Jazz Live 131/2003 Austria
Emanuel Wenger, about the CD Piazza Pia
(...) The tension between composition and improvisation and between tradition
and innovation creates an uncommon music that knows few equivalents in
the world of contemporary jazz music.
Brabants Dagblad 21.12.2002
Rinus van der Heijden
HENNEMAN STRING QUARTET: Piazza Pia
Dit is typisch zo'n schijf die zich op het randje van twee muzikale werelden
Hetgeen de vraag rechtvaardigt:is dit jazz of eigentijds ge?mproviseerd/gecomponeerd?
Misschien beide wel, want is jazz ook niet beide? In elf stukken, op een
na van de hand van leidster/altvioliste Ig Henneman wordt muziek voor
eigentijds strijkkwartet neergezet in een spectrum zo breed als je maar
kunt bedenken. Met Oene van Geel op viool en altviool, cellist Alex Waterman
en contrabassist Wilbert de Joode worden niet alleen de reguliere mogelijkheden
van strijkinstrumenten ingezet. Ook wordt vooral gezocht naar nieuwe klankkleuren.
Alleen dat rechtvaardigt al aanschaf van deze cd.
reviewed by Ken Waxman on
HENNEMAN STRING QUARTET: Piazza Pia
Described -- usually by classical music snobs -- as the superlative medium
for a composer's thoughts in chamber music, the string quartet is often
resistant to massive efforts to free it of ponderous 19th century memories
and shove it into the modern era.
Adding improvisation to the equation makes the situation even more difficult.
This demands that the members of the traditional quartet -- two violinists,
one violist and a cellist -- not only abandon comfortable romantic culture,
but also spontaneously create as they play.
Wazahugy and the Henneman String Quartet (HSQ) have resolved this conundrum
by doing more than filling their books with certified contemporary music.
Each formation consists of instrumentalists from jazz, improv and notated
music backgrounds playing a combination of written and improvised sounds,
further redefined by the group's instrumentation.
Neo-cons who populate the so-called classical world in even greater numbers
than in jazz may not grant string quartet status to either group however.
The foursome headed by Dutch violist Ig Henneman has dared replace one
violin with a bass -- played with distinction by Wilbert de Joode, sideman
of choice on many Dutch and EuroImprov sessions -- and sometimes uses
two violas -- the other played by young Oene van Geel of Amsterdam --
as formation of choice. American cellist Alex Waterman rounds out the
Not only would most folks, except for the most hidebound, hear the HSQ
as a recognized string quartet formation, but the tunes, written by Henneman
to celebrate an Italian getaway, have definite echoes of local folk music
and the sacred and secular creations of earlier, classical composers.
While she has only concentrated on quartet music for a couple of years,
early on she adopted her extensive classical training to write first rock
songs with FC Gerania, then film, theatre and concert commissions as well
as mixing music and poetry in her acclaimed Tentet. Over the past decade,
her groups have included other Dutch experimenters such as trombonist
Wolter Wierbos, reedman Ab Baars, and included advanced string players
like de Joode, Mary Oliver, Lorre Lynn Trytten and Tristan Honsinger.
You can most clearly hear her inventive mixture of musical past, present
and future with "Non Oso," based on a profane madrigal by Claudio Monteverdi.
Initial modern dissonance created by the mix of two violas, cello and
bass soon gives way to harmonized low tones from al involved. When the
initial theme is limed by the higher-pitched instruments, de Joode, whose
employers of choice have ranged from big band Bik Bent Braam to Baars's
trio plus wild cards like American saxophonist Charles Gayle, plucks out
the sort of light-fingered, all-over-the-strings solo, he would on a jazz
gig. Although wilder, siren-like tones can sometimes be heard, the leitmotif
here is creation of a counterpoint that compliments without subsuming
Should you want something even less intimidating, there's "Semipiaci,"
the paraphrase of a brief, San Remo-style pop hit of the early 1960s,
with smooth legato harmonies broken up by some sneaky pizzicato and the
occasional pluck from de Joode. Then there's the gorgeous harmonies of
"Vivo Son," the longest track, its melody advanced by what could be a
viola weeping, and which is borrowed from a dolorous madrigal written
by passionate Carlo Gesualdo de Venosa.
"Vivo Son," is a feature for van Geel, who shares a similar interest in
integrating elements from different musical traditions. An adaptation
of a song from the Northern Italian mountain regions, which is supposed
to be drenched in melancholy, the violist's treatment doesn't seem to
reflect that. Using a steady syncopated rhythm, he works his way up the
scale, double and triple stopping, alternately cheerful and dispirited.
More dramatic is "Cassettone," taken andante, where Henneman's arching
viola lines are integrated into the whinnying, swaying sounds from the
others. At times sounding as if it could underscore a sophisticated spy
thriller, the theme is reprised after motifs and countermotifs have been
tossed back and forth among the other three instruments, with de Joode's
bull fiddle carrying the beat.
At the end, there's "Ecco," an augmented paraphrase of a dancing song
by Florentine Francesco Landini. However it's obviously Henneman, not
the Italian, who conceived of the banging-on-the-instruments' sides percussion
which take up the first few minutes of the tune. Strumming and bowing
build up, only to give way to the two higher fiddles echoing one another's
phrases in counterpoint, while their lower-pitched cousins pluck away.
Striking bows on the strings give some passages the same rhythm the pounding
heels of flamenco dancers' shoes produce. Finally, a suggestion of the
melody is superseded by a version of it in full harmonic splendor. The
piece ends, but a split second later you hear the saucy echo of a concluding