Oh, My Dog
The ICP Orchestra encapsulates the singular absurdist aesthetic of experimental Dutch jazz. The group, once known as the Instant Composers Pool Orchestra, has existed in some form or another for nearly four decades, forever helmed by the marvelous pianist Misha Mengelberg and frequently joined by madcap drummer Han Bennink. Its current incarnation includes some of the most important and active players on the adventurous Dutch scene. Like so many other creative musicians that call Amsterdam home, Mengelberg has a real love and understanding for jazz's rich history, but he's also a prankster who understands the value of confusion, an element he often introduces into the proceedings, like a punk shoving a stick into the spokes of a moving bicycle.
The nine-member version of ICP that recorded Oh, My Dog! (ICP) advances the group's skill at blurring the line between composition and improvisation; they're both used in equal measure, by each member. All nine players are welcome to inject prewritten material in midstream, forcing a reaction from the others, who either go along with it, or shut it down. It's sometimes hard to determine that flow amid the glorious chaos-the music expands and collapses as nonchalantly as a pair of working lungs, which only enhances its woolly charm. There's a wonderful collage feel to "A Close Encounter With Charles's Country Band," a sly homage to Charles Ives written by reedist Ab Baars, with its jagged free improvisation stumbling into a drunken march as different instrument sections-the horns and the strings-shift alliances. Mengelberg's brief "A la Russe" has a chamber feel, with the clarinets of Baars and Michael Moore nicely playing counterpoint to the string section of bassist Ernst Glerum, cellist Tristan Honsinger and violinist Mary Oliver. The orchestra-rounded out by trombonist Wolter Wierbos and trumpeter Thomas Heberer-not only draws from a huge galaxy of sounds, but they do so with humor, silliness and style.