Jorrit Dijkstra – Pillow Circles (CF 166)
An international summit meeting, Pillow Circles joins four American jazz musicians with four Dutch improvisers. Similar in feel to his Flatlands Collective, this effort finds Dutch expatriate and multi-instrumentalist Jorrit Dijkstra paying homage to a handful of artists who have inspired him, with each piece dedicated to an individual.
Bringing an empathetic familiarity to the octet are three members of the Chicago- based Flatlands Collective—the veteran rhythm section of bassist Jason Roebke and drummer Frank Rosaly, as well as trombonist Jeb Bishop, who are in turn joined by New York-based saxophonist Tony Malaby. The Dutch contingent includes violist Oene van Geel and guitarists Paul Pallesen and Raphael Vanoli. Together, the electro-acoustic unit explores Dijkstra’s wide-ranging suite with palpable enthusiasm, shifting from hypnotic minimalism and cinematic post-rock to aleatoric abstraction and pithy free jazz.
Originally commissioned for the 2009 North Sea Jazz Festival, the album-length suite reveals a multifaceted blend of dynamics and moods, inspired by past and present traditions. Pallesen’s folksy banjo lends a touch of surreal Americana to “Pillow Circle 41 (for Benoit Delbecq),” while Dijkstra’s analog synth conjures experimental futurism on “Pillow Circle 88 (for Robert Ashley).” The three horn front-line of Dijkstra, Malaby, and Bishop is formidable, ranging through intricate counterpoint, raucous collective blowing, and serene unison harmonies with ease, sometimes all in the same tune. The string section unveils a kaleidoscopic array of textures, from Geel’s sinewy double stops to the guitarists’ prismatic fretwork, which veers from impressionistic finger-picking on the lyrical “Pillow Circle 18 (for Fred Frith),” to the scorching feedback that concludes “Pillow Circle 88 (for Robert Ashley).” Roebke and Rosaly’s longstanding rapport carries them through endless shifts in tempo and rhythm, keeping the octet focused through a variety of approaches.
An expansive, episodic suite, Pillow Circles pays homage to everyone from AACM stalwarts Henry Threadgill and George Lewis to modernists like Fred Frith and Jonny Greenwood (of Radiohead fame). Endlessly captivating, these splendidly executed multi-layered compositions reveal new facets with each listen, criss-crossing genres as easily as international boundary lines.