ICP Orchestra: April 10th, 2007
A little miracle of nine people making a seemly racket without getting in each other's way. [Drummer and co-leader] Han Bennink is in complete control even as he tinkers at the edge of chaos.
--Richard Cook & Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz
We're delighted that the Netherlands' globe-trotting ICP Orchestra, featuring co-founders Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink, along with Humboldt native Michael Moore, has agreed to make a stop in Arcata on its 40th Anniversary Tour. They'll be playing in Humboldt State University's smartly renovated Kate Buchanan Room at 8:00 p.m. on April 10th. Tickets are $15 General Admission, $10 Students & Seniors (all tickets available at the University Ticket Office; General Admission tickets available at The Metro and The Works [both locations]). A free public workshop will take place the following morning from 10:30-noon in Fulkerson Recital Hall.
The "IC" in ICP stands for "instant composition," a term, specifies New York Times jazz writer Nate Chinen, "that's best understood in opposition to the formless expanse of free jazz." As critic Kevin Whitehead tells it, Misha Mengelberg coined the term in the 1960s to "[counter] notions that improvising was either a lesser order of music-making than composing, or an art without a memory, existing only in the moment, unmindful of form. Misha's formulation," says Whitehead, "posited improvisation as formal composition's equal."
That's not to say that an ICP performance won't involve some freewheeling (and free blowing)--only that, in the course of the evening, their sound may evoke Duke, Monk, or Mingus as often as Ives, Ornette or Ayler.
While the ICP Orchestra's individual members have cultivated numerous side projects over the years--their collaborations constitute a veritable Who's Who of jazz (and local fans may fondly remember the sold-out Clusone Trio show at Cafe Tomo a few years back)--the Orchestra itself has been playing and touring together in various configurations for 30-plus years. That's plenty of time to have perfected their dazzling brand of Dutch Dadaism—a wry zaniness informed by an impeccable jazz sensibility. This will be a night for the Humboldt history books.
Here's what some other discerning listeners have had to say about the ICP Orchestra:
Jazz organizations that last this long don't typically convey as much intellectual curiosity, stylistic reach and technical daring as the ICP...Performing as if the Atlantic Ocean never separated Europe and North America, the ICP band brilliantly merged the musical values of two continents, and then some. Listen closely, and there was no mistaking the merger of Kurt Weill-like cabaret motifs with Duke Ellington-inspired orchestrations, Mozartean string passages with uptempo march beats right out of John Philip Sousa. The blues-swing traditions of Count Basie, the whimsical polyphony of post-'60s Dutch improvisers, the robust orchestral eruptions of Charles Mingus, the high-flying solos of Eric Dolphy, Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman and other American iconoclasts--all of this came into play during the ICP Orchestra's set...More important, this band continues to show that cutting-edge music-making is not necessarily dour and humorless, that innovative ideas need not be severed from generations of jazz tradition and that composition and improvisation can coexist effectively when a group of like-minded tinkerers knows what it's doing.
--Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune
Those fortunate to have witnessed a performance by pianist Misha Mengelberg's ICP Orchestra on a night when their beautifully ramshackle conception comes together and pulls apart in perfect disharmony know there is no finer live jazz outfit on the planet. The experience at its best involves all the senses--not just the ears--as unpredictable set lists and improvisations draw from the languages of swing, bop, free jazz, and classical music. Scores are shuffled around on music stands; hand signals trigger unexpected escapades by the entire band, various subunits, or soloists; bandmembers wander on- and off-stage...[Their sound is marked by] consistently high-caliber musicianship and the integration of sometimes astoundingly diverse musical forms...[I]ncorporating elements of free jazz, structured improvisation, brass band, chamber music, and finally hepcat swing...the ICP Orchestra have retained the lively absurdism and unbridled expressionism so integral to their identity...[Their] multi-sensory circus has rolled through town and left more conventional jazz groups in the dust.
--Dave Lynch, AllMusic Guide
The ICP Orchestra changes personnel from time to time, but several things remain constant: a seemingly endless catalog of creative compositions, free-style improvisations that almost always defy expectations, and surprisingly coherent arrangements that often seem on the brink of disintegration. This version of the Orchestra is heavy on the strings, with up and coming Mary Oliver on violin and ICP veteran Tristan Honsinger on cello….[T]his group should easily appeal to those with a taste for the bizarre, but who also want consummate musicianship on the edges of respectability.
--Steven Loewy, AllMusic Guide
[Mengelberg has] praised the "instant poetry" that came out of the Fluxus art movement he was involved with around [the time of ICP's founding]: put individual words on strips of paper, place in a jar and shake...What bound together Fluxus's conceptualists, shock artists, early minimalists, musical comics et cetera was a need for a performance format that could accommodate them all. One solution was that symbol of '60s kookiness, the multimedia Happening[, which] belatedly helped inspire...the fluid play of styles, unbinding rules, lyricism and barnyard humor that characterize the ICP Orchestra today.
If a certain kind of Dutch music is about humor, theater, pan-stylistic references, excellent jazz chops, delicate writing and game strategies, ICP has touched on more of them, in less regimented and more fluid settings, than any band around. As the name implies, everyone involved shares credit: everybody in the Pool.
--NPR jazz critic and author of New Dutch Swing Kevin Whitehead
Misha Mengelberg, piano | Han Bennink, drums | Ab Baars, clarinet, tenor sax | Tobias Delius, tenor sax, clarinet| Ernst Glerum, bass | Thomas Heberer, trumpet | Tristan Honsiger, cello | Michael Moore, clarinet, alto sax| Mary Oliver, violin, viola| Walter Wierbos, trombone
For the ICP's history and discography, bios of band members, and plenty of multi-media goodies (including streaming videos and downloadable mp3s), visit ICP on the web. More mp3--and more info--at SFGate.