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Michiel Braam: Michiel vs. Braam

For a much more pointed engagement with Michiel Braam’s music and his playing, one could hardly do better than Michiel vs. Braam (Bik Bent Braam). For this solo recital, Braam picked out nine charts he’d written for the large ensemble-only one piece from Growing Pains shows up here-and, in a very welcome gesture, includes the lead sheets with the CD. Left to his own devices, Braam is a frenetic, mercurial performer. He tends to focus on crunching, airborne runs in the right hand with the occasional addition of basic stride figures in the left. He prefers declarative statements delivered in a pounding staccato. If you’re imagining a maniacal descendant of Art Tatum, well, that’s about right. He rarely plays his own heads straight, and his distortions run from the mild (reharmonizations, altered melodies, abruptly stretched and condensed tempi) to the obliterating (see the 15-minute, bipolar fantasy based very loosely on his own “Ballet” as the prime example). Throughout the recital, Braam seesaws between a playful regard and outright impatience for the music in a way that charms and jars in equal measure.

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