Album Review, Han Bennink Trio: Adelante (Mark Keresman, NYC Jazz Review)

Dutch drummer Han Bennink is one of the wonders of the musical world: he’s got brilliant technique to spare; played with everyone from Dexter Gordon to Dutch post-punk combo The Ex; been a mainstay in Europe’s avant jazz scene since the mid ‘60s; and performs with an absurdist flair and seemingly boundless enthusiasm regardless of context. The only thing certain about a performance or recording is that it will be a surprise (and often a good one).

This acoustic trio set has darn near got everything a most flexible-minded jazz fan may need. “Supertyphoon” is an exhilarating bit of postbop driven by Bennink’s coiled-spring, Gene Krupa-like tom-tom laden swing. “Comacina Dreamin’” has a somewhat modal, oddly meditative clarinet melody from Joachim Badenhorst while Bennink rumbles like an approaching thunderstorm. “De Sprong O Romantiek Der Hazen” is a slightly sultry Ellingtonlike ballad by Bennink’s longtime foil Misha Mengelberg, wherein Badenhorst’s bass clarinet takes on a romantically musing hue, evoking the deep/breathy-toned elegance of tenor saxophonist Ben Webster with a touch of Gerry Mulligan suavity. “Waterzooi” is a midtempo free jazz piece, which maintains a volatile mood and forward motion thanks to driving yet never overbearing drumming and cavernous bass clarinet. This album concludes with the ebullient, New Orleans-accented “Adelante 2”, Bennink cranking out rolling, percolating N’awlins rhythms like Ed Blackwell reborn and joyful bass clarinet phrases carrying hints of North African and Caribbean melodies. For those of you into standards, there’s a jolly, abstract take on “My Melancholy Baby”, Simon Toldam’s lyrical piano embodying some stride and Erroll Garner-like passages. While the trio deconstructs it, they do so with affection.

For those into free-er sounds who prefer them with humor, concision and resolutely based in the jazz verities—and fans of Bennink (who should be seen live!)—this is a keeper. Mark Keresman

Album Review, Han Bennink Trio: Adelante (Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader)

Dutch drummer Han Bennink, who turns 75 next month, has been an unrelenting creative force in jazz and improvised music since the early 60s. In 1964 he played on Eric Dolphy's legendary final record, Last Date, and in '67 he formed the Instant Composers Pool with pianist Misha Mengelberg (who died two weeks ago) and reedist Willem Breuker. He has an instantly recognizable sound—loud, chaotic, furiously swinging—and he's applied it to hundreds of records. He's all about improvisation, so leading a regular band has never been high on his list of concerns—he's more interested in interaction and disruption. Finally, eight years ago, he decided to form a trio.

When the group dropped its 2009 debut, Parken (ILK), Bennink's two partners—Danish pianist Simon Toldam and Belgian reedist Joachim Badenhorst—were still relatively unknown figures, performing in the shadow of a charismatic, extroverted giant. They pulled it off, but on the trio's recently released third album, Adelante (ICP), the combo has clearly grown as a unit. While Bennink can't help but improvise at every turn, the album is rooted in compositions by Toldam and Badenhorst, most of which are beautifully lyrical—including Badenhorst's gently rolling "Comacina Dreamin'" and Toldam's high-velocity swinger "Supertyphoon." 

    The most arresting compositions on the new album, though, are by the late Mengelberg—they're both later works, and rank among his most tender and beautiful pieces. The trio's version of "De Sprong O Romantiek der Hazen," which shimmers with a Duke Ellington-like elegance, employs a piano line whose lovely fragility is instantly shattered by Bennink's deliberately anarchic clatter and Badenhorst's rheumy bass clarinet chortling. As the piece unfolds, though, the gorgeously moody melody wins out over this sort of turbulence. The piece was recorded last November, when Mengelberg was still alive, but it's hard not to hear it as a lovely tribute to his memory.  Peter Margasak