Chicago Reader review by Peter Margasak


Eric Boeren Quartet – Song for tracy the Turtle Live in Brugge 2004 (CF 186)
The music of Ornette Coleman occupies a special place in the imagination of Eric Boeren. The dynamic Dutch cornetist writes original tunes that share the puckish melodic sensibility and uncontained joy of Coleman’s music, and he often covers Coleman outright—there are two of the master’s songs, for instance, on the excellent new Song for Tracy the Turtle—Live at Jazz Brugge 2004 (Clean Feed). But Boeren is no mere copycat or tribute artist. A key fixture on the Amsterdam scene, he brings elements of Coleman’s aesthetic to the loosey-goosey, quick-change approach pioneered by Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink in the ICP Orchestra. His terrific quartet, which released its first album in ’97, uses set lists that are really more like clusters of tunes—the musicians decide which number to play when (and at what point to jump to the next one) on the fly. Boeren has a seemingly telepathic connection with his brilliant front-line partner, reedist Michael Moore, and the rhythm section—muscular bassist Wilbert de Joode and, on Song for Tracy the Turtle, German free-jazz drummer Paul Lovens—goes from cushioning the horns with a spry bounce to blowing open the sonic space with an eruption of clatter. (Lovens, who in the early 70s helped define the noisy, gestural, unmetered style that’s now common in free improvisation, proves here that the roots of his radical technique lie in his understanding of the ebb and flow of swing.) The horn players tangle and untangle, sometimes sliding into new song by teasing bits of its melody out of the sweet-and-sour harmonies and jagged counterpoint of their ongoing improvisation. Other times the transitions are sudden—the segue from the title track into “A Fuzzphony” is a single graceful leap—but their logic feels totally natural even when it’s impossible to see them coming. For these rare Chicago shows the quartet will play not with Lovens but with its regular drummer, the inimitable Han Bennink. See also Sunday at Hungry Brain.

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