Saturday, June 04, 2011

Misha Mengelberg-Piet Noordijk Quartet: Live at the Concertgebouw

The legendary DUTCH MENGELBERG-NOORDIJK QUARTET live in concert (7th of April, 1966)
The fifth album in the series: Jazz at the Concertgebouw.
Hans Koert
Misha Mengelberg-Piet Noordijk Quartet: Live at the Concertgebouw (English) Het Misha Mengelberg-Piet Noordijk Quartet in unieke live-opnamen. (Nederlands)
Recently the fifth album in a great series of unique live recordings was released by the former Dutch Jazz Archive (now: MCN) in its series Jazz at the Concertgebouw. Previous releases contained live recordings by Chet Baker ( 1955), Gerry Mulligan ( 1956), J.J. Johnson ( 1957) and Sara Vaughan (1958), all originally recorded by Lou Van Rees, then Dutch most well-known producer. The Mengelberg-Noordijk album is the first one which features a Dutch quartet, a legendary group with had a certain presence: the Misha Mengelberg - Piet Noordijk Quartet.
Front of the booklet of Misha Mengelberg-Piet Noordijk Quartet - Journey ( MCN 1101) (photo courtesy: NJA / Bob Van Grevenbroek)
The quartet features some well known Dutch jazz musicians, like Piet Noordijk on alto saxophone, Misha Mengelberg at the piano, Rob Langereis double bass and Han Bennink on drums. On two tracks the US trumpet player Ted Curson, who was guest player in both the Mengelberg-Noordijk group as in the big band, to be scheduled in the second part of the concert: Boy's Big Band. This band, which belonged to the more progressive big bands in Holland in those days, was directed by Boy Edgar and featured, like a real all-star band, the crème de la crème of Dutch jazz ( including Piet Noordijk and saxophone player Theo Loevendie).
During the 1960s, Ben Zwanink explains in the liner notes (both in English and in Dutch), Jazz in Holland was in crisis ...... the interest in jazz was declining; audience numbers were dwindling, many jazz clubs were closing down and the engagements for musicians were few and far between. The Rhythm and Blues and beat music was popular and the youth were labelled here in Holland as Vetkuiven ( or Dijkers particular in Amsterdam) or Nozems and the beat music fans dressed like The Beatles. Jazz music wasn't hip anymore.
Han Bennink ( photo: Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant ( 16th October 1969) (source: Krantenbank Zeeland)

In the 1960s I was a teenager and, although I visited concerts by bands like The Bintangs or the local famed Delta Generation ( they performed in places where the girls were) not really interested in the new popular artists: I didn't hold strong views about, who was the best: The Beatles or the Stones. I joined around 1970 concerts, were improvised music was played by musicians like Willem Breuker, Theo Loevendie, Leo Cuypers, Maarten van Regteren Altena or Willem van Manen, scheduled in places like Goes ( De Veste) and Middelburg (Stadsschouwburg) by the Stichting Nieuwe Muziek. I remember Han Bennink as one of the most striking musicians that came to this part of the Netherlands. I'm sure I didn't understand what they were playing and I didn't know the ins and outs about what happened in the Dutch Jazz scene of the 1960s - see it as reaching puberty - opposing against the establishment.

Piet Noordijk ( photo: Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant - 27th of December 1965) (source: Krantenbank Zeeland)

The Concertgebouw concert by the Misha Mengelberg-Piet Noordijk Quartet was not the place to be for the young beat and rock and roll generation, but the jazz fans welcomed it. The two leaders of the band Misha Mengelberg and Piet Noordijk were each other's poles apart. Piet Noordijk started his career in the 1950s as an all-round musician, who was fascinated by the music of Charlie Parker. He started his career in the band of his brother Kees who was his eerste en beste leraar ( (my) first and best teacher). He worked with Ger Van Leeuwen, Pia Beck and Frans Poptie before he joined Misha Mengelberg in 1964.

Misha Mengelberg-Piet Noordijk Quartet - Journey ( MCN 1101) (cover: Egbert Luys) (photo courtesy: NJA / Bob Van Grevenbroek)
Misha Mengelberg, born in Kiev in Russia in 1935 was raised in a musical family. His father, Karel Mengelberg was a classic composer and director and worked for several symphony orchestras and choirs during the 1920s and 1930s. In 1935 he worked for Ukrainfilm in Kiev. His uncle, Wilem Mengelberg, was a celebrated composer and director of the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam for years. Although Misha studied Composition and Music Theory at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, he became fascinated by the music of John Cage, who had subversive ideas about modern music. Misha became fascinated by jazz and especially the music of Thelonious Monk, whose ideas of rhythm and harmony were revolutionary too.
The Misha Mengelberg-Piet Noordijk Quartet performed at the Newport Festival (July 1966) - the first European group to do so. (Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant - 2nd of July, 1966) (source: Krantenbank Zeeland) (click to enlarge)
The young drummer Han Bennink, in fact he was a graphic artist, met Misha in the early 1960s and together they shared the fascination for Monk and progressive jazz. Both Rob Langereis, the double bass player, who was a sought after accompanist for US musicians like Ted Curson and Lee Konitz, as Piet Noordijk were fervent adherents of bebop and loved to swing and in fact the opposites from Misha and Han, who flirt with the more progressive music styles. Maybe that makes this concert so special. In five, most lengthy tunes, the musicians improvise on Misha Mengelberg compositions like Driekusman Total Loss, which has the same chord sequence as I Got Rhythm and shows Misha's fascination for Monk.
The composition Journey is the most lengthy track of the concert ( more then 14 minutes) and learns why this group was so special. In those 14 minutes you will find numerous aspects that makes this group so fascinating. It has fast and slow passages, with and without tempo interchanges - solo and ensemble work - a lot happens in this quarter of an hour - that's why I like live concert registrations.
The Quartet was scheduled for the 20th of January, 1967 for a concert at the Stadsschouwburg of Middelburg (Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant - 10th of January 1967) (source: Krantenbank Zeeland)
This historical document is one of the last recordings left before the band was broken. In July the quartet played, as one of the first European bands to do so, at the famous Newport Jazz Festival, but the spirit to continue this great quartet had gone and early 1967 the quartet stopped: Piet Noordijk became a sought after accompanist for Dutch singers like Edwin Rutten or Ann Burton and became a member of the Stork Town Dixie Kids, together with Rob on bass, who accompanied US visitors like
Ben Webster. Misha and Han embarked on a new course. They founded, together with Willem Breuker, the ICP-orchestra ( = Instant Composers Pool), which would split the Dutch jazz scene in a more mainstream jazz group of players and the so-called free jazz and improvising music performances of bands like the ICP or the Willem Breuker Kollektief, labelled by opponents as Piep Knars Knor music.
The concert of the 20th of January, 1967 was cancelled ( Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant - 13th of January, 1967) ( source: Krantenbank Zeeland)
The Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant, the regional newspaper of the south-west part of The Netherlands, announced a concert by the Misha NMengelberg-Piet Noordijk Quartet for the 20th of January, 1967 at the Schouwburg in Middelburg, but a week before the concert the newspaper wrote that the concert was postponed as (er) geen garanties waren dat de saxofonist Piet Noordijk en de bassist Rob Langereis op deze avond deel zouden uitmaken van de groep. ( = there were no guarantees, that saxophonist Piet Noordijk and bass player Rob Langereis would join the band that evening).

The Misha Mengelberg-Piet Noordijk Quartet release Journey, live at The Concertgebouw (April 1966) is a great historical album in the Dutch and European jazz history. The album can be ordered at the site of the Dutch Jazz Archive.
Hans Koert
It's great fun to listen to a well arranged uniform stabile quartet like the Modern Jazz quartet, but what about a group whose members seem to be each other's opposites? The legendary Dutch Misha Mengelberg - Piet Noordijk Quartet from the 1960s seems to be such a band with two members who are fascinated by swing and bebop music and two others who later have won their spurs into the free jazz and improvised music. - great conditions for fascinating improvisations. Thanks to the former Dutch Jazz Archive we can enjoy a live concert by this most impressive Dutch jazz quartet of the 1960s, which lasted only a few years: The Misha Mengelberg-Piet Noordijk Quartet.
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