When Dutch pianist, composer and humorist Misha Mengelberg, one of the heroes of the "new Dutch swing," got together with Dave Douglas for a couple of duo gigs, they enjoyed it so much they decided to expand things to a quartet with New York bassist Brad Jones (who performs regularly with Dave and is on Misha's Avant CD Who's Bridge) and Misha's longtime colleague Han Bennink on drums.
Musical chess master Misha Mengelberg versus four worthy opponents. A German trumpeter and drummer, a French tuba player, and an American-born, French-resident (since 1972) saxophonist. Three nights in Köln, at Loft, matching wits in duets and trios. One can study the Maestro taking on all contestants, approaching the music as a game of strategy, a set of moves and countermoves. Chess is also a suitable metaphor for the Dutchman's approach to instant composition because it has no final or definitive form, no absolute and irrefutable game-plan.
This 70th birthday tribute to Dutch pianist Misha Mengelberg opens with a track that appeared on the first album that he appeared on back in 1964, Eric Dolphy's Last Date (there it was entitled "Hypo Xmas Tree Fuzz"). The affectionate twiddle he inserts into the theme here is like a conniving wink to an old friend. On Senne Sing Song, his third John Zorn-produced trio album after 1994's Who's Bridge (Avant) and 1997's No Idea (DIW), Mengelberg is joined by the remarkably responsive rhythm team of bassist Greg Cohen and drummer Ben Perowsky.
The program which Mischa Elman recorded here, of compositions and arrangements by Kreisler, is not only a statement of esteem for a distinguished, older contemporary; it is a reminder of the glories of that bygone thirty-year period by a virtuoso who could recreate the past with absolute authenticity because he was himself one of its legends. Mischa Elman was a master of Kreisler's musical language, its subtleties and nuances of expression; where later violinists must study Kreisler's style, Elman lived it. His performances make it clear that Kreisler was one of the unique and gifted masters in writing for the violin. The music which flowed from his pen seemed to be imbued with the very spirit of the instrument. They are not ambitious works in form, and do not pretend to be among the great utterances of music. But they have an undying loveliness, and represent different and lovable aspects of his personality.