Downbeat review by Bill Meyer

CF 127The Flatlands Collective – Maatjes (CF 127)
The word “maatjes” has a double meaning in Dutch, referring to mates and a raw herring dish that is a delicacy in Holland. The title captures the spirit of this ensemble, both its camaraderie and essential Dutchness.
The Flatlands Collective is a quintet of Chicagoans convened by Dutch saxophonist Jorrit Dijkstra. In the album’s liner notes, Dijkstra explains that while American music has impacted his own since he was a kid, that influence has been filtered through the Netherlands’ peculiar take on jazz.  The sidemen he’s selected are sufficiently attuned to improvisational developments on both sides of the Atlantic that they aren’t thrown by his everything on a plate compositional approach. Whether it’s reimagining Terry Riley-style minimalism as march music on “In D Flat Minor”, laying down soulful Sun Ra worship on “Scirocco Song” or negotiating the abrupt shifts between disciplined, downbeat swing passages and episodes of agitated improvisation on “Druil”, they render his often challenging material with vivid clarity.
The American Flatlanders don’t just play Dijkstra’s tunes; they inhabit them, bearing down on a burner like “Phil’s Tesora” with the all-for-one enthusiasm of real mates. Dijkstra capitalizes on the band’s spirit by playing a splendidly gnarled alto on that track, and elsewhere his grainy, retro-futuristic electronics contrast strikingly with the cleanly executed horn charts. It adds up to a rewarding record by a band with a singular identity.

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