HURRAY – Pianist Rein de Graaff turns 75 years old today on October 24. During a career of 55 years, De Graaff has recorded more than 40 albums. Although the pianist recorded his share of outstanding avant-leaning jazz during the seventies and early eighties with the Rein de Graaff/Dick Vennik Quartet, he’s basically a champion of bebop and hardbop, playing in a style close to Barry Harris, Hampton Hawes, Horace Silver and Sonny Clark. With his Rein de Graaff Trio, the winner of the Boy Edgar Prize and Bird Award accompanied countless American legends like Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt and Johnny Griffin. Many Dutch jazz fans fondly remember De Graaff’s Stoomcursus and Vervolgcursus Bebop from 1986 till 2012. As ‘Professor Bop’, De Graaff organized performances of American legends and unsung heroes as well as contemporary musicians all over The Netherlands, lecturing about the history of bebop and hardbop along the way. Musicians included Teddy Edwards, Lee Konitz, Al Cohn, Jimmy Raney, Charles McPherson, Houston Person, Harold Land, Clifford Jordan, Webster Young, Buck Hill, James Clay, Rene Thomas, Pete Christlieb, Eric Alexander, Vincent Herring, Jarmo Hoogendijk, Benjamin Herman and many, many others.
It’s not for nothing that the American legends and unsung heroes liked the accompaniment of Rein de Graaff. His comprehension of their language is unmatched and he adds typically fluent, sax-like phrasing, laid-back timing and responsive rhythmic variation. Besides, De Graaff is a thorough professional and organizer, which stands him in good stead during cooperations with contemporary colleagues to this day. A talent that might be explained by the fact that, for a big part of his career, De Graaff was also a businessman, running an electro ware wholesale company during the day.
De Graaff holds strong views about his beloved art form, dubbed ‘real’ jazz as opposed to ‘impro’, which may bear beautiful fruit but has nothing to do with the blues-drenched, swinging music that was created by black artists for black audiences, under dubious circumstances that somehow ring through. Circumstances De Graaff has been all too familiar with, sharing the stage of dingy NYC clubs with Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan and Elvin Jones as early as 1967 or sitting in with trumpeter Louis Smith in a rowdy all-black club in Detroit in the early eighties. In the view of the passionate torchbearer of mainstream jazz, this has become an endangered species, virtually extinct, yet the pianist remains on the look out for young lions whose playing retains a sense of the tradition and occasionally performs with the pool of talent still available in The Netherlands. Perhaps the ‘incurable romantic’, in the words of Lee Konitz, secretly hopes ‘real’ jazz will live to see the 22nd century.
Rein de Graaff: ‘Swing has become a dirty word.’ (Flophouse Magazine)
Rein de Graaff: ‘I approach the piano as if it’s a horn.’ (Jazz Journal UK)
Rein de Graaff: ‘The music I play comes from the smoke-filled clubs, where sex often was cheap, and the blues was heard…’ (Flophouse Magazine)
Rein de Graaff: ‘Oscar Peterson is the greatest pianist in the world, but he’s too bloody perfect for me. Boring.’ (Jazz Bulletin)
Rein de Graaff: ‘Evelyn Blakey asked me to open the door. My heart burst out of my chest. There was Hank Mobley. ‘Hi, I’m Hank,’ he said.’ (Flophouse Magazine)
See YouTube footage of Rein de Graaf below:
On fire with Clark Terry in 1975 also including Rogier Vanhaverbeke and Freddie Rottier here.
Boppin’ and burnin’ with his household friend, the bop poet and songwriter Babs Gonzalez in Paris in 1979 here.
Appearing on the Dutch tv show Gedane Zaken with Teddy Edwards in 1986 including Harry Emmery and Eric Ineke here.
An unforgettable performance of Charles McPherson in 1990 also including bassist Koos Serierse and drummer Eric Ineke here.
THE Dutch bop trio accompanying the great clarinet and saxophone player Eddie Daniels in Vrije Geluiden in 1995 here.
Playing Blue Bossa with David “Fathead” Newman and Houston Person in 1998 here.
Rein, Marius Beets, Eric Ineke and Grant Stewart do the wonderful ballad You Go To My Head in 2010 here.
The Rein de Graaff Trio with Gary Smulyan, John Marshall and Benjamin Herman, Charlie Parker’s Ornitology in 2017 here.
For Rein de Graaff’s interview with Flophouse Magazine, go here.