October 1, 2018
Han Bennink/Steve Noble/Alexander Hawkins
Significant if dissimilar duos are on these souvenirs of a London gig by Dutch percussionist Han Bennink and two locals, pianist Alexander Hawkins and drummer Steve Noble. In truth the main event is the sonic wit-matching between Hawkins and Bennink, with the drum duo merely additional glitter on the already burnished object.
Leader of the ICP Orchestra, Bennink is comfortable in this format having recorded duets with everyone from Irène Schweizer and Cecil Taylor to Myra Melford and Uri Caine. Meanwhile Hawkins most extensive duo work has been with Louis Moholo-Moholo. No chasm is evident however when the two start playing on this club date. Refining the stirred-up improvisations that bookend the set, the two also touch on lines composed by Bennink’s long-time playing partner Misha Mengelberg and the standard “Once in A While”, Responding appropriately and aggressively to the drummer’s confirmed clanking, rumbles and bomb dropping, the pianist scrambles from high to low frequencies, wiggling high-pitched glissandi and scurrying across the keyboard with finger dabs and darts. If inferences are made to Cecil Taylor’s kinetic style or Thelonious Monk’s angularity, then Hawkins is also capable of sounding out pseudo-ragtime tickles or honky-tonk pulses to counter Bennink’s frequent resorting to overbearing off-centre smacks and ruffs. Taking the inverse stance, the pianist also turns from staccato chording to timbral smoothing when the drummer relaxes into a Big Sid Catlett-like Swing Era-like chipping on ballad sequences. Fitting the jigsaw-puzzle-like piece together as the track evolves, Hawkins demonstrates that his playing is as assertive as it is reactive, working both hands into a dynamic tremolos and presenting free-flowing ideas as Bennink beats drums and slaps cymbals to keep up. Adding just-in-time phrase catching to the showcase, Hawkins’ sparkling cadenzas and Bennink’s positioned smashes blend individual musical colors for a notable sheen by the finale.
Someone who has played with musicians as different in conception as Peter Brötzmann, Evan Parker and Sunn O)))) drummer Stephen O'Malley, Noble is endlessly adaptable. From the top, as Noble and Bennink face-off with rubbed and metallic echoes, tambourine and cymbal shakes and resonating paradiddles,, they’ve evenly matched. And the Dutch drummer’s whistling and shouts are an indication of how well the set is going, with Junkanoo, steel-pan-like reverb sometime exhibited and all percussion detours subordinated to Jazz fluidity.
The Dutch and British have a long history of collaboration. Here are two more fine examples of this.
Track Listing: 1. Bennink/Hawkins : Improvisation/Moeder Aller Oorlogen De Sprong, O Romantiek Der Hazen/Once in A While/Improvisation 2. Bennink/Noble: Improvisation
Personnel: Alexander Hawkins (piano –track 1); Steve Noble (drums – track 2); Han Bennink (drums)