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November 2002

Misha Mengelberg Quartet
Four In One
Songlines

The grumpy, Loki-like Dutch pianist Misha Mengelberg has been touring on this quartet for some time, and it's terrific that Songlines has found the time to record them. (This recording comes in the new SACD format, but it's playable on both standard CD and SACD players.)

On drums, of course, is Mengelberg's longtime associate and drum maniac, Han Bennink-here in a relatively straightahead mode. Two Americans make the group particularly notable: bassist Brad Jones, also of the Jazz Passengers, and trumpeter Dave Douglas, who hardly ever takes a sideman gig anymore. With Mengelberg calling the shots, the material on Four in One isn't entirely surprising, though no less fun for that. "Kneebus," an older tune recorded by the Schlippenbach orchestra over a decade ago, is on the raucous side, with limp fanfares and goofy, hum-along melodies that give way into the blues. "Die Berge Schuetzen die Heimat" opens with a screeching whistle and lurches into what sounds like the work of a top-notch carnival band entertaining themselves by pretending to stink.

A brawny-sounding Douglas completely gets it-that much is apparent from the opening tune, "Hypochristmutreefuzz," where he answers his own rush of arpeggios with a quiet, broken aside, which trails off like a crotchety old man complaining under his breath. In fact, Douglas is the dominant personality on much of the recording, as if Mengelberg were more interested in hearing what Douglas could do with the music. The pianist hangs back on his own material, which takes up most of the recording, before jumping headlong into a trio of Monk tunes.

Originally published in November 2002
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