Flatlands Collective – Maatjes (CF 127)
Maatjes, the second recording by the Flatlands Collective, captures the ensemble at the end of a European tour, with the group dynamic very well-tuned to alto saxophonist/composer Jorrit Dijkstra’s compelling charts. Chicagoans Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), Jeb Bishop (trombone), James Falzone (clarinet), Jason Roebke (bass) and Frank Rosaly (drums) all work together to celebrate the various micro-dialogues that emerge from the Collective’s highly evocative composing and very distinguished improvisational vocabularies.
A long view of the Clean Feed disc reveals a compelling overall structure. The disc’s opener, “Mission Rocker,” evolves from free improvisation into a wry, sauntering bass and drums groove over which the ensemble drapes creaking, warped phrases. Moving forward through the next few tracks, the breadth of the ensemble vibe is extreme. The expansive sense of time in “Partially Overdone” moves on to the sort of hiccupping long-tones of the lumbering 7/4 groove of “In D Flat Minor” to the driving energy and colliding sonorities in “Druil” and “Micro Mood.” The delicate, cyclical melody of “Scirocco Song” reveals a deeper level of dramatic flare, ending the record with a subtlety and sentimentality that seems to look back to the auspicious intentions laid out at the beginning.
During the ensemble’s visit to Brooklyn’s Issue Project Room in late 2008, the sextet broke apart to reveal unaccompanied solos, duets or trios. “Micro Mood” featured a maelstrom of abrupt changes in texture and dynamics. Later, in the second set, tunes were often woven together, where a wonderful unaccompanied solo from Lonberg-Holm gradually enfolded into “Dipje,” a reggae-inflected tune with a very happening groove from Roebke and Rosaly serving as the focal point, around which the ensemble placed tight but minimal melodic figures and solos. The character of Issue Project Room was ideal for electro-acoustic sonic imaging and Lonberg-Holm and Dijkstra’s abstract electronic soundscapes often interwove pleasantly with the extended techniques from the rest of the ensemble. Elsewhere, Roebke’s controlled feedback experiments ratcheted up the energy level and brought the ensemble to a new level of abstraction.