Less self-consciously goofy than Willem Breuker's off-kilter Kollektief, Instant Composers Pool Orchestra is arguably Europe's leading big band contributor to forward-jazz adventurism. Led by Dutch pianist Misha Mengelberg and drummer Han Bennink — the spirited duo who anchored the legendary Eric Dolphy's Last Date in 1964 — ICP Orchestra embodies the fundamental qualities that have legitimized the so-called avant-garde as an enduring influence in the diaspora of contemporary jazz.
Featuring a masterful nine-piece ensemble of brass, wind, string, and percussion players — including Bennink's partners in the infamous Clusone Trio and singular cellist Tristan Honsinger — the new album Jubilee Varia brilliantly combines playfulness, sobriety, and sophistication. The near-boppish moments of sass, speed, and angular percussive flights recall Thelonious Monk's steadfast iconoclasm. The painterly use of color and deft arrangements of big ideas, particularly on Mengelberg's evocative suite “Jealousy,” bring to mind Duke Ellington's wide-palette vision. Like much of Duke's music, ICP Orchestra's repertoire cannot be tied to any one genre; the compositions are of and beyond the general conception of jazz groove. And the leaders' attention-deficit dashes from microcosmic conversation to huge New Orleans-styled street marches speak to a postmodern immersion in the disrupted, smartly wound language of deconstructed compositional style.