The quartet ZILT began when renowned Dutch tenor sax player and teacher at the Amsterdam Conservatory Jasper Blom, heard one of his new students Ian Cleaver play the trumpet so joyous and free, and was so inspired that their lesson soon turned into a jam session. This jam session transformed quickly into regular monthly gigs at the nearby whiskey-bar café called Zilt, located in Zeedijk, Amsterdam’s Chinatown, with the young rhythm section of young students, double bass player Thomas Pol and drummer Wouter Kühne.
Playing right next to the bar in this crowded café proved that jazz is still popular music, music for the people, and music to swing to. But jazz must surprise, uplift its listeners, and entertain them. Blom and Cleaver share a great affinity to the jazz legacy but have an open and playful approach. This approach led them to adopt the repertoire of two legends from two eras – the Dutch wayward jazz pianist and bandleader-composer Misha Mengelberg and the American composer-pianist Duke Ellington, who once defined his own role as a bandleader as ‘running a casual business’. Blom and Cleaver like the sound of Ellington’s orchestras where you can hear every single voice and its character come through, allowing the personality, voice, and sense of humor to shine through. And, obviously, they loved Mengleberg’s unorthodox approach of asking questions about the artform itself, and always with humor and a certain playfulness.
The album of ZILT was recorded at Studio 1 in MCO Hilversum in June 2020 and featured five compositions by Mengelberg, including the ICP’s favorites like «Rollo III», «Who’s Bridge», «Rumboon» and «Rollo II», two by Ellington «Azalea» (known from the version of Louis Armstrong and Ellington) and «I Like The Sunrise» (sung by Frank Sinatra), and four brief interlude improvisations of ZILT. Blom cleverly incorporated Mengelbergian dadaist tricks to Ellington’s lyrical compositions and used the sax to make weird noises in the accompaniment, oriented by sound rather than harmony. ZILT plays throughout this album with almost innocent, childish joy, but its music also shines with playful freedom, bold inventions and a sharp sense of humor and irony. Listening to this inspiring and brilliant album feels like an invigorating medicine against our dire and unsettling times.
Jasper Blom (ts), Ian Cleaver (tp), Thomas Pol (b), Wouter Kühne (dr)