Wilbert de Joode

Dragon's Den

April 09, 2007


There's no way I could have expected that Wilbert de Joode was gonna pack The Dragon's Den last night. I mean, he's a jazz musician. An improvisational jazz musician, at that. But, I guess the masses wanted to hear what a Dutch master of the double bass can do. And, for the record, de Joode was playing what promoter Andy Durta described as a chamber bass, which is a bit smaller than your usual stand-up bass. Saxophonist Tim Green, pedal steel maestro Dave Easley, and an unknown drummer joined de Joode. Before I get to the concert, here's what allaboutjazz.com has to say about de Joode:

"A self-taught musician whose experimental pizzicato and bowing techniques have made him one of the busiest and most recognizable players on the Dutch improvised music scene. A longtime member of the acclaimed Ab Baars Trio, he regularly performs with musicians such as Han Bennink, Michiel Braam and Michael Moore among many others. He has also collaborated with a long list of noted American improvisers including Charles Gayle, Steve Lacy, Sunny Murray, William Parker, and Roswell Rudd. On this American tour, de Joode will be performing music from his 2002 solo CD, Olo (Wig), which inspired The Wire's Bill Shoemaker to write, 'Add Olo to the small but growing list of essential solo bass recordings.'"

The band didn't hit a stride until the third song, which was the last one I saw. I enjoyed the music, but I can only be into it for a short period of time before I lose interest. I might have ADD. No matter how good the music is, it has little form, and I have no idea where it's going or for long, and that bothers me. I need to calm down when I get like that. I woulda been better drunk and slumped against the wall at that show, but there were too many people for that.

During the third song, Easley and de Joode were mixing their silver yet refreshingly melancholic slivers together while Green played some of the most longing, mournful sax(No one can express the pain of the city like him). Easley and de Joode played music that sounded like digital calm. Like small silver daggers reaching their receivers over and over. Like cold water hitting your tongue after a long run again and again. Like lying down on grass underneath a blanket and the full moon, a few feet from the pond. Some of the first song, in contrast, sounded like a horror movie soundtrack.

de Joode was impressive but not a show-off, which was nice. He worked to complement and showed his skill in his swiftness and aggressiveness. He wasn't afraid to molest the bass, that's for sure. He pulled hard and sanded the strings with his fingernails in a blurring motion, like he was shaking salt onto his food. His harsh attack seemed cathartic, like he was letting tension out. Watching him tear that bass up sure added a sense of urgency to the whole show.

At the beginning, I wasn't sure that Easley was the best choice for this quartet, but later I realized he was perfect. I shouldn't have doubted him. Had he let me down before? No. Easley always conforms to any group he plays with, and that's his main strength. He can make such a variety of sounds, and when the group was freaking out, he was right there, listening, following their rhythm and spacing note for note.

I wish there was a better drummer with this group. The guy who played didn't hold his own. And by that, I mean that's all he did. He didn't push the other players and seemed to want to cause as little trouble as possible. He was imperceptible and not forecful enough. He played like he was performing at any usual modern jazz show. I wish someone more experienced in improv, like Endre Landsnes, would have played.

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