Duo Baars - Henneman


Musicians with a multi-decade career, Ab Baars and Ig Henneman are in many ways artists who can be said to be quite typical of a way of conceiving music that is peculiar to Holland, from the variety of their stylistic background to their adventurous attitude in combining composition (including, of course, the avant-garde of the XX century) and improvisation. A saxophone and clarinet player, Ab Baars is still maybe known more for his work with the long-standing line-up called Instant Composers Pool Orchestra than for the work done with the more compact groups he has lead for quite some time now. A viola player of stunning technical ability, Ig Henneman has led (and recorded with) a whole series of different line-ups, from string quartets to quintets to tentets (and what's more Dutch-like than those multi-stylistic tentets that feature strings and winds?).

Stof is a duo work largely made up of improvisations. There are also some composed moments, though, and I also believe that at certain points an ingenious editing work has given an "after the fact" shape to some transitions (and: am I hearing double, or there really is an - albeit tiny - use of overdubbing?). As per her usual, Henneman plays the viola, while this time Baars plays also the shakuachi and the noh-kan - a short transverse Japanese flute of ancient and noble origins (I did a web search) - besides his usual tenor sax and clarinet.

With only one exception, all tracks (fourteen in less than one hour) are on the brief side. All superfluous material is absent, with a lot of conceptual reasoning as the basis for the playing. The album is not at all "difficult". It just demands a lot of attention, the right disposition towards the act of listening, and a quiet room. As a good for instance, one can consider the melody played by the clarinet in the high register in the track that opens the album, Eye Dazzler: while played, say, two octaves below on an instrument like an accordion or a piano it would be easy to be seen as the beautiful melody that it is, as played here it requires just the right approach on the part of the listener. This is true of the album as a whole: while it's not devoid of more accessible moments, it really needs sympathetic ears that won't mistake aesthetical austerity with emotional lack of involvement.

There are goods moments aplenty here. Check the almost rural melody painted by the noh-kan, with a raw-sounding viola opposing it, in Tackety Dancing Shoes. Or the many registers of the tenor, and the viola forming mournful airs, in Violetto Rossastro. The hushed tones of the shakuachi in Giallo di Napoli. The track for viola solo, Whirligig, where some thematic variations are quite easy to perceive, and where there is a beautiful musical episode with long, held notes with vibrato before the theme at the end. Or Ruby Slippers, chamber-like with clarinet, one of the pieces I liked the best on the CD. The strong, repeated, rhythmic figures by the viola, played pizzicato, and the "cool" tenor sax, blown, in Castle Walk In Herringbone Suit. The homage to Stravinsky (I suppose!) in Igor's Bransle. The meditative and microtonal Grigio Perla Per Noguchi. Or the ever-changing long track, Stof - To Eiske, which has its start in the body of the viola being hit and arrives at a point where the viola gives pedal points to a "cool" clarinet sounding quite Ellington-like.

Beppe Colli

Beppe Colli 2007

CloudsandClocks.net | Jan. 7, 2007