2003   JULY 8   #189

Instant Composers Pool - My Baby Has Gone to the Schouwburg

Not everyone is born with a good record collection. That's what we're supposed to tell ourselves when we finally get around to buying the one album that critical reductionists have been calling "essential" for 30 years or more. As Jack Black's character berated a record store customer in "High Fidelity":

"What, you don't have Blonde on Blonde? It's going to be all right..."

I realize as I'm writing this that I still don't own any Bob Dylan. Unless the first Byrds album counts (and it might). But, on the other hand, I was literally born with original pressings of far-out jazz (or whatever it's called) LPs by Albert Ayler, Gunter Hampel, Anthony Braxton, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Cecil Taylor, Eric Dolphy, etc. Not what most people would think of as "your daddy's music," I guess.

Though it doesn't have a date on it, I think this flexidisc is from around the time my dad stopped accumulating these things. Mid-seventies or so. It was a promotional record for CJP, which stands for "Cultureel Jongeren Paspoort." From studying the sleeve (which is entirely in Dutch), I've deduced that CJP must have been a type of prepaid card you could use to get into many Netherlandish museums and theaters at a discount.

Hence the A-side, "My Baby Has Gone to the Schouwburg" (which must be a name-check to some kind of fancy venue over there). Great tune, complete with wild soloing, primitive electronics, dopey riffs, and an idiotic "trying to sound American" spoken section that would be ruined if I were to attempt to describe it here.

Oh, a word about art in European countries: I'm not entirely sure how it works, but many of those governments actually pay musicians and painters and dancers and poets to do their thing full-time.

If this song, this product of "Ministry of Weirdness" funding, were only a wacky ad for some obscure museum pass, that might be good enough. But it turns out that the band performing here is none other than Holland's own Instant Composers Pool (or ICP), a free music kollektif that's been putting out bizarre albums with various lineups since the late sixties. In my dad's collection alone I found the following ICP releases: a Brechtian operetta, a piano and talking parrot duet, and a double LP set of outtakes packaged in what looks like a chocolate box. These guys played on Eric Dolphy's final album and Peter Brotzmann's first. Their earliest collaboration was with Derek Bailey and their most recent is with Sonic Youth.

What core ICP members Han Bennink, Misja Mengelberg, and Willem Breuker brought (and continue to bring) to jazz is a uniquely You're-a-peein' perspective. A sense of absurdist humor that some argue doesn't suit the medium. Hundreds of years of marching band/concert hall tradition (just dig Willem van Manen's trombone solo near the end of "Schouwburg"). Other odd stuff that I'm too ignorant to properly identify. It all adds up to a jazz aesthetic that sounds completely counterintuitive (or just wrong) to American ears.

Which of course is why it's so great.

Han Bennink - slagwerk
Willem Breuker - saxofoon-zang
Willem van Manen - trombone-zang
Kees Klaver - trompet
Michel Waisvisz - putney-synthesizer-mondharmonica
Maarten van Regteren Altena - bas.

- Joe Tepperman

TT-4:08 / 4.8MB / 160kbps 44.1khz

(Image courtesy of Joe Tepperman)

Dennis Sille writes:
Being Dutch, I might be able to clarify on some points. CJP is indeed a discount pass for youth by which they can attend cultural activiteit at a reduced - or sometimes free - rate. A Schouwburg is some sort of theatre, the kind of which were build in every town and city of some size during the seventies, meant for cultural activities. So most places in Holland do have a 'Schouwburg' these days. The cover of this record was actually made by the world-famous Dick Bruna, inhibitant of Utrecht, The Netherlands (where there is actually a museum dedicated to him). He is know mostly for his children's books of 'Nijntje', or 'Miffy' as he is know in the States. See www.miffy.com for more details.

Ben writes:
This song is available on the following CD:  Willem Breuker - "De Onderste Steen" (Entr'acte CD2). From the liner notes: "My Baby has gone to the Schouwburg was written in 1972 to promote the Cultural Youth Passport (a card that gives discounts to young people for cultural events). It was distributed throughout the Netherlands among high school students as a free plastic record with a lifespan of three plays at best." Recorded at Studio Van de Water, Baarn, July 12, 1972.