October Meeting

Bimhuis, Amsterdam, Netherlands
08 to 09-10-2016

The October Meeting is a gathering of improvising musicians who meet for a weekend of shifting collaborations curated by Huub van Riel, the director of the Bimhuis, the major club for jazz and improvised music in Amsterdam.  For the 2016 edition Huub selected 22 musicians (listed at the end of this review) who got together at the Bimhuis on the Wednesday before the weekend and worked on various combinations, either based on proposals submitted in advance, or ideas that spontaneously emerge from the gathering of so many creative musicians.  The performances lasted from between 6 and 30 mins; I was able to attend on the Saturday and the Sunday and was able to hear 24 configurations of the musicians. There was also one interval performance, a late night jam session and bands playing in the lift – on Sunday afternoon I travelled up in the lift and had a personal performance from a French Horn player!

Susana Santos Silva and Mette Rasmussen (Photo © Henning Bolte)

Susana Santos Silva and Mette Rasmussen (Photo © Henning Bolte)

The overriding impression of the two days I was able to attend is of the huge variety of the music and with the short nature of each performance nothing became over-long or tedious.  This reflects the improvised music scene in general which seems to have taken on so many aspects of music from different genres and is as varied as the contemporary jazz scene.

It struck me listening to the various permutations of musicians and their ideas that the performances fall into four categories:

  1. Straightforward improvisation without any theme or set rhythm with the musicians developing interactions with the other members of the group in ways similar to and overlapping with free jazz.   A trio performance with John Dikeman on saxophone, Olie Brice on bass and Onno Govaert on drums was a good example.
  2. Weird and wonderful improvisation where the emphasis is on drama and sonic explorations rather than linear improvisation. A totally bonkers but very entertaining 15min performance with Jasper Stadhouders on guitar, Oscar Jan Hoogland on keys and Christian Lillinger on drums was a good example.
  3. Structured performances where there is an interaction between some written material and improvisation and the music alternates between the two. Performances with pianist Kaja Draksler involving her playing with Petter Eldh on bass and Christian Lillinger on drums, or with Sofia Jernberg on vocals, Mette Rasmussen on alto sax and Christian Lillinger again fall into this category.
  4. Structured performances where there is no written material, but there is a worked out plan about how the improvisation will be structured with faster and slower passages and certain rhythms. A performance with Yedo Gibson, Ada Rave and Mette Rasmussen on saxophones, Oscar Jan Hoogland on piano and Gerri Jager on drums fell into this category.

The musicians were from 14 countries, but most are based in the key European scenes in The Netherlands, Belgium, UK, Germany and Norway. There were two players from UK, pianist Alex Hawkins and bass player Olie Brice. All were young, in their 20s or early 30s, and the selection could be criticised mildly for the absence of older, more established improvisers. 

I loved the contrasts in the music and the different moods these contrasts generated. In a sense, listening to improvised music often involves reaction to a particular sound world rather than to the extended lines and harmonies that listening to jazz usually involves. In that sense listening to improvised music can be an easier and less demanding experience than listening to jazz with all its disciplines. I also love that the personality of the different musicians really comes out in improvised music. The ones who stood out for me were:

KAJA DRAKSLER: the pianist from Slovenia, but based in Amsterdam. Her performances really stood out for the integration of structure and improvisation and for the delicacy of her solos.

METTE RASMUSSEN: a Danish saxophonist based in Norway. Her playing on the alto is extremely powerful and constantly inventive.

ALEX HAWKINS: made a major contribution with both composition and soloing. The first set I heard with Susana Santos Silva, Mette Rasmussen, Alex, Petter Eldh and Christian Lillinger was probably the best set I heard over the two days.

CHRISTIAN LILLINGER: for me the most exciting drummer in Europe today; his performances are always dramatic and have a visual aspect (he will be in Birmingham next week with Mike Fletcher on 18 October in the Hexagon Theatre at mac).

OSCAR JAN HOOGLAND: also a very dramatic player on piano and keys with a strong sense of humour.

PETTER ELDH: always inventive on the double and electric bass.

OLIE BRICE: always brilliantly inventive on the double bass.

SUSANA SANTOS SILVA: from Portugal; she has a lovely tone on the trumpet.

YEDO GIBSON: from Brazil, but based in Portugal; produces fascinating sounds and vocalisations on the saxophone.

The full list of musicians is:

Harald Austbø – (NL) cello
Reinier Baas – 
(NL) guitar
Joachim Badenhorst – (BE) reeds
Olie Brice 
– (GB) bass
John Dikeman – 
(NL/US) tenor saxophone
Kaja Draksler– (NL/SVN) piano
Petter Eldh – (DE/SWE) bass
Yedo Gibson – (PT/NL/BRA) reeds
Onno Govaert – (NL) drums
Alexander Hawkins – (GB) piano
Oscar Jan Hoogland 
– (NL) piano
Gerri Jäger – (NL/AT) drums
Sofia Jernberg 
– (SWE) vocals
Morris Kliphuis – (NL) horn
Christian Lillinger – (DE) drums
Mette Rasmussen – (NO/DK) alto saxophone
Ada Rave – (NL/ARG) saxophones
Joris Roelofs – (NL) reeds
Susana Santos Silva – (PT) trumpet
Jasper Stadhouders 
– (NL) guitar
Ziv Taubenfeld – (NL/ISR) bass clarinet
Raphael Vanoli – (FR/DE) guitar



Categories: Live review

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