Friday, March 03, 2017

Goodbye, Misha Mengelberg

I once saw a Misha Mengelberg–Han Bennink duo concert at Lincoln Center during which, as I recall, Bennink stood on his drum throne and began to flap his arms like a bird, making squawking noises as Mengelberg played on, seemingly oblivious. Then Bennink tore up pieces of newspaper, set them on fire and threw them at the pianist one by one. (Ben Ratliff's review is probably a more reliable eyewitness account of the May 2000 gig.)

I'm not an expert in Mengelberg's work, but I'm sad to hear of his passing. His rapport with Bennink was something unique and precious, an absurdist manifestation of jazz that also embodied great poetry and tenderness and nostalgia and virtuosity and love for the art form.

I treasure the records these two made with Steve Lacy, especially the 1983 Monk / Herbie Nichols tribute Regeneration. Four in One, a 2001 Mengelberg quartet disc with Bennink, Dave Douglas and Brad Jones, is also great. The vast recorded legacy of the ICP Orchestra and its various predecessors and offshoots is on my to-do list.

Farewell to this unassuming legend, and co-godfather to a vital European scene, who came at jazz from his own oblique angle. Who honored his idols by establishing his own brand of cool: sly, deadpan and timeless.


*Read Ethan Iverson's informed, insightful take.

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