The ICP Orchestra’s visit at the end of March to the club has a special poignancy. Not only will they be celebrating their 50th birthday, but also returning to one of their triumphs in 2013.
The Vortex’s connection to Misha Mengelberg who died on 3 March is both short and long. Short in terms of the fact that he only really played once at the club, but long in terms of his influence and relationship with many musicians on the scene here, such as Evan Parker, Steve Beresford, Alex Maguire……
He came to the Vortex as part of the ICP Orchestra of which he was a co-founder in 1967 with Han Bennink and Willem Breuker. The invitation was from Evan Parker, who had first played with Misha back in 1966. When we made the invitation we already knew that Misha was suffering from dementia and whenever we asked, the responses were opaque. Until Susana von Canon, the band’s patient manager, confirmed that he would come. To our pleasant surprise. It was certainly a risk. It was his last trip with his band abroad.
During most of the week, he was little to be seen, being cared for by his band mates, but his influence was still immense. Then he was planned to play with the full band on the Friday and Saturday (including a BBC recording). No-one knew how much he might be able to play. As Ab Baars put it to me, though, “If Misha plays just one note, then it is all worthwhile”. In the circumstances, he played a full two sets on the Friday and one set on Saturday. Through all of which you would hardly tell that he was so sick. Whistling, joking. All his trade marks were there, which made him one of the pioneers of contemporary European jazz – respectful of the history and the great musicians (especially Duke Ellington), but disrespectful in the way that he would sometimes perform it all.
We were also lucky that the whole London experience was filmed for Dutch TV and you can see the trailer in English
The full film is only in Dutch. But you’ll get the feel. To get it to play click “Watch on Vimeo”):
We are happy that the ICP Orchestra is returning to the club on 28 and 29 March.