Ab Baars
time to do my lions

Anger is a bitter lock.
But you can turn it.
—Anne Carson

Time to do my lions is a series of portraits of people and places that are a source of inspiration to me.

        Day and Dream is the title of a book of fifteen lithographs made by Max Beckmann in Amsterdam in 1946, at the close of his nearly decade-long period of exile from Germany.
        Time to do my lions is a line from the poem Hokusai by Canadian poet Anne Carson. The poem talks about Hokusai, who by the end of his life began drawing a lion every morning to turn away anger; hoping for a peaceful day.
        Purple petal – for saxophonist and composer Paul Termos (1952 – 2003), a master in making something beautiful out of seemingly barren material.
        12 o’clock and all is well – for visual artist Eli Content – the title comes from his painting of a colourful starry sky.
        Nisshin joma – daily charm against evil – the name of the collection of more then 200 drawings of lions Hokusai made by the end of his life.
        Gammer – for Misha Mengelberg – the head and shoulders of Dutch improvised music. Gammer is an old Dutch word for stubborn, donkey-like.
        Ritratto del mare a Anzio – for Ig Henneman – my partner in life and music. Anzio is a tiny fishing town south of Rome. Ig and I used to spend a few months a year there, working and enjoying Mediterranean life and light.
        Watazumi Doso – in 2005, when playing in Japan for the first time and travelling around on my own, I bought a shakuhachi. Studying this instrument revealed a hidden world; it even changed my playing on tenor saxophone and clarinet. Watazumi Doso (1910 – 1992) is perhaps the most legendary of all modern shakuhachi players and teachers. A truly unique voice with an exceptional palette of colours, sounds, noises, whispers, breath...
        The rhythm is in the sound – for drummer Sunny Murray – I love his inspiring and swinging use of melody, dynamics and rhythm. The title is taken from an interview in which Sunny Murray talks about his playing.
        730 Union Street is the Vancouver home address of shakuhachi player Takeo Yamashiro. In 2007 I took lessons with this great musician, every morning from 10 to 12 for a week. Turning the corner onto Union Street you could hear his playing from a block away. I would stand behind a tree in front of his house and listen to his playing before ringing the doorbell.
Ab Baars, June 2010

(...) There is a shocking vulnerability to Ab Baars's saxophone ballads, informed (to these ears) by Von's 38th-chorus abstractions on some favorite standard, Sonny Rollins's sense of the grotesque, and the writhing plasticity of Albert Ayler's sound. But the net effect, touching and garish, painfully intimate, raw and rude and beautiful, is pure Ab Baars.
Kevin Whitehead, Liner notes Party at the Bimhuis

(…) Baars, too, exposes the mechanics of his sound when he plays, there’s a grainy airiness to his sound, the keen sense of breath moving through metal and wood. He controls his tone exactly, with careful inflections and timbres. His phrasing is just as idiosyncratic as Henneman’s, but in different ways. He generally avoids the trappings of swing, although his lines move in intricate and unexpected ways. On “Fishwalk,” he phrases with the quick little steps of a sparrow or deliberate angular motions of a heron. There are sudden graceful bursts of speed or stealthy slinking like a cat. He conveys vulnerability and a feeling for the absurd that indicates a quick and agile mind at work.
Ed Hazell, Point of Departure

(…) Baars à la fois bonhomme et tragique, c'est l'ambiguïté formidable du Monsieur — monsieur tout le monde et pourtant capable de fulgurances d'autant plus étonnantes qu'elles ne se manifestent jamais dans l'éclat ni la violence. Bien plutôt par une multiplication des figures dans son jeu, d'autant plus flagrante avec son usage du shakuhachi et du noh-kan (une flûte de bambou aussi, mais traversière et aiguë). Loin d'être un multiinstrumentiste au sens où plusieurs instruments seraient nécessaires pour exprimer toutes les facettes du musicien, Ab Baars se met à l'école de chaque instrument et se pulvérise en musicales poussières, en éclats de Baars.
Noël Tachet, Improjazz

(...) Ab Baars speelt zoals hij gebrild is; stevig, recht door zee, markant, maar vooral zichzelf. Ik ken geen ander die ook maar enigszins met hem te vergelijken is. Alleen die constatering maakt hem voor mij een musicus om in je hart te sluiten.
Cees van de Ven, Draai om je oren

(...) The unique personal style that Baars has developed, or ‘ab music’ as compatriot Misha Mengelberg calls it, uses few conventional jazz elements. Yet Baars’s music remains both accessible and joyful due to his clarity of purpose and presentation. As likely to perform marches and folksongs, slowbuilding reflections, Baars’s dynamic small ensemble music is both as colourful as you might hope and as serious as your life. His hot and gruff tenor is balanced by a more delicate approach to clarinet, where the influence of his teacher John Carter is most strongly felt.
Peter Walton, Earshot Jazz

(...) Whether radically re-conceiving classics by Duke Ellington or presiding over brilliantly improvised original works, Baars has been an outsized force in new music.
Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune

(…) A couple of years ago, a book was published on a man who after ancient models built impressive temples and castles on the beach which were subsequently ruined and devoured by merciless winds and tides. At the Vredenburg concert hall, where he set out on a series of solo concerts, reed player Ab Baars irresistibly called for comparisons with that lonesome architect. With satanic relish the sand builder invested every bit of his energy in solid, well-designed structures full of unexpected details and interesting transitions, a relish that became all the more vigourous with the approach of high tide.
Baars proves that his concept can keep its grip on the audience for at least an hour and most likely longer. The fact that the notes of today are wiped out tomorrow by a high tide of choices he himself makes, are an integral part of that selfsame concept.
Frank van Dixhoorn, De Volkskrant

(...) Holland’s Ab Baars is another son of the 1960s’ in this case of the Sixties avant-garde. His clarinet comes with a screech; his tenorsaxophone solos have the lurch and logic of a drunk serenading a lamppost. For all that, Baars is no less a thoughful and inquisitive fellow.
Mark Miller, The Globe and Mail