Daniele D’Agaro-Ernst Glerum-Han Bennink: Strandjutters

hatOLOGY 590

Words ©Laurence Svirchev

D’Agaro, Glerum, and Bennink form a kind of perfect trio. D’Agaro because he is one of the hand-full of moderns who have levitated the beautiful sound of the clarinet into contemporary jazz vocabulary (he also doubles on the tenor saxophone). Glerum because has a rare capacity to keep the strings high off the bridge to get a deep, warm wood sound and simultaneously move them with great fluidity at high velocity. Bennink because of his swing-feel of a traditional jazz drummer, the contraire of which is the capacity to make the most outrageous drum statements and stay totally musical while doing it. The trio because of their synchronicity.

“Divi-Divi” (composed by D’Agaro) is a swinger. It canters out of the starting gate at a relaxing up-tempo and fools around with some devilish double-timing in the middle. D’Agaro runs the clarinet from the chalumeau to the altissimo, sometimes lingering on the notes, sometimes times firing them with machine-gun rapidity. Glerum holds the basic line throughout but he does it by pushing the tempo slightly, adding a tension that makes the slower parts sound faster than they actually are. When Bennink switches from brushes to sticks, he sends a clear message that things are about to heat up. After the heat comes a return to the initial relaxation.

D’Agaro’s title track translates from Dutch as “Beachcombers”. The instrumentation, at least in the beginning, is tricky to figure out. The musicians extend the nominal range of their instruments, Glerum, for example, uses extreme fingering and bowing techniques to evoke sound in the violin-viola range; at times D’Agaro matches him in timbre. At other times D’Agaro uses a whistling technique, or blows lightly while clacking keys. Once the “out” sounds settle, the song form remains relatively free, with long lines from the two instruments.

“Strandjutters” is a wonderfully melancholic composition. While the word ‘beachcombers’ might suggest sunshine, the motif of D’Agaro’s composition insinuates the feeling of being lost in a fog, the kind of wandering that occurs when is sad or confused. A beachcomber picking up materials that the sea has washed up is a frequent image in Dutch literature, and is often used as a plot-starter.

“I Wish You Sunshine” is a composition by Johnny Dyani (1945-1986), the great bass player from South Africa. Dyani was one of the expatriates who left their homeland during the odious reign of apartheid. He and others, like Louis Moholo-Moholo, had an extraordinary effect on the development Europe’s free music scene.

Bennink had played with Dyani, so he would be well familiar with the notion of “I Wish You Sunshine”. The melody is simple and beautiful. Finesse is required and finesse is what happens. The band plays softly for the first half with Bennink all but laying out until about the forty percent mark. He then kicks in with a shuffle which he uses to push the beat, punctuating every once in a while with a shot to the snare and ride cymbal. When the sunshine is pouring hotter, this time it is D’Agaro who takes the lead to accelerate with a flurry of notes, with Bennink lagging only a bit behind.

D’Agaro is many things on his horns. He is well studied and known to play in dixieland bands when the mood moves him. His catholic interests are reflected on “I Wish You Sunshine”, in which he plays tenor with an attack and sound that a blindfold tester might mistake for that of Sonny Rollins. I offer this opinion not to compare the two musicians, but only to imply that a composition can have its own inner logic that compels masters to interpret it in a similar fashion.

This is a lovely recording, one that esily come to the front of a listener’s memory bank no matter how large their collection of music becomes.

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