Willem Breuker Kollektief | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Willem Breuker Kollektief 

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Plenty of people don't know quite what to make of the collective led by reedman Willem Breuker, but don't blame them: Breuker has designed his nonet and his repertoire to purposely blur as many lines of demarcation as possible. Is it music or performance art? When his entire band of high-flying Dutchmen begins shouting and racing around the stage or audience space, one begins to wonder. Is it free jazz or a brief history of the Dutch bourgeoisie? Hard to tell, with Dutch folk and popular tunes of the 1800s providing the grist for many of Breuker's urgently swinging forays into late-20th-century improvisation. Nice distinctions between jazz and folk musics disappear within minutes in a Breuker performance, as do the previously clear distinctions between military marches and World War II swing, between postmodern balladry and circus music, and between the Dutch music halls and American sock hops of the 50s--sometimes all within a single tune. The key lies in the name Breuker has chosen for this versatile, explosive ensemble (celebrating its 21st anniversary this year). In addition to functioning as a true collective--both in sections of group improvisation and the tightly arranged passages that make them a terribly exciting little big band--they gather and hoard scraps of musical knowledge, periodically unveiling these unexpected treasures for maximum impact. Besides all that, these guys play like demons. Dutch music has a distinct tradition of trickster virtuosi, including pianist Misha Mengelberg and drummer Han Bennink (who has been known to build a small fire in his hi-hat cymbal in order to send smoke signals to his audience), but Breuker and kompany stand out nonetheless. Friday, 11:30 PM, and Saturday, 10 PM, Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division; 235-3232.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Evelien Schoondergang.

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