Willem Breuker Kollektief – Bob’s Gallery (1988)

Willem Breuker Kollektief - Bob's Gallery (1988)
Artist: Willem Breuker Kollektief
Album: Bob’s Gallery
Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz, Modern Creative
Origin: Netherlands
Released: 1988
Quality: mp3, 320 kbps
Tracklist:
Serenade For A Wealthy Widow (02:41)
Bob’s Gallery (22:51)
Morribreuk (03:30)
Jazz II (from ‘Thanks, your Majesty’) (08:09)
I Don’t Love You (03:51)
Minimal (from ‘Thanks, your Majesty’) (09:53)
Remarkable Girl (03:16)
Living Apart Together Right Now (07:59)
La Santa Espina (02:17)
Serenade For A Wealthy Widow (02:59)

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Though the Willem Breuker Kollektief had built up a pretty good reputation since its inception in 1974, Bob’s Gallery was the first release of theirs to enjoy widespread distribution in the United States. As it was presumably many listeners’ first exposure to this often very exciting Dutch band, this album regularly shows up on lists as one of the group’s best, an undeserved reputation. In fact, though not a bad record, Bob’s Gallery could well serve as a dividing line between the stellar work Breuker produced up through the mid-’80s and his spottier output afterward. One can understand the enthusiasm of the new Kollektief fan, however. Here you have a ten-piece ensemble that both plays with an incredible tightness and precision and, at the same time, contains musicians capable of soloing freely and very creatively. Add to that Breuker’s penchant for bewildering stylistic leaps (often within a single piece) and his obviously sly sense of humor (like slipping from a screeching clarinet solo into a charmingly sleazy “Besame Mucho”), and you have the makings of a very attractive and refreshing band. Hopefully, those new fans had enough interest to search out his earlier work where the Kollektief is heard to best advantage (e.g., In Holland, Dreibergen-Zeist, and Summer Music). Here, a certain rote, formulaic approach has begun to set in. The title cut moves from episode to episode in an awkward, inorganic fashion and the melodies themselves, once so rich, begin to sound stale and secondhand. The two covers of 1930s “society” songs are pleasing ditties, but not much more, and the nod to Philip Glass, “Minimal,” is both uninteresting as an example of the genre and, by 1987, pointless besides. As usual, there are saving graces, notably the solos of Boy Raaymakers, arguably the finest trumpet player that virtually no one (outside of Kollektief fans) has ever heard of. But listeners wanting to catch this often astonishing band at its best are advised to begin elsewhere. [The original LP issue of this record included a bonus, bright red flexidisc containing four additional pieces. Bafflingly, two of them (Jazz II and Remarkable Girl) are identical to the versions on the LP.]
Review by Brian Olewnick

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