Music for a Green Planet
What if you’ve seen most of the jazz clubs in The Netherlands, know most of its theatres inside out and have adapted classical masterpieces to a contemporary form? These are the words of double bassist Egon Kracht (Velsen, 1966), the driving force behind many ensembles, environmentalist and visionary. Together with his wife, Noortje Braat, he is building his own sustainable and self-sufficient house in Almere. Discarded car tyres and sand are the main building materials. He feels equally at ease as a construction worker as he does as a musician.
“In my music I try to find a synthesis between various genres”, he says. “Pop, jazz, classical, contemporary, I find them all equally appealing. I love Zappa just as much as I love Bach. That’s why I’ve founded the New World Quartet. It’s an ensemble in which musical worlds meet in a new and sustainable vision of the future of art.”
At the age of eleven, Kracht chose the double bass as his instrument and since then he has become one with it. Renowned Dutch jazz musicians like saxophonist Dick de Graaf, drummer Pierre Courbois and saxophonist Theo Loevendie requested his services. Bassist Niko Langenhuijsen’s ‘Gemeentereinigingsorkest’ Vaalbleek and the Willem Breuker Kollektief were among his favourite orchestras. We find the influence of their music in many of his projects. With his adaptation of Bach’s ‘St. Matthew Passion’ and his own ‘Judas Passion’ and ‘Stabat Mater Stabat Pater’ he caused quite a stir in the Dutch classical music scene. He is an inventor, a composer looking for new and different forms.
The music he wrote for the New World Quartet is the musical result of all of the above: ‘Dances’, a musical novel with a prologue and two suites. Double bassist Kracht takes the plunge, joined by flugelhorn player Angelo Verploegen, baritone saxophonist Jan Menu and accordionist Rik Cornelissen. The opener, ‘Evolutionary Tango’, is a musical translation of the evolution, latched on to the pulse of the Argentinian tango: an inescapable rhythm, which feels like the heartbeat of someone in love. The flugelhorn sounds as free as a bird, and the baritone saxophone gives him a musical answer. Meanwhile, the accordion depicts the pain of daily life and the struggle for survival.
The ‘Civilization Suite’ starts off with the light-footed sketch ‘Transitioned’. Giovanni Felice Sances’s baroque dance music enters with ‘Accenti Queruli’. Then the staccato ‘Civilization #2’ takes over and we are surprised by the introduction of John Dowland’s ‘Can She Excuse My Wrongs’, a moment in which the minstrel directly enters the modern age. It’s an ancient song, made world-famous by Sting’s performance. ‘Civilization #4’ brings us yet another ominous staccato. The grumpy baritone sax lashes out and gives expression to the idea that our civilization is really taking a wrong turn.
The first suite felt mainly ominous, but in ‘Galanthus Nivalis’, Kracht seems to have taken another direction. The first part opens with positive vistas. This trend is continued in the course of the suite. There is still hope for our world, if we are willing to lead a life of sustainability.
Egon Kracht and his New World Quartet are the living musical proof of this!
Cyriel Pluimakers, July 2019.