness, Corstens and crew finish up with "Blublu," a punchy uptempo swinging vehicle for the saxophonist to demonstrate his inventiveness on tenor over multiple choruses (this track could appeal to late-period, small-group Mingus fans); "Zakken en Balen," a ballad that in many ways mirrors the earlier "3 Vliertjes"; and "De Maan Is Vol," which recalls "Take Five" in its time signature and piano part, although the melody Corstens has written for his soprano is obviously not as memorable as that penned by Paul Desmond for what would become Dave Brubeck's signature tune. Nevertheless, it's a fine finish for an album that holds up well against the high standards of the Amsterdam creative jazz scene. And like the city's best improvisers, CCQ seem to approach music the way they would walk along one of the city's storied canals -- the closer they get to the edge, the more attentive they are to their sense of balance, the result being just straight-ahead enough, and just unpredictable enough, to satisfy listeners from both the post-bop and avant jazz camps.

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