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June 2001

Willem Breuker Kollektief/Denise Jannah
Thirst
Bvhaast Records

Conceived as a sequel of sorts to Hunger, the disc released in honor of the Kollektief's 25th anniversary, Thirst! defies conventional logic and opens with the first reprise of the title track (the original version crops up two-thirds of the way through the recording). The tune pairs a cartoon-melodramatic show-tune arrangement with wild soloing from Breuker and the rest of the sax section before bursting into cacophony at the 12-minute mark. It's a familiar strategy for the group-this very deliberate and skillful mixture of serious and popular music-and it sets the tone for the rest of the recording, which often sounds as though it is intended to accompany a stage performance.

With singer Denise Jannah on board for a few tunes, the Kollektief runs through an impressively broad range of composers. The band covers Dutch pop tunes, Bartok, Ravel, Willie Rex, Ruud Bos and Breuker originals. The Kollektief even performs two separate versions of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman": the first as goofy instrumental pastiche; the second as a strange torch song feature for Jannah that is arranged for big band and much removed from Coleman's original.

The Kollektief approaches everything on Thirst! with great sophistication, but as often as not, the band uses their intelligence and skill towards intractably popish ends. "How Can I Start Again?" for example, borders Warwick-Bacharach territory. How much anyone warms to Thirst! depends greatly upon how seriously (or not seriously) one takes Breuker's committed but ambiguous embrace of pop, show tunes, jazz and classical music.

Originally published in June 2001
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