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Monday, 17 October 2011

Leo Cuypers - 'Heavy Days are Here Again' (Atavistic)

More Cuypers!  This was actually my introduction to the wonderful works of this Dutch pianist, and I think it stands out as one of the strongest (and most accessible) entries in Atavistic's Unheard Music Series.  This was recorded in 1981 by the quartet of Cuypers, Han Bennink, Willem Breuker and Arjen Gorter, and the title is a reaction to Ronald Reagan's campaign song.  Despite the bleak outlook on the emergence of neoliberalism, Heavy Days is a bright and lively album.  There's somber cadences for sure ('Blue Tango' is a lovely, sad dirge; 'Mischa' could pass as a standard, though with that same smirking energy the South Africans always bring) and the ballads are actually the highlights.  'Als dat de olifant's tand' is a masterpiece - a slowly building melody that continues to develop and, while only 5 minutes, feels like an hour of being suspended in sugar and grace.  Breuker is more prevalent here than on Theatre Music (which we reviewed on the Underbite blog) and the tension is a bit more sudden - the strong, melodic passages erupt into frantic, free breakdowns and Bennink's drumming is full of sparks, as to be expected.  The cover shot only shows the group as a trio which is odd; this is as unified a band as you can expect to hear in all of Dutch jazz.  Gorter's bass playing is thick and meaty over Bennink's thumps, and 'Be-Bach', along with the title track, is when they really open up the throttle.  It's too short, sure, but if that's the only complaint then this is a true winner.

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