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Frank Van Bommel Quartet: A Crutch for the Crab

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Dick Twardzik’s death at 24 in 1955 created an enduring “What if?” thread of speculation among those who recognized his budding genius. His sides with baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff revealed a pianist who goofed on concert hall bluster one moment, and ripped through spiky runs similar to the earliest jazz advances of Cecil Taylor the next. Though only five of his compositions were recorded during his lifetime, they all had the stuff of classics: Twardzik had an uncanny ability to portray shifting emotions and their sub-texts. Subsequently, Twardzik’s is a legacy that cannot be approached by just anyone; it requires a kindred spirit.

Dutch pianist Frank van Bommel is such a kindred spirit. Though no biographical information about him is provided on A Crutch for the Crab, a program that combines the five recorded Twardzik compositions with seven of his own, the liner photo of van Bommel conveys the same quiet intensity of the few extant performance shots of Twardzik. It gets spookier: this is van Bommel’s first professional recording, a fact that is increasingly hard to believe as this album unfolds.

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