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On the Record with Wolter Wierbos of ICP Orchestra

"Just before we go on, it can be a chaotic mess in our dressing room, with everybody trying to find the music."

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Drummer Han Bennink and pianist Misha Mengelberg started the Instant Composers Pool (ICP) Orchestra, which incorporates virtually any compelling style of jazz with uninhibited improvisation — "instant composition." Theatrics also factor into a performance, due largely to the zany Bennink. Trombonist Wolter Wierbos offers insight into the band's M.O.

Describe the atmosphere before a show.

Always relaxed. We play pieces and we make small groups, from duos to quartets. The repertoire is very big, probably over 100 pieces, mostly written or arranged by Misha. But other band members also bring pieces.

Do you make a set list?

We always have a set list. There is never a big discussion about that. But it takes some time to find it in our books, which contain a big pile of parts and scores. Just before we go on, it can be a chaotic mess in our dressing room, with everybody trying to find the music. Sometimes parts are mysteriously lost, or swapped with somebody else's.

The band can swing really hard, but you're also comfortable blowing free.

In ICP, you have to be both ways. You have to be able to read the notes, but also you have to come up with your own ideas and sound. Reactions have to be quick, and on the way we also have to compose the music, on the spot. That's the interesting thing: the instant composing. Everyone in the band is very good in this. And you also can deliberately destroy the music [on] the spot.

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