Tenor saxophonist Tobias Delius' quartet with drummer Han Bennink, cellist Tristan Honsiger and bass player Joe Williamson is one of the best Dutch neoswingtets, even if only Bennink was born and raised in Holland. The players excel at the good-humored recombinant swing that is the calling card of many Amsterdam bands, but they also have a grittier, edgier side. When the strings move out front, they deconstruct everything from postserial chamber music to old-country kitsch. With Bennink and Honsiger on board, the band is always close to breaking through into a theatrical realm that melds Beckett and slapstick.
Subsequently, an evening with the Delius 4tet can be a wild ride, an experience represented on Toby's Mloby. In this hourlong Bimhuis set, they play enough of nearly 20 tunes to merit composer credits. The composed materials are more than just tossed-off one-liners, however; they are efficient pacesetting devices that create concise, pungent contexts for improvisation. Occasionally the quartet quickly and resolutely veers far afield from the tunes, but the often rapid reintroduction of new thematic materials prevents even their most abstract excursions from becoming mired.
Like many Dutch bands, the Delius 4tet is, in good measure, personality-driven. Delius' tenor has a Hawkish growl and an occasionally mischievous edge, making it a fine foil for Honsiger's Stan Laurellike drollness and Bennink's pranks. Though this is a band best experienced in concert, the music on Toby's Mloby stands on its own.