cat on the piano

A camera points at a small, upright piano. A cat jumps on the keys, and wanders about, exploring, very interested in sniffing the keys, but taking no notice of the music she makes.

The film, the piano, and the cat belong to Misha Mengelberg, the founding father of Amsterdam's astonishing Jazz scene. His ICP Orchestra is perhaps the most satisfying large ensemble around, and some of my favorite musicians anywhere are members (Michael Moore, Han Bennink). This Friday a DVD of a documentary about Mengelberg arrived, and I watched, transfixed, full of anticipation and joy.

Among other things Mengelberg is the reincarnation of Thelonious Monk, chords with the lumps still in them; the timing anything but slick. Each note and phrase unique, as if those fingers had never touched those keys before, certainly such sounds have never been heard before. In comparison, conventionally virtuosic pianists sound slick and shallow, lacking in imagination. He seems a refugee from some ancient race; elf, troll, and hobbit all at once.

The DVD is called "Afijn", ICP 044/Data Images 03. Available from Cadence...


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