CD Review: Amsterdams Modern Orkest (AM.OK), Re:Brainteaser

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Diving into the uncharted waters of sonic exploration, the Amsterdam Modern Orkest (AM.OK) led by the audacious Tijn Wybenga unveiled their latest offering, “Re:Brainteaser,” on October 6 of this year. Far from a conventional reissue, this album is a compelling tapestry that weaves together both new recordings and unearthed, under-the-radar gems. With a dynamic 14-piece ensemble, AM.OK steps beyond the confines of tradition to reimagine the echoes of contemporary Dutch jazz and beyond.

Tijn Wybenga, an unapologetic bandleader steers the ship with fervor, guiding the AM.OK through an odyssey that defies categorization. Rejecting the constraints of rigid genre descriptions, the ensemble explores heavy grooves, mesmerizing ballads, and ethereal soundscapes. Anything is conceivable as Wybenga propels his crew towards the next horizon, embracing the freedom to traverse diverse musical landscapes.

For the album Wybenga deliberately chose a cohort of like minded musicians, assembling the most riveting emerging talents, each contributing a unique sonic signature to the collective identity. This collaborative spirit results in a continuous evolution of sound, transcending the boundaries of the jazz idiom and reflecting the pulse of a generation.

“Re:Brainteaser” marks a significant chapter in AM.OK’s journey, following the acclaimed release of “Brainteaser” in 2021. The latter earned the ensemble the prestigious German Jazz Prize at Jazzahead!, the world’s largest jazz conference. Originally comprising five pieces, recorded at Amsterdam’s iconic Bimhuis, “Brainteaser” laid the groundwork with small, improvised elements, serving as a foundation for the creation of innovative grooves, beats, and melodies.

In this electrifying sequel, “Re:Brainteaser,” Tijn Wybenga joins forces with Turkish-born Amsterdam-based artist/producer lowkolos (a.k.a Mert Gençer), who previously contributed as the mastering engineer for “Brainteaser” in 2021. This time around, Gençer expands his role to co-producer, remixer, mixer, and mastering engineer, infusing a fresh perspective into the sonic narrative.

Aplauso, captured live at the atmospheric Tolhuistuin in Amsterdam, emerges as a dynamic iteration of the track familiar from “Brainteaser.” The live rendition exudes a heightened energy, surpassing the original version, and serves as a testament to the transformative nature of live performance. The Tolhuistuin recording breathes new life into Aplauso, injecting an infectious vigor that sets it apart from its studio counterpart.

The dual presence of the track Neapy on this release, each version skillfully remixed by Mert Gençer unveils a fascinating exploration of sonic possibilities. Gençer’s adept touch introduces heavy industrial sounding loops and samples, elevating Neapy to a realm uncharted in its original manifestation. Both remixes undergo a metamorphosis, each delivering a distinct ambiance, with the second remix diverging significantly from the source material by anchoring itself in a 16th-note rhythmic foundation.

Tijn Wybenga | Photo Rosita Stumpel

Introducing fresh material to the repertoire, Redleg stands as an intriguing addition absent from the Brainteaser collection. What makes this inclusion noteworthy is the presentation of two versions—one recorded live at the Tolhuistuin and the other in the studio. The juxtaposition of these renditions unveils substantial differences, rendering them akin to distinct compositions. Redleg showcases the ensemble’s versatility and ability to craft nuanced expressions within the same musical framework.

Farendole, featuring the skillful trombonist Oliver Emmit, adds another layer of diversity to the album. The collaboration introduces a unique dynamic, intertwining Emmit’s finesse with the ensemble’s intricate arrangements. The album concludes with a remix by lowkolos, serving as a fitting punctuation to the musical journey.

Throughout the album, the music remains deeply rooted in groove, with a notable emphasis on creative deployment of electronics and samples. The fusion of acoustic instruments seamlessly blends into an expansive soundscape, demonstrating the ensemble’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of contempory jazz. The amalgamation of live recordings, remixes, and original compositions showcases the ensemble’s prowess in navigating diverse sonic territories, creating an engaging and multifaceted listening experience.

This album transcends the conventional boundaries of musical expression. “Re:Brainteaser” stands as a testament to the collaborative spirit of AM.OK, pushing the boundaries of creativity and forging a path into unexplored musical territories. Highly recommended.

Track Listing:
1. Aplauso (Live @ Tolhuistuin) | 2. Neapy (Lowkolos Remix 1) | 3. Redleg (Live @ Tolhuistuin) | 4. Neapy (Lowkolos Remix 2) | 5. Farandole | 6. Redleg | 7. Sanwar (Lowkolos Remix)

Alistair Payne Trumpet | Kika Sprangers Alto Saxophone | Oliver Emmit, Trombone | Nabou Clearhout trombone | Mete Erker tenor sax | Daniel Bolba on vibraphone | Federico Calcagno Bass Clarinet | Odei Al Magut Trombone | Pablo Rodriguez Violin | Yanna Pelser Viola | George Dumitriu Viola | Pau Sola Cello | Teis Semey Guitar | Felix Back Keys | Tom Pritchard Vibraphone | Alessandro Fongaro Bass | Jamie Peet Drums | Angelo Boltini Live Electronics | Tijn Wybenga Conductor

Release Date: 6 October 2023
Format: CD | Streaming
Label: Independent Release

Last modified: December 2, 2023