Dry humour, rigor, and brilliancy mixed with a stalwart musical wisdom delineate Dutch composer and pianist Michiel Braam. Always searching out on the edge, Braam scripts his music thinking of every musician who will perform in one of his many troupes or musical ventures.
This double CD was recorded live at De Werf in Brugge, Belgium and at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam, Holland. Every track is an impromptu -- called "Bonsai" by Braam little brilliant musical piece.
Each "Bonsai" in Growing Pains is every band member’s quirky reflection. Both CDs intermingle shaped structures as well as improvisation. Braam’s geniality as a composer is heard on every track. On "Bonsai Frans," Vermeerssen removes melodies from all of depth’s acquiescence. "Bonsai Frank" throws a door open for Gratkowsi’s fantasies, allowing beautiful pacing with his clarinets and alto. Gratkowski is definitely one of the most inspired reedists of the moment. "Bonsai Wolter" is an ear fest. Wierbos is a wizard marking out the common foundations, because he always offers exceptional vision of his voice, concluding with vibrating exhilarated sounds. "Bonsai Eric" is full of wry facetiousness and assents Boeren to float over more than five minutes with his amazing chops . "Bonsai Patrick" is perhaps one the greatest pieces of this release as Voltian’s bass tuba explores with awesome skill this complex Braam composition. "Bonsai Bart" brings about the clarinet and alto of van der Putten’s original personal voice which is beautiful and abstract, requiring a constant attention encircling us with pleasure. "Bonsai Hans" births Sparla’s trombone with an ardour and a gong more than original. "Bonsai Wilbert" propels in front of the scene bassist De Joode. This virtuoso has the ability to extract powerful articulations from his strings (which I believe is one of the few in this world being played: the 2/4 chamber bass) in such a magical way. The rhythm section is bright all the way along with Michiel Braam on the piano, Joop van Erven on the drums, and Wilbert De Joode on the bass. The compositions are copious in expressions.
Auditors will feel a balancing between the patchwork of rhythms, which without doubt is what characterizes Braam’s music. "Bonsai Peter" imposes Haex’s accuracy and strong control. The elation comes with "Bonsai Jan Willem." Van der Ham’s skills on the bassoon and alto give a master stroke in which ragtime with piano and drums as a section swing like hell. "Bonsai Joop" reveals van Erven’s singular talent which becomes all extensive. The impeding structures cannot block his mobility. "Bonsai Angelo" bespeaks a Verploegen, full of lyricism applied to a mute universe in which the direction of joy and concern is amazing. In every "Bonsai Michiel" a new course gets crossed, as each measure is filled with impressionism and a nimble left hand agility.
With Growing Pains, Braam dears all boundaries, placing his music in a kind of dreaming dialectical cipher visiting Basie, Mingus, Ellington and even Taylor.
Michiel Braam is undoubtedly an atypical, emblematic European figure of a complex jazz founded on the tension between rigor and freedom. As strange as the name of the CD may sound, Growing Pains is really a sheer delight!