Grandpa's Spells

Review by Jerome WilsonCadence, january 1994

Fran Engeland Till Skottland – Nice Letter / Elevator 1 / Heksehyl / Grandpa’s Spells / Community Bells / Improvisation C / Ambrosia / Elevator 2 / Solen Er Saa Rod / Hasty Passion / Cannonball Blues / Moondust / Improvisation B / Mambo Koyama. 67:10

Tchicai, ts, bcl, sequences;
Mengelberg, p;
Peter Danstrup, b, el b;
Gilbert Matthews, b, perc;
Margriet Naber, synth.

3/28-29/92, Copenhagen, Denmark.

One of the events that occurs in conjunction with the awarding of Denmark’s Jazzpar Prize to jazz musicians is the opportunity for selected Danish musicians to work with a foreign collaborator of their choice. Hence this meeting between two improvising masters, Dane John Tchicai and Dutch piano madman Misha Mengelberg. The two team in a variety of styles, soft, skittering improvisations, roaring African themes like “Heksehyl”, and off center versions of Jelly Roll Morton’s “Grandpa’s Spells” and “Cannonball Blues” sparked by Tchicai’s jaunty tooting and Mengelberg’s tipsy comping. Tchicai also experiments with pre-recorded tapes, having bassist Danstrup and drummer Matthews each play solo against his sequences.


Matthews’ soft rattles against African rhythms on “Community Bells” gets a little monotonous but Danstrup’s short feature, “Moondust”, sharp bowed strokes against gongs and marimba, is very eerie and effective. Mengelberg sounds good both in dignified moods and his more usual jittery dementia but the consistently underrated Tchicai is the most forceful pressence. His deep, inquisitive tone sounds wonderful on “Ambrosia”, “Solen Er Saa Rod” and “Improvisation B”, stately and reserved while his mates swirl madly around him. His serenity has a lot in common with the more intellectual sides of American jazz, a connection shown in “Elevator 2” which starts out like Herbie Nichols before breaking up into chaos and Art Pepper’s “Mambo Koyama”, Tchicai flying high and cool over the rhythm section’s prancing and tumbling capers. There is a lot of variety in this session that shows off the power of the musicians.

Jerome Wilson