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ICP Orchestra: Live at the Bimhuis

It’s no contradiction to say that when it comes to the Instant Composers Pool, you know what you’re going to get … unpredictability. That assured randomness arrives via a high level of musicianship-theatrical and dynamic, nuanced and thoughtful-with the kind of depth that can only be gained from working together for decades. Let it also be said that if you had to experience the noted Dutch ensemble it should be in live performance, and there’s probably no place better to see them do it than the wonderful environs of The Bimhuis in Amsterdam.

The ICP itself has been together since 1967 and remains well stocked with distinctive players: pianist/composer Misha Mengelberg continues to lead them into the fray with the iconic drummer Han Bennink bringing up the rear (and kicking ass doing it). Ab Baars, Michael Moore and Tobias Delius play clarinets and saxophones with great authority, and they enliven Mengelberg’s arrangements of Thelonious Monk’s “Jackie-ing” and Herbie Nichols’ “Change of the Season” to great effect. The reed section is well offset by brass and strings, and all 10 musicians get time to shine.

The band’s flowing improvisational approach is reminiscent of the free-jazz explosion of the ’60s (one that Mengelberg and Bennink witnessed firsthand), but the playing is always fresh and the music contemporary. It’s the modern, joyous spirit of the ICP that separates them from lesser collectives, and their sense of daring is matched by a commitment to the material, and its glorious, in-the-moment presentation.

Originally Published