Eric_boeren-joy_of_toy_span3
March 2000

Eric Boeren 4Tet
Joy of a Toy
Bvhaast Records

Cornetist Eric Boeren is a stalwart of the thriving Amsterdam scene, a veteran of such talent-laden ensembles as Available Jelly and Sean Bergin's MOB. On Joy of a Toy, he leads a stellar quartet with alto saxophonist/clarinetist Michael Moore, bassist Wilber de Joode, and drummer Han Bennink in a program evenly divided between Boeren originals and Ornette Coleman compositions, with a faintly droll version of Gershwin's "Embraceable You" tossed in. Recorded in concert at the end of a tour, the program exemplifies the "new Dutch swing"'s commingling of conceptual openness and strong jazz fundamentals (albeit with a piquant irreverence for jazz fundamentalism).

Like the early Coleman, Boeren has a knack for building pieces on odd phrases that, buoyed by a sly sense of swing, resolve with an unexpected semi-sweetness, allowing compositions like "A Fuzzphony" to segue seamlessly with chestnuts like "Peace" and the title piece. As a soloist, he forgoes the wide intervals and offsetting pauses that gave Don Cherry's solos a semblance of teetering on the brink of either disaster or glory; instead, Boeren opts for a steadier idea flow and a more jocular bearing, aided by his use of mutes and exaggerated timbres on "Free."

It is as a bandleader, however, that Boeren really makes strides with this disc. The program is very well paced; his cohorts are given well-designed openings to display the various facets of their work; and Coleman's music is given a fresh assessment. Joy of a Toy goes a step beyond the songbook genre, as Boeren uses Coleman to mirror his strengths and those of his collaborators.

Originally published in March 2000
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