• Alexey Izmalkov
  • John Dikeman

Over the last seven years or so the ferocious American saxophonist John Dikeman—a native of Kemmerer, Wyoming, a locale not usually considered a hot spot for improvised music—has become a vital part of Amsterdam’s bustling scene, helping to forge a path for a new generation of players trying to develop a sound distinct from the singular approach made famous by players associated with ICP Orchestra. Whereas many of the scene’s veterans—masterfully chronicled in Kevin Whitehead’s essential New Dutch Swing book—dynamically subverted jazz tradition with new improvisational gambits, Dikeman is part of a crew who at times seem intent on tearing it all down. (At other times he celebrates jazz tradition, such as his participation in the project called Amsterdam Real Book, which visited Constellation last month). His trio called Cactus Truck, which makes a stop at the Hungry Brain on Sunday evening, is a free-improv wrecking crew who bring to mind some of the go-for-broke mayhem embodied in the music of former Chicagoan Weasel Walter.

But Dikeman has other sides as well. While he builds up a head of steam at certain times, his playing on The Double Trio (released by the Austin, Texas, cassette label Astral Spirits) is often more temperate, revealing a clear connection to jazz fundamentals. The recording was made in Chicago, where he’s developed bonds with many locals—including bassists Jason Roebke and Joshua Abrams, drummers Mike Reed and Frank Rosaly, and trombonist and former Chicagoan Jeb Bishop. The tape features three lengthy improvisations often and inexorably propelled by swinging rhythms and lucid, walking bass lines; it’s a context that Bishop eats up. Dikeman prefers a confrontational stance by blowing harsh, astringent lines that go against the grain of the music—sometimes that means tapping into fire-breather mode by unleashing shrill, penetrating upper-register screams, but more common are gnarled, tightly bunched clusters of staccato and jagged post-Evan Parker curlicues and jackhammers. The most exciting moments, however, are when Dikeman falls into lockstep with his cohorts, such as the menacing fury that erupts toward the end of “Wrong Record.” Below you can hear a five-minute excerpt from “Paling.”

Cactus Truck, which includes drummer Onno Govaert and electric bassist and guitarist Jasper Stadhouders (Chicagoans might have seen the latter earlier this year as the newest member of Ken Vandermark’s Made to Break), is a beast, a post-Brötzmann juggernaut who never bother to come up for air. Dikeman plays like a man possessed, charging his extreme upper-register fluency with boundless energy and velocity, while Govaert never takes his foot off the break either, propelling the music with twisted aggression while Stadhouders unleashes nasty blasts of slate-gray noise—tangles of strings and weird, flailing chords. I know the phrase “punk jazz” is not only vague but extremely dopey, but if it fits any active group then I think Cactus Truck deserves it. Below you can hear a typically brutal track from the group’s new album Seizures Palace (Not Two) with the unfriendly title, “Fuck You Nash.”


Today’s playlist:

Bang on a Can, Bang on a Can Plays Louis Andriessen: Gigantic Dancing Human Machine (Cantaloupe)
Kaja Draksler, The Lives of Many Others (Clean Feed)
Oliver Lake, Christian Weber, and Dieter Ulrich Featuring Nils Wogram, All Decks (Intakt)
Vanessa Da Mata, Segue o Som (Sony Music, Brazil)
Tom Rainey, Obbligato (Intakt)