I Compani

The Dutch jazz outfit I Compani -- whose early lineup included bandleader Bo van de Graaf (soprano and tenor saxophone), Frank Nielander (alto sax), Wouter van Bemmel (trumpet, tuba), Jeroen Doomernik (trumpet), Jeroen Goldsteen (piano), Carel van Rijn (bass), and Fred van Duynhoven (drums) -- received initial recognition in 1985, when they put together a critically acclaimed program called Fellini/Rota that combined scenes from Fellini movies (such as La Strada, La Dolce Vita, 8 1/2, Amarcord, Roma, and others) with live music from Fellini composer Nino Rota. The same year, van de Graaf paid a personal visit to Fellini at his Rome studio to present him with I Compani's debut recording, Music to the Films of Fellini.

I Compani have continued to focus on compositions by Rota, but have also included their own songs in their programs (mainly written by van de Graaf), combining elements of jazz, film music, and classical. When I Compani played live during their early years, their lineup was often augmented by other musicians (including trombonists Joost Buis, Bernard Hunnekink, and Chris Abelen; trumpeter Felicity Provan; guitar player Corrie van Binsbergen; and saxophonists Maarten van Norden, Fred Leeflang, Frans Vermeerssen), while actors, clowns, acrobats, and dancers also performed. I Compani have issued recordings steadily in the years following their 1985 debut, including 1988's Ecco: More Music by Nino Rota, 1990's Luna Triste, 1994's Sogni d'Oro, 1995's I Compani Plays Rota, 1997's Gluteus Maximus, 2000's Het Circus Komt (The Circus Is Coming), 2001's Aida, 2008's Circusism, and 2010's Last Tango in Paris: The Music of Gato Barbieri.

In February 2011 I Compani issued Mangiare!, an album celebrating their 25th anniversary and featuring a wide range of the group's repertoire and styles. For this recording, the lineup included van de Graaf and Doomernik along with trombonist Hans Sparla, violinist Tessa Zoutendijk, cellist Jacqueline Hamelink, bandoneonist Michel Mulder, keyboardist Christoph Mac-Carty, and the Willem Breuker Kollektief rhythm team of bassist Arjen Gorter and drummer Rob Verdurmen. I Compani returned in September of the following year with Garbo, featuring music from their latest live project, Diva's, in which the group celebrated iconic actresses from 100 years of cinema from the silent film era to the present day. The Garbo set also included a bonus disc, Tango and Impro, recorded at a Maria Schneider memorial concert held following her death in 2011.

In 2013 I Compani were back with yet another live recording, Extended 2013, in which an expanded 23-piece version of the ensemble (often in smaller instrumental groupings) performed an improv-heavy set complete with audience participation, while 2014 saw the release of Verdi 2.00, in which I Compani -- again recording live in concert -- rebooted their 2001 approach to Aida along with selected other compositions by Giuseppe Verdi in celebration of the Italian composer's 200th birthday. As the ensemble's many live recordings demonstrate, I Compani are at their best in a concert setting (having performed hundreds of concerts since their inception). The group has appeared at such prestigious Dutch festivals as the North Sea Jazz Festival and Winterparade Amsterdam; at jazz festivals in Le Mans and Mulhouse (France), Leicester (Great Britain), and Frankfurt, Vilshoven, Hamburg, Cologne, and Bielefeld (Germany); and at film festivals in Ghent (Belgium) and Rotterdam. ~ Greg Prato & Dave Lynch

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