Leo Cuypers Heavy Days Are Here Again

Leo Cuypers is a Dutch pianist who has been blessed by the divine hand of Cecil Taylor. He works at blinding speed, relentless in his approach, and phrases often turn into note clusters, just as Taylor's playing does. Cuypers, at least judging from 1981's massive Heavy Days Are Here Again, can tell a joke better than Taylor. He is adept at composing digestible four-to-six minute pieces that have heads and thematic development in an almost pop-like way. Abetted by saxophonist Willem Breuker, bassist Arjen Gorter and mega-drummer Han Bennink, this recording shows a band laughing together at the same joke. Usually the too-clever and self-referential "humour" that comes from European jazz leaves me cold, but this record rocks hard while not taking itself too seriously. Breuker is a circus sideshow to himself; seemingly playing a merry tune on reeds while no one notices the paint-peeling sounds he's actually making. Bennink is in amazing form, grooving on eight different things at once. Gorter plays so fast that it sounds more like an electric bass than acoustic, as he steps from the very highest register into the booming low-end every couple of seconds. This is highly emotive music, bound to provoke a response in any listener. It's one of those records you want to play to people who don't like free jazz, because the unity and intensity of purpose of this band is so obvious and the songs themselves are so swinging with sudden, but not gimmicky, changes. (Atavistic)