Ab and Ig had organized every aspect of the tour perfectly, from the rehearsals to the concert itinerary to the transportation to the accommodations and food. So the first stretch of concerts logically took place primarily in the Netherlands. This gave the band a chance to explore the many aspects of performing these new sets of compositions when the traveling was only a couple hours drive in Wilbert’s van each day. The first shows took place in Middelberg (Café ’t Schuttershof/September 27th), Tilburg (Paradox/28th), and Den Haag (Paard van Troje/29th). These shows were a ball. The communication in the group developed quickly and I was given my first real opportunities to interact with Ab’s tenor and clarinet playing along side the remarkable rhythmic dialog between Wilbert and Martin.
Since the concerts were so close to Amsterdam Wilbert would usually pick us up in town, then we’d play the shows and he’d bring us back after we packed up. This meant that, between the rehearsal period and the early shows in Holland, I had a lot of free hours to explore Amsterdam. For the first time I really got a sense of the city. Moriyama made another appearance after the Oslo gallery encounter, I found one of his monographs hidden in an English language bookstore in town and quickly purchased it. Other photo concerns lead me to FOAM (Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam) where I saw a very interesting Hans Eijkelboom exhibition called, “Paris-New York-Shanghai,” which compared the typologies and patterns between those three cities. In their bookshop I found a great collection of G.P. Fieret photographs in rough grained black and white. Another afternoon was spent at the Van Gogh Museum. As I looked at “Wheatfield with crows,” black birds against an impossibly blue sky and field of various golds, I realized that the last time I had seen the painting I was standing next to Malachi Ritscher. For me, it will now always be associated with that painful fact.
One night off was spent at Terrie Ex’s place, having a great dinner with his family and Andy Moor; playing cards with his daughter and somehow winning a game that I didn’t understand whatsoever, and staying up late with him and Andy listening to incredible Ethiopian music on cassettes Terrie had purchased while on a road trip through Africa with Emma. “Listen to it! It sounds like broken music!” he’d yell above the music booming out of the stereo. The three of us talked about all kinds of music, and why the idea of pulse grooves vs. metered time was so hard to convey to some musicians, when the strength of an elastic sense of rhythm was so evident in the music we were listening to. I slept longer that night at Terrie’s house than I had since my arrival in Europe a month earlier, almost a ten solid hours.
The tour continued with more work in Holland (October 1st in Eindhoven/Café Wilhelmina, October 6th in Utrecht/SJU Jazzpodium) scattered between gigs in Maasmechelen, Belgium/Chateau Vilain XIII (on October 2nd) and Zurich/Spheres (on the 4th). As the group began solidify its understanding of the written material, the initial excitement of performing together shifted to the issues of working as a collective- What did each piece imply musically? How did the rhythmic feel of one piece differ specifically from another? Why was the correct execution of the composed material not necessarily enough to properly set up the improvised elements from night to night? In addition, certain aesthetic struggles had to be addressed. We realized that in some cases the interpretation of the pieces varied from musician to musician. This set of issues became most problematic at the gig in Zurich, where a certain level of exhaustion from the long travel that day didn’t help matters. In Utrecht we played a set as part of the Fire In The City Festival on a bill that included a duo with Terrie Ex and Lasse Marhaug, and the Frank Gratkowski’s quartet with Wolter Wierbos, Dieter Manderscheid, and Gerry Hemingway; all of the musicians were also mixed into ad hoc groupings- quite an array of music that night. At the end of the evening it was super to hang out with everyone. Andy Moor and Emma came by after checking out a group from the Congo that was playing that night in Utrecht as well (based on the brilliant recordings Terrie had played a few nights earlier of the ensemble it may have been the better show to catch…). Things just got better when Marcel Kranendonk put Joe McPhee’s album, “Tenor,” on the stereo- the recording has remained as spellbinding as when I first heard it 25 years ago.
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