Ab Baars
Ab Baars Solo
Duo Baars Henneman
Ab Baars Trio
Ab Baars Quartet
Dutch reedman Ab Baars goes out of his way to avoid sentiment in his playing. He plots courses that veer willfully from melodic to shrill, but always remains in control. The most striking aspect of Fish-scale Sunrise, named after a poem by Wallace Stevens, is how much this approach to improvising is reflected in his composing too. Inspired by AACM reedman Roscoe Mitchell with who he performed in 1986, and by his association with the enfant terrible of the Dutch scene pianist Misha Mengelberg in the ICP Orchestra and elsewhere, Baars has developed a deeply personal style, which Mengelberg termed ab music.
--John Sharpe

[…] “Moods for Roswell” displays the interaction of two giants of the Dutch scene, reed player Ab Baars and trombonist Joost Buis, whose years playing together in different settings lay the groundwork for compelling performances. It is tribute to their experience and technique that they accomplish the task so well.
--Steven Loewy NYCJR Dec 2020

[…] Baars and Buis know the Ellington and Strayhorn standards inside-out, and their heartfelt adaptations play poetic games with the memorable themes, letting royal waltzes intervene organically with fiery, free jazz duel or bluesy groove. Most likely, you will never listen elsewhere to such a spellbinding version of «In a Sentimental Mood», played by Baars on the Japanese bamboo flute, shakuhachi, associated with Zen Buddhism, with minimalist breaths of Buis. 
--Eyal Hareuveni Salty Peanuts May 2020

[…] It's hard to believe it's been fifteen years since Kinda Dukish was recorded by the Ab Baars Quartet, formed for that recording by trombonist Joost Buis joining the reed player's longtime trio of bassist Wilbert de Joode and drummer Martin van Duynhoven to tackle selections from the Ellington/Strayhorn song book. You'd think that redoing the classics with innovative variations would be old hat for the New Dutch Swingers, to coin Kevin Whitehead’s term, given the ICP Orchestra, of which Ab has been one of the younger members, and its spinoff groups’ treatment of Monk, Herbie Nichols and some occasional forays into Ellingtonia. But the first cut of “Kinda Solitude” (Kinda was the prefix for all the new arrangements) sounded like Albert Ayler had been transported into the lead tenor spotlight which, after the initial shock wore off, worked out very well in a piano less quartet setting as the harshness dissipated into a soothing ending.
--Stephen Griffith freejazzblog.org

(…) Noted for his abstract, sometimes pointillistic approach that pushes the outer limits of intonation, Baars has a style that encompasses the propulsive explorations of Albert Ayler and Eric Dolphy, the husky tonalities of Von Freeman and the AACM’s Roscoe Mitchell, and the screaming-yet-meticulous melodies of John Carter.
--Jeff Economy Music Notes theTribune

Ab Baars Solo ‘time to do my lions’ (Wig 17, 2010)

(...) His work has always been smart and marked by meticulous care, but as he’s aged he’s increasingly channeled his ideas into concentrated, perfectly pitched excursions that focus on specific notions without wasted notes.
--Peter Margasak, Downbeat **** February 2011

(…) The playing is assured and methodical throughout: these are distinct pieces conceived with intention and it’s great to hear Baars in such a bareboned setting.
--Kurt Gottschalk NY City Jazz Record March 2011

(...) Dit soloconcert, opgenomen in het Bimhuis in 2008, getuigt van een weergaloze puurheid en expressie. (...) Zijn prestatie mag zonder blozen naast de solo creaties van Steve Lacy staan, zonder daar maar enigzins op te lijken. Baars hoeft nergens de mosterd te halen. Hij vertelt hoogst persoonlijk. Zijn blaasinstrumenten worden in zijn handen uiterst plastisch en dat geeft muziek van de wereld: hoogst menselijk en onbesmet door de jazzgeschiedenis of wat daar vaak uit voortvloeit. Hoedje af en een buiging.
--Chris Joris Jazzmozaïek 2010/4

(...) Wo bleiben da die Unbeugsamen, die Träumer mit dem unverbesserlichen Freiheitsdrang, an der Grenze, auf der Kippe, nach wie vor nicht satt, nicht am Ziel, risicobereit und auf der Suche? Der 1955 geborene Holländer Ab Baars ist so einer, der das Beste aus der Avantgarde der 60er hinüber rettet und weiter entwickelt in Zeiten der Beliebigkeit und der Relativismen. Kompromisslos spielt er Saxophon, Klarinette und Shakuhachi. (...) Da bekennt sich einer zu sich selbst, zur befreinden Kraft der Musik, zur Klarheit, zur Reflexion, zur Verletzlichkeit und zum Unfertigen der Utopie.
--Tobias Böcker Jazzpodium 2010

Japanese artist Hokusai drew a lion every morrning to ward of anger. Ab Baars’s earliest solo saxophone recordings often seemed to give in to rage. This is a calmer and more personal set, influenced by recent work with violist partner Ig Henneman. She’s the dedicatee of “Ritratto Del Mare A Anzio”, taken on clarinet, as is the title piece. The tenor playing is still flayed down to the sinew, but the line has clarity and direction now. He uses the big horn for a tribute to Watazumi Doso, admitting that playing the straight bamboo flute has profoundly changed his sax playing. The shakuhachi pieces are scarcely idiomatic, but they’re effective, and it’s all satisfyingly of a piece.
--Brian Morton, The Wire, November 2010

(...) Overigens zijn alle tien de stukken op ‘time to do my lions’ opgedragen aan mensen en plekken die voor hem een bron van inspiratie zijn. (…) De componist/improvisator speelt ze met een diepgang en rijpheid die indrukwekkend mag worden genoemd.
--Herman te Loo www.jazzflits.nl 8/16

In ultima analisi il disco testimonia in poco meno di cinquanta minuti l'incredibile plasticità della musica di Baars, talmente unica e personale che lo stesso Mengelberg, per parlarne, usa definire “Ab Music” (la musica di Ab) e niente altro.
(...) Angolare e ambiguo quanto basta. E non c'è davvero altro da dire se non riportare la citazione (tratta da Anne Carson) che sigilla il CD: ”La rabbia è una amara serratura. Ma la puoi aprire”.
--Vittorio Albani allaboutjazzitaly nov 2010
Duo Baars-Henneman 'Autumn Songs' (Wig 22, 2013)

(...) Ten well-proportioned improvisations, often of a lyrical nature. Delicate and touching, with Baars en Henneman taking different roles in each piece. Full-grown music that does not want to impress, but invites the listener to discover its beauty.
--Dolf Mulder Vital Weekly 884 2013

(...) I dare you to draw a clear line between what is written and what is not. Even in free improvisation mode, this duo is in sync. That, and the unique melodicism arising from their duets, are what makes Autumn Songs an artistic success, an example of musical perfection.
--Francois Couture Listening Diary monsieurdelire.com 2013

(...) So manche Atonalität wird geschickt und souverän eingebaut, klingt nur selten ein wenig zickig und aufgesetzt. Gern greift Baars auch zur Klarinette oder zur japanischen Flöte Shakuhachi, exemplarisch bei Winter comes to hush her Song, ein Lied, das durch Charles Ives inspiriert wurde, ganz in sich ruhend, sehr, sehr schön.
--Christoph Haunschmid Freistil#49 Juni/Juli 2013

(...) The two musicians play with the most beautiful palette of colors. They play with the same grace as the movement of waterfowl, such as on ‘Nine and Fifty Swans’. ‘Autumn Songs’ invites you into a cultural bath which quietly yet intensely engulfs the listener in a sound world of images and emotions. (…) The content and technique stand strongly together, that’s what we call class.
--Danny de Bock jassepoes.be

(…) There’s a breathless tension and expectation in these musical dialogues, as if neither participant has any idea what is coming next and the music trembles on the edge of revelation. It has no need for any of the trappings of jazz or classical or any other kind of music. It is sound discovered and organized with no preconceived notions and it is both incredibly touching and intellectually thrilling at the same time.
--Ed Hazell Signal to Noise #61 Spring 2011

(…) The music is often rarefied and brittle, so distinctly stripped back to the essence of air and friction but also materialised. The pieces have not been left as invasive flashes, nor are they a succession of unrelated ideas; they are recognisable attempts to construct something from nothing or almost nothing, to create on the spot, as well as to understand, support and where necessary contradict one’s fellow performer in that creative process. What resonates is two voices that belong together without being completely subsumed by the other; they literally play with one another.
--Mischa Andriessen Ig Henneman 65, 2010

Festival International de Jazz de Montreal 2008
(...) The show was an intimate look at two distinct, creative voices in the Dutch scene. Sometimes it was frighteningly harsh, as when Baars chose to camp out in the highest register he’s capable of for a couple of minutes. Other times, it was stark and disarmingly beautiful, with a lyrical saxophone exchanging lines with a sensitive viola.
--Adam Kinner The Montreal Gazette June 2008

The Vancouver International Jazz Festival 2008
(...) Vancouver specializes in avant-garde New Dutch Swing, and two of its most compelling practitioners — reed man Ab Baars and his wife, violist Ig Henneman — performed twice. Saturday, they collaborated in mix-and-match permutations with Norwegians Inbebrigt Håker Flaten (bass) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums) at the Performance Center at the Roundhouse, veering from careful sound explorations to frenetic conversations. Baars and Henneman duetted Sunday at the Western Front, offering a model of intimate, witty "handmade" music, as Baars' flannel, low-register clarinet blended gorgeously with Henneman's viola. Baars also recited haiku and played the shakuhachi, a difficult end-blown Japanese flute. He acknowledged his shakuhachi teacher, Vancouverite Takeo Yamashiro, who was in the audience.
Vancouver International Jazz Festival hits all the right notes
--Paul de Barros Seattle Times June 2008

(…) On the longest piece “Stof-to Eiske”, the duo move from slightly frenetic to embracing empty space. Their patience with sounds expresses a sense that pay no heed to any audience, as if they have nothing to prove. Depth is almost effortlessly- which is quite impressive.
--Bruce Carnavale Coda 33 May/June 2007

A poetic soundscape, a musical fairy tale, a walk without a key map; this CD is as intangible and ambiguous as the little word "stof".
--Frans van Leeuwen NRC Handelsblad11 April 2007

Well, here's proof that Wittgenstein was wrong: yes, there is such a thing as a private language – or at least one that's a very well-kept secret between two people. The first names of husband and wife team of Ab Baars (tenor sax, clarinet, shakuhachi, noh-kan) and Ig Henneman (viola) suggest characters out of Endgame, and indeed Beckett might have appreciated this duo, both for the aphasic, waterdrops-wearing-down-a-stone obsessiveness with which they pick at a note, and for the bleak, directionless playfulness which takes the place of an actual sense of humour.
--DWParis Trans Atlantic February 2007

(…) Check the almost rural melody painted by the noh-kan, with a raw-sounding viola opposing it, in Tackety Dancing Shoes. Or the many registers of the tenor, and the viola forming mournful airs, in Violetto Rossastro. The hushed tones of the shakuachi in Giallo di Napoli. The track for viola solo, Whirligig, where some thematic variations are quite easy to perceive, and where there is a beautiful musical episode with long, held notes with vibrato before the theme at the end. Or Ruby Slippers, chamber-like with clarinet, one of the pieces I liked the best on the CD. The strong, repeated, rhythmic figures by the viola, played pizzicato, and the "cool" tenor sax, blown, in Castle Walk In Herringbone Suit. The homage to Stravinsky in Igor's Bransle. The meditative and microtonal Grigio Perla Per Noguchi. Or the ever-changing long track, Stof - To Eiske, which has its start in the body of the viola being hit and arrives at a point where the viola gives pedal points to a "cool" clarinet sounding quite Ellington-like.
--Beppe Colli CloudsandClocks.net | Catania (I) Jan. 7, 2007

(…) Si tratta di un percorso fatto di gesti sonori minimali, isolati, in diversi rapporti di dipendenza fra di loro; un percorso alla ricerca di una dimensione introversa, di un dialogo intimo, a tratti più pensato che parlato. Prevalgono quindi le ricercatezze timbriche: squittii, sospiri, soffi, strozzature, flebili frasi melodiche, rimasticazioni, insistenze, sospensioni, reticenze... (…)
--Libero Farnè Allaboutjazzitaly 29-12-2006

(…) You asked if I “liked” the music, separate from what I wrote. Very much.
For one thing, I like the reduced instrumentation, two “single line” instruments. I like counterpoint, and the ways you create a dramatic setting without the usual chordal accompaniment. Several of the solutions you used, usually involving a thinning and thickening of lines, I often relate to in visual ways. A duo like this of course fits into the undefined area between classical and jazz, which I’m also interested in. Also, I liked the open improvisational process, melodic but with surprising curves and textures that define the drama. And I appreciate brevity.
--Art Lange, Chicago september 27 2006
The Ab Baars Trio, joined by Chicago reedman Ken Vandermark, drew a standing room crowd to the Big Top Arts Center -- and held them with a pair of well-paced hour-long sets that showcased the composing talents of Baars and Vandermark. The show also revealed the near-telepathic rapport of the trio -- bassist Wilbert de Joode, drummer Martin van Duynhoven and Baars on tenor sax, clarinet and shakuhachi flute. The Dutch trio has been together for close to two decades and is celebrating the fact with a 17-city North American tour.
(...) At other times, the group offered further refinements of musical ideas pioneered by Thelonious Monk: tunes that wrapped piquant harmonies, teetering rhythms, and memorable melodies in tight packages. And, yes, this was a "free jazz" concert, so there were some of the wailing horns that send receptive listeners back to their most private musical pleasures. In my case, it touched the part of me that digs the guitar feedback of Jimi Hendrix, that seeks out the trance music of Joujouka horns from Morocco, or that jumps for joy when an orchestra programs Ligeti.
--Chris Waddington, New Orleans USA, The Times-Picayune April 19, 2009

Tenor saxophonists Ab Baars and Ken Vandermark both brought the heavy artillery to the Victory Grill Friday night, but their pairing was not so much a firefight as a joint show of strength. Although Chicago's Vandermark has toured only once before with the Ab Baars Trio, a staple on the fertile Dutch improvised music scene for some 17 years, he and Baars have such a striking rapport, anyone not familiar with their history might be forgiven for assuming the Trio had always been a quartet.
(...) Their shared sensibility is highly evident on Goofy June Bug a live recording from their 2007 European tour, and was even more striking seven dates into their current U.S. tour. They frequently played in tight formation, giving incremental harmonic shifts and small changes in tone heightened meaning, and while they each made numerous explosive solo excursions, rather than competing, they reinforced each other, like a well-choreographed detonation team. Precise, sharply executed endings to the compositions brought suitably dramatic closure after cathartic outbursts.
(...) Most importantly, drummer Martin van Duynhoven and especially bassist Wilbert de Joode supplied kaleidoscopic color, as well as brilliant propulsion. De Joode, while possessed of intense melodicism, often treated his bass more like an upright percussion kit, bashing at the strings, snapping them like rubber bands, or holding a bow at both ends and bedeviling them with it. By contrast, his arco had a chamber-like elegance. His unique fusion of aggression and nuance was both grounding and enthralling.
-- Parry Gettelman | www.austin360.com April 13, 2009

De Volkskrant (North Sea Jazz Festival)
Het Ab Baars Trio zette met de vervaarlijk 'growlende' trombonist Joost Buis een elegant Duke Ellington-programma neer.
--Jacob Haagsma (10/7/04)

Neue Musik Zeitung
Das Berliner Jazzfest 2002 trug Merkmale transatlantischer Korrespondenzen
(...) Das Ab Baars Trio aus den Niederlanden leitete Experimente mit Klängen und Strukturen des amerikanischen Jazzkomponisten und Klarinettisten John Carter in neue Arrangements. Verschiedene Stilmuster aus instabilen Motiven Neuer Musik, swingendem Modaljazz und freien Klängen balancierten Ab Baars (ts, cl), Wilbert de Joode (b) und Martin van Duynhoven (dr) zu kontrapunktischen Gebilden. Präzises Zusammenspiel zeichnete das hohe Niveau des Trios aus.
--Hans-Dieter Grünefeld (2002/12 | Seite 39)

[...] The Ab Baars Trio has always excelled in subtle improvisation, but so ingenious and sensitive as in this concert programme I have not heard them before. [...] In this programme Baars again showed his mastery in making essentially little accessible music accessible.
--Kees Polling (16-2-1999)

[...] The trio interplay is careful, consistent and resourceful.
--Robert Spencer (November 1999)
The Chicago Tribune
Dutch ensemble treats Duke well
Baars and friends take Ellington for a revelatory spin

Uncounted bands have played evening-length concerts of Duke Ellington's music, but few have addressed his work as daringly as the Dutch reedist Ab Baars. Leading his exceptional quartet Monday night in the Chicago Cultural Center, Baars didn't merely revisit classic and obscure scores by Ellington‹he reconceived, rewrote and re-imagined them. For Ellington purists, the evening might have seemed a sacrilege. For listeners with open ears and minds, it was a revelation.
Baars argued throughout this program, and on his recent CD "Kinda Dukish," that Ellington's themes, chord progressions and even instrumental colors can generate virtually new compositions. To prove the point, the quartet offered listeners a shard of an original Ellington melody here, an evocation of a famous chord change there, a metamorphosis of a signature riff somewhere else.
Using these snippets as a starting point, Baars and his colleagues developed intricate improvisations in which each player contributed equally 'and poetically' to the whole.
Consider the quartet's hauntingly austere version of "Prelude to a Kiss," which rarely has sounded more nocturnal or tender. The misty, slightly dissonant effects with which the band opened the tune soon gave way to a serenely lyrical solo by trombonist Joost Buis. His gently dipping, swooping phrases sang out against bassist Wilbert de Joode's murmurs on the top register of his instrument, drummer Martin van Duynhoven's gentle attacks with mallets and Baars' delicately stated arpeggios on winds.
The chords may have been astringent, the phrases fractured, the famous theme often obscured, yet the hushed spirit of the original was unmistakable.
Here was Ellington's music reconstructed for a new century, yet somehow distilled to its essence. Many of the Ellington compositions on this program similarly re-emerged in a muted, quietly shimmering form that defied conventional wisdom on the nature of the jazz avant-garde. Baars and his quartet, in other words, reminded listeners that new music doesn't always reach for extremes of volume and tempo, sometimes expressing itself with genuine introspection.
Thus "Half the Fun" (from Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's "Shakespearean Suite"), whispered sinuous lines over a soft but relentless drum vamp; Strayhorn's "Caravan" opened as a jazz chorale before riding a ferociously syncopated rhythm; and "Jack the Bear" subverted traditional swing rhythm with some of the most nimble contrapuntal improvisations one might hope to hear.
--Howard Reich (april 18 2006) hreich@tribune.com

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