By John Sharpe
The moniker Twenty One 4tet represents a summit of cosmopolitan international improvisers gathering in Amsterdam . On the face of it there’s not a lot of connection between peripatetic American saxophonist John Dikeman ‘s Ayler-inspired tirades and Portuguese trumpeter Luis Vicente‘s thoughtful chamber explorations, but the outcome suggests much more of a meeting of minds than might have been anticipated. The glue binding them together, in a program of four collective inventions excerpted from live performance, emanates from the experienced pairing of bassist Wilbert de Joode and drummer Onno Govaert.
Dikeman’s brawny tenor can be a forceful presence, with his incisive falsetto and gruff bottom end. By contrast Vicente recalls Don Cherry, with his darting lines and painterly jabs and smears, often masking an underlying sweetness. However he also embraces the contemporary trumpet lexicon of burbles, drones and subterranean growls as needed. De Joode combines muscular pizzicato and expressive arco in a visceral physical approach by turns querulous and caustic. He meshes well with Govaert’s resourceful clattering to create a responsive undercurrent whose momentum edges this set into the realms of free jazz.
“Rising Tide” proves a good example of the naturally evolving form. It begins with De Joode’s crab-like scuttling, which transmutes into a shuffling pulse over which Vicente ruminates on muted trumpet. Dikeman takes over for a passage of impassioned melodicism, before the backing drops away to leave unaccompanied split tone tenor gales. Further episode of timbral adventure open up for a concluding sequence of extended give and take between Vicente and De Joode.
It’s the interplay among the whole foursome which provides the focal point, rather than just the jousting of the horns. Nonetheless “Vesuvius” includes an exciting section which sees Vicente’s trumpet weaving around declamatory tenor over churning bass and drums. Surprisingly when it comes the ending is downbeat, featuring Vicente’s lyrical musings, cushioned by a tenor and bowed bass chorale. There’s enough promise here to justify further alliance, and indeed Dikeman and Vicente have shared the bandstand several times since, though none of these collaborations has yet made it to disc.