For Dutch pianist Michiel Braam jazz is part of a broader musical platform that allows (him) to expound upon extramusical concerns. The record is a success at articulating its appointed vision. Braam's biggish band Bik Bent Braam uses a combination of skeletal composition and structured improvisation to posit a thrillingly optimistic vision of democracy in action. His tunes and set lists are merely suggestions: each member of the band can, by signalling one from a set of prearranged cues, call a new piece or recommend a different approach at any time. Since the other members might or might not take the signaller up on their suggestion, you never know how a song might turn out. The instability of Bik Bent Braam's approach is potentially messy and this, along with their readiness to draw on anything from Cotton Club antics to freely improvised chatter, leads to surprises and some uneasy listening. But they embrace unpredictability with a spirit of infectious fun, and leaven their chaos with a heaping measure of discipline, which insulates the music from impulsive acts of sabotage. With players like trombonist Wolter Wierbos and saxophonist Frank Gratkowski on board, you can be sure there'll be some bracing solos; what's impressive is the way that ensemble's commitment to collective coherence makes a potential trainwreck like “Michaelx' – with its jump cuts from subterranean reed tangles to mad swinging to near-rock rollick – seem elegant.
Bill Meyer, Downbeat