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Bik Bent Braam (Michiel Braam): 13

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Holland’s Bik Bent Braam is a 13-piece group that’s been around for some 13 years, either of which facts may explain their latest CD title. Led by pianist Michiel Braam, the group is reminiscent of the Willem Breuker Kollektief, but with less slapstick and more showbiz polish. Braam, who writes all the arrangements, is obviously a big Ellington fan, though he seems to be a devotee of almost all big-band music, up to and including the Sun Ra Arkestra.

Whereas previous Bik Bent Braam recordings have featured mostly original material, 13 consists entirely of cover versions-and what a bizarrely eclectic bunch they are! Compositions by Gershwin, Ellington, Prince and Deep Purple nestle alongside work from George Wallington, Henry Mancini, Jacques Brel and three pieces from Disney’s The Jungle Book. Most are treated with an extravagant sense of invention that sometimes verges on parody, though the array of birdsong-from cuckoo to rooster-that accompanies “Sometimes It Snows in April” is the only laugh-aloud moment.

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