Piet Gerards Ontwerpers
ZONDER MISHA MENGELBERG

De eerste ICP-cd zonder mede-oprichter Misha Mengelberg, is een feit. ICP 51 verscheen onlangs. Mengelbergs opvolger in het orkest is Guus Janssen. De cd bevat veertien nummers. In onderstaande tekst legt Han Bennink uit hoe het orkest tegen een Misha-loze toekomst aankijkt. De omslagillustratie is van Bennink. Piet Gerards Ontwerpers maakte het ontwerp.

Let’s not call this a landmark – somehow, that term doesn’t jive with the Instant Composers Pool’s irreverent spirit. A remarkable document it is nevertheless. East of the Sun is the first recording in ICP Orchestra’s discography – spanning four fiery decades – on which Misha Mengelberg, ICP’s legendary founder, composer, piano player and conceptual architect, is conspicuously missing.

A melancholy reason: Misha Mengelberg, now in his 79th year, suffers from progressive dementia and is no longer able to perform with his own orchestra (for one of his last appearances with ICP, see Cherry Duyns’ moving documentary Misha and so on, filmed January 2013 in London’s Vortex Club).

So, a melancholy adieu? Certainly. And yet: not in the least. With East of the Sun, the ICP Orchestra offers a joyous proof of the lasting vitality of the Mengelbergian ethos, as interpreted, translated and transformed by its nine trusty members – including a new name on the piano chair: the redoubtable composer and improvisor Guus Janssen.

From its startling a cappella introduction, East of the Sun is full of salutes and allusions to ICP’s founding father. As ICP’s co-founder and drummer Han Bennink – Mengelberg’s sparring partner since 1960 – explains: ‘Misha has been ill for a long time, so we knew the day would come that we would have to perform without him. I have chosen the repertoire with that thought in mind, and we included some compositions by Misha

we never put on record before.

‘We start with something Misha and I used to do after a successful

performance: together we would hum his Psalm into the microphone,

a hymn-like piece he once composed for some theater production.

I would start, and Misha followed me just like the choir in the

Dutch reformed church, which always lags a bit behind the organ.

For me it was as clear as a whistle this would be our opening.

‘A bit after that you suddenly hear Ernst Glerum’s voice, who

introduces Misha’s Der jofelen pelsslip, a bit affectedly, and very

charming. We included Ernst’s voice to draw attention to another

aspect of Misha’s aesthetic: his idiosyncratic, humorous use of

language.

‘For me, Misha still is all over the place in the orchestra, in

everything we play. So in that way, I do not feel I’m standing all

alone or something like that. On the other hand: everyone in the

band has his own perspective on Misha, and that comes out in

the music too. Ab and Tristan and Michael write beautiful pieces,

tailor-made for ICP, and as they have become an integral part of

our repertoire we’ve included some of them too.

‘Rondo is by Guus Janssen, and it’s the first time you hear him

on record with the orchestra – in that way too, this is a special cd

for us. Don’t forget, Misha and Guus always have had great mutual

respect. Already in the early seventies, when we performed

Misha’s Met welbeleefde groet van de kameel in Rotterdam, Misha

made sure Guus and his brother Wim on drums were the opening

act. Guus knows ICP’s music inside out, so he can join us without

any difficulty. We consider ourselves very lucky to have someone

with such know-how and capacities joining us. He’s a totally

different piano player than Misha, of course. Yet if we play jazz,

there’s a feeling that strongly reminds me of Misha – so great.

‘We included East of the Sun as a tribute to our manager, Susanna,

as it is one of her favorite songs. I like it tremendously, although

I don’t know if Misha had any particular feelings for it. Alas we

can’t really ask him any more. But it’s fine with him. I’m sure.’

Erik van den Berg (Amsterdam, July 2014)

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