|There is something very magical about this band called The Houdini's. The six young Dutch masters who first travelled to America in 1991 to record at the legendary Rudy Van Gelder studio, appear to be, like that famous engineer, wizards when it comes to sound. The group combines sophisticated, often daring harmonies with clever juxtapositions of rhythms to create the sonic illusion of a much larger band than a three horn sextet.
But having a big (and identifiable) sound is what this band is all about. Which is why the group decided to return to the revered Englewood Cliffs studio to make this, their third disc. The musicians loved the sound they got from Van Gelder on their previous date (the critically acclaimed Headlines - Timeless 382) and were understandably reluctant to entrust this recording to anyone else, fearing an inferior follow-up. Moreover, the sound of this new music was lush, even fuller and Rudy's large room and skillful ear could only enhance that feeling. The date begins with altoist Rolf
Delfos's Catch 22 Hot, the band bard's homage to Joseph Heller's ironic war novel. The polytonal blues is introduced by a short poem memorializing 'Rudy's place' before the searing saxophone solo sets off the explosive music. Pianist Erwin Hoorweg follows, battling with the rifting horns to maintain the exciting atmosphere right up to the abrupt ending.
Lulleman (pronounced Luulaman) is an old Dutch word for the fireman who holds the end of the hose. The sensual suite is a feature for trumpeter Angelo Verploegen, who along with composer Delfos, shows a deep affection for the music of the late Booker Little, particularly the neglected 'Out Front.'
Hoorweg uses similar harmonies in the horn intro to his epic arrangement of Robert Maxwell's Ebb Tide, before making way for Boris Vanderlek's classic reading of the ballad. The saxophonist's powerful and emotional rendering of the piece, a true tenor tour de force, presents him as a formidable young voice on his instrument.
The title track, a collaborative composition by Hoorweg and Delfos is the date's most straight-ahead tune. A bluesy number out of the Jazz Messenger mold, the band's frequent stops and tempo changes create an anxious tension that is relieved in Er-win's extended piano solo. The title refers to a climactic moment during Rolf's first marital row.
The Moose in Hoorweg's Moose's Mood is Verploegen. It's the nickname the trumpeter garnered from the first of a large collection of weird hats he accumulated in Canada during the group's first tour. The Mood is a light-hearted samba which features Angelo on flugelhorn and Rolf on soprano.
Bassist Marius Beets gets to step out front on Bound n' Mario. It's another song out of Hoorweg's growing book of excellent compositions. This one's a very sophisticatedly arranged line in the AAB form.
Fat Groupie refers to the heavy tenor work on this catchy funk tune, based on the extended blues form. Jazz fans generally associate Sammy
Cahn and July Styne's I Fall In Love Too Easily with Chet Baker's classic plaintively laid back interpretation. Here Hoorweg arranges the standard for Verploegen's trumpet, full of fanfare emphasizing the beauty of the melody. The group's accompaniment is especially poignant, and has all of the power of a big band.
That big band sound continues on George Gershwin's Gone, a song best known for Gil Evans' famous arrangement for Miles Davis. On this version the tune's complex rhythmic changes are adapted by Marius Beets to an exciting vehicle for Bram Wijiand's swinging drums.
The final tune of the date is Delfos's Single Breath Orgy, a feature for his own alto saxophone. The tune is a slow 12/8 groove the band often uses to end its live sets. The title (an oxymoron on the level of Herbie Hancock's One Finger Snap) parodies the label of a keyboard preset (single breath organ), but the music, as the composer notes, is dedicated to 'only the lonely'.
The words that follow are those of Rudy Van Gelder, spoken to the band at the end of a take where the multi-track tape ran out. It was decided to include them on the disc as a type of signature from the great engineer whose contribution to the great sound of this music cannot be over-estimated.
The admiration between engineer and musicians on this date is a mutual one, the former one expressing his pleasure with the music of the band remarking "You know, we don't get music this good in here everyday." Quite a compliment from the man who has recorded the best. And so, the words are also meant as an admonition to xenophobic jazz fans (and critics) who would dismiss the work of Europeans advancing this AfroAmeri-can art form. "Don't move. Stay right where you are." And listen to this one again. It deserves it.
Russ Musto New York City 14 June 1993
Recorded at Rudy van Gelder recording studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, USA.
Recording date: 23 April 1993.