Gideon’s Bible

Saxophonist Gideon Tazelaar, 19 years old, is one of Holland’s major jazz talents. Leaving his options open for the next five years, Tazelaar at least is positively sure of one next step. “Next year, I’m going back to New York.”

Tazelaar stayed in New York once before in 2015, joining sessions, held spellbound by the remaining legends of modern jazz like Harold Mabern, Jimmy Cobb and Jimmy Heath. “I saw Roy Haynes twice. That was magical. I’ve never seen anything like it. He played with his quartet plus Pat Metheny. But I only watched Haynes behind his drumkit. Everything he did was so spot-on. I was often wondering where he was, time-wise. But I’ve come to the conclusion that, really, what Haynes played was the time. Somehow, Haynes was the music. He went into a tapdance routine, which, astonishingly, revealed the entire jazz tradition. And of course it was special to see someone perform who goes way back to Charlie Parker, Monk, Coltrane… Even to Lester Young.”

With a hesitant timbre in his voice, as if ashamed of his good fortune: “And I had breakfast with Lee Konitz. He’d been my teacher once in Germany and said to call me whenever I was in town. That was awesome. We were at his place. I got a little quiet… But he kept talking, so that was perfect! Konitz said that he felt uneasy recording Motion, because it was his first encounter with Elvin Jones. But in hindsight he thought the results were rather satisfying… I’ve learned lots of things from Konitz. Musical stuff, because he’s a genius, but also about attitude. He doesn’t seem to have an all-encompassing explanation of his musical choices, except that they develop from a search for beauty. He really gives you the idea that the purpose is to follow up on what you love and dig deep into that well.”

“I’m really looking forward to another stay in New York. I will be going for about one year and maybe study at some music college, check out older musicians. Men like Reggie Workman and Charlie Persip still teach. The division between styles is less astringent than here. I’ve noticed this during some sessions with Ben van Gelder and American colleagues, they blew me away playing stuff ranging from blues to Bud Powell to avant-leaning compositions. In The Netherlands, people sometimes encounter me as that supposedly ‘promising musician’. They are friendly, responsive. That’s ok, for sure, people have helped me out a lot. But I haven’t really been at the bottom of the ladder, you know what I mean? And I think it would be beneficial to my musicianship if colleagues kick me in the butt now and then. And they will in New York, regardless of my age, I’m sure! I’m looking forward to it.”

Meanwhile, Tazelaar performs as much as possible. “I try to do my bit of study as well. My mindset changes continuously, so I press myself to study with focus. I like so many things, therefore I have to structure things to really get to the heart of the matter and not be distracted. I’m making schemes for two months in advance.”

Tazelaar grins, his downy, dark-brown moustache twists. He pulls himself from his couch, finds a notebook between the rubble on his desk, sits down and proceeds to read his upcoming scheme. If anything, an intriguing hodgepodge of activities. Among other things, Tazelaar is going to practice clarinet again, learn a Bud Powell solo on piano, read the biography of Sidney Bechet, finish an original Tazelaar tune, study the theory of Schönberg, harmonize chorals in Bach style and, last but not least, learn 3 solo’s of Frank Trumbauer, Bix Beiderbecke and Louis Armstrong each. Monomania. Eagerness. A young man enthralled by the beauty of America’s sole original art form as well as the works of classical composers who often were admired by the jazz legends.

Recognition for Tazelaar has come early. Already playing saxes as a kid and adding clarinet in the process, Tazelaar has been in the limelight ever since. He played at The Concertgebouw at the age of 8, enrolled at the Conservatory of Amsterdam when he was 14, passing maxima cum laude at 18. If he may choose to, Tazelaar can put a nice rack of prizes on his mantle and has been a regular fixture in the club circuit and at the North Sea Jazz Festival. Sitting under a framed portrait of John Coltrane, the eyes of the bright college student-type Tazelaar twinkle when looking back upon his contribution to a tenor summit at the Bimhuis last March, including Rein de Graaff, Eric Ineke, Eric Alexander, Sjoerd Dijkhuizen and Ferdinand Povel. “So inspiring to play with the elders. And especially great to share the stage with Ferdinand, who has been my teacher for a long time. He teached me a lot just by talking about jazz, and especially about harmony. He plays so beautifully. I think I nicked quite a few of his phrases.”

Asked about his playing style, the contemplative, even-tempered Tazelaar is cautious to ill-define matters. He patiently weighs his words on a scale, much like the way a thrift store owner would count the coins that a bunch of candy-buying kids have scattered on the counter. Lots of ‘umms’ and ‘aaahs’. The sound of a brain cracking. “Tough question. I don’t think I play in one style. I experience it as versatile, depending on the people I play with. It puts the big picture of a group in perspective, I don’t feel the need to deliberately go against the grain in a group, style-wise. Arguably, it’s all part of my development. I might one day stick to something that feels destined to be played. In general, I have my influences as well, of course.”

Aside from Povel, Tazelaar is fond of saxophonist Benjamin Herman, having thrown himself headlong into the weekly sessions at Amsterdam’s De Kring. “Basically, I’m a very critical and self-critical guy. Genes, I guess. That’s ok, critique’s a constructive asset. But it tends to stress negative aspects as well. Benjamin focuses on good things, he’s able to find interesting, quirky aspects in different kinds of music. That’s positive. And better for your mental health.”

Tazelaar has been picking some positively quintessential influences at an early age. “I’m listening to a lot of classic bop and hard bop saxophonists, but up until now I’ve always come back to my main men: Bechet, Parker and Coltrane.”

“I’m always interested in the transitional periods in the careers of musicians. Those recordings of Bechet in France in the late forties are great. (Tazelaar refers to Bechet’s May 1949 recordings with either the Claude Luter Orchestra or Pierre Braslavsky Orchestra) He’s playing New Orleans-style, of course, but hints at things to come as well. He would be an influence on Coltrane.”

“I really like both early and late Coltrane. Early or late, the integrity and inspiration are always there. Lately I’ve been listening to Coltrane with Miles Davis in 1960, near the end of Coltrane’s stay with Miles Davis. There’s this live version of ‘Round Midnight, it was on bootlegs I think. Coltrane goes from one extreme to the other, but keeps referring to the melody in between, it’s fantastic.”

“Parker’s playing on Dizzy Atmosphere (February 28, 1945, Savoy MG12020, FM) is also a good example of tension between old and new. Swing and bop, in this case. There’s this swing rhythm section including bass player Slam Stewart (and Clyde Hart, Remo Palmieri and Cozy Cole, FM) that swings like mad. Parker and Gillespie are inventing the bop language on top of it. But the thing is, Parker blends well with that old style, because he lived in that period as well, naturally. He knew where it was at. In these performances, Parker constitutes the best of two worlds, he fits.”

Gideon Tazelaar

Gideon Tazelaar (Hilversum, 1997) has been performing from age 8, appearing at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and Prinsengracht Concert. Since his early teens, Tazelaar has been a sought-after player, performing with the Dutch Jazz Orchestra and the Jazz Orchestra Of The Concertgebouw as well as at The North Sea Jazz Festival, and has been cooperating with, among others, Benjamin Herman, John Engels, Peter Beets, Ben van Gelder, Dick Oatts, Eric Alexander and, in the summer of 2016, organist Lonnie Smith. Tazelaar won the Composition Award of NBE in 2006, the Prinses Christina Jazz Concours in 2012 with his quartet Oosterdok 4 and the Expression Of Art Award in 2016. Nowadays, Tazelaar regularly plays with his Gideon Tazelaar Trio, which includes bass player Ties Laarakker and drummer Wouter Kühne.

Check out Gideon Tazelaar’s website here.

Barry Harris Chasin’ The Bird (Riverside 1962)

An important part of the spirit of jazz, writer and critic Nat Hentoff once wrote, is the independent character of the jazz musician. Improvising involves taking risks while simultaneously holding on to one’s particular style and ideas. It, ideally, takes a seizable amount of stubbornness and discipline many laymen cannot help but find admirable. A classic example of such endurance is Thelonious Monk. It took the great pianist about fifteen years of struggle, poverty, misunderstanding and denunciation before Monk’s ‘brilliant corners’ were finally part of jazz’ main route. A lesser known example of stubborn dedication is pianist Barry Harris.



Barry Harris (piano), Bob Cranshaw (bass), Clifford Jarvis (drums)


on May 31 and August 23, 1962 at Plaza Sound Studios, NYC


as RLP 345

Track listing

Side A:
Chasin’ The Bird
The Breeze And I
Around The Corner
Just As Though You Were Here
(Back Home Again In) Indiana
side B:
Stay Right With It
‘Round Midnight
Bish Bash Bosh
The Way You Look Tonight

Nowadays, the elderly Harris is an authority on the works of Monk and Bud Powell. In the seventies Harris lived alongside Monk at the residence of the legendary jazz mecenas, baroness “Pannonica” de Koenigswarter in New York and from the mid-fifties onwards fervently studied and interpreted Monk, Powell and Charlie Parker. It says a lot about his background. Believing bebop to be synonymous with jazz more than any other development, Harris made it his mission over the years to talk about its meaning and teach its theory to new generations in universities and music colleges around the world and in the Jazz Cultural Theatre Harris has founded in the eighties. It took some perseverance, and little financial rewards. But as friend and tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath said a couple of years ago in The Guardian: “We started because we loved this music. Harris’ students pay very little because Barry is more concerned about spreading the music around than financial gain.”

Harmonically, Harris keeps in line with his examples Monk, Powell and Parker. His solo’s sound a lot like Powell, but are less frenzied and angered. Instead, Harris concentrated on a lithe yet occasional gutsy swing. An unusual bebop approach seldom found among second-generation colleagues. (Tommy Flanagan comes to mind) Chasin’ The Bird is Barry Harris’ sixth solo album and his fifth for Riverside. Furthermore, in 1962 Harris had built up an excellent resume as sideman with Cannonball Adderley, Donald Byrd, Johnny Griffin and Sonny Stitt. Nothwithstanding Harris’ faithful bebop tactics, there are touches in his style, notably his firm, bluesy left-hand accompanying of soloists, that he would use to effect thereafter in a number of hardbop sessions, chief among them Lee Morgan’s smash hit recording of The Sidewinder.

Chasin’ The Bird sports, among others, one Parker composition (Chasin’ The Bird), two standards famously injected with bebop logic by Parker (Indiana, The Way You Look Tonight), one classic Monk tune (‘Round Midnight) and a couple of bop originals by Harris himself.

On the title track Harris shows remarkable technique on the theme, creating elaborate voicings with both right and left hand running along swiftly. It sounds like Bach and it sounds like Bach-influenced Bud Powell. Harris’ solo has a great flow and is cleanly executed; he doesn’t play fast for fast’s-sake. Ballad Just As Though You Were Here is constructed of dizzying, cascading runs mixed with sweetly romantic statements. It’s followed up by Indiana. It goes at breakneck speed and Harris puts a lot of juice in a coherent solo.

Harris’ approach is controlled and is proof of a lot of thought. The Breeze And I, for instance, was constructed around a Latin rhythm without the common release into 4/4 time. It gives Harris the possibility to concentrate on and dig deeper into the percussive piano style he utilizes. Its percussive effect and relaxed but effective use of space reminds me of Duke Ellington’s combo work with Max Roach and Charles Mingus on the rare gem Money Jungle.

Harris uses a lot of Monkisms – rollicking scales and dissonance – on Monk’s ‘Round Midnight, but also creates mellow harmony. The Harris originals come off nicely. Bish Bash Bosh, particularly, is a contagious tune including a smart stop-time theme and repetitive, fiery sparks. The supporting group – bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Clifford Jarvis – really get into the groove here. They create a solid bottom as well as place sureshot accents throughout the album.

Bebop is not an easy music to perform meaningfully, let alone correctly. Barry Harris was well capable of handling bop’s legacy, and in the process embraced it with his own gentle and swinging flavour.