Herbie Hancock - Takin' Off

Herbie Hancock Takin’ Off (Blue Note 1962)

With the authority of a seasoned jazz personality, Herbie Hancock delivered his Blue Note debut as a leader in 1962, Takin’ Off.

Herbie Hancock - Takin' Off

Personnel

Herbie Hancock (piano), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Dexter Gordon (tenor saxophone), Bob Cranshaw (bass), Billy Higgins (drums)

Recorded

on May 28, 1962 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 4109 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
Watermelon Man
Three Bags Full
Empty Pockets
Side B:
The Maze
Driftin’
Alone And I


Astunning hard bop debut that hinted at post bop things to come. Around 1962, front-line hard boppers, particularly at Blue Note headquarters, were steadfastly developing an ear-catching dialect to the language of jazz. In hindsight, it is beautiful proof of the all-inclusive nature of jazz that these developments, plus gospel-drenched hard bop, plus the major happenings of the day (the envelop-pushing of Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Bill Evans), ran a simultaneous course. The stakes were raised and young Hancock wasn’t about to perform below par. His confident playing and composing amidst a bunch of top-rate, contemporary players, including ‘comeback’ legend Dexter Gordon, is striking.

A year later, Miles Davis, another major jazz force, would ask Hancock to join his group, the stellar one which included Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. Jazz at a peak, not least because of Hancock’s innovative harmony, voicing and rhythm. During his period with Miles Davis, as is well documented, Hancock himself would deliver albums on Blue Note that defined the post bop style and remain influential to this day, notably Empyrian Isles in 1964 and Maiden Voyage in 1965. A succesful career path was laid out that would include the fusion of his Mwandishi group, the jazz funk of Headhunters and much, much, celebrated more up until the 21-st century’s schizoid present.

Clearly, an experimental spirit had fared into the bespectacled Hancock who peered at your open zipper on the cover of Takin’ Off. It depicts a gentleman whose attire oozed the impression of a kid that fills his evenings with chemistry tests in his granny’s attic. At the dawn of the sixties, the prodigy was taken under his wings by trumpeter Donald Byrd. Prior to Takin’ Off, Hancock debuted as a recording artist on Byrd’s Royal Flush, followed by the Donald Byrd/Pepper Adams Quintet’s Out Of This World and Byrd’s Free Form.

Takin’ Off’s opening cut, the gospel-tinged groover Watermelon Man (turned into a hit by Mongo Santamaria soon after Hancock’s release), sounds as fresh today as in 1962. Many highlights: for one, the infectious rhythm of Billy Higgins is unforgettable. A gritty vibe without the use of the backbeat. Could it be that the island blood in Higgins’ veins accounts for his inventive rhythm? (Other drummers had Carribean ancestors, among them Denzil Best and Mickey “Granville” Roker) Billy Hart (coincidentally, the drummer of Hancocks Mwandishi group) offers a welcome view in an interview with Ethan Iverson on his Do The Math blog. Hart remembers asking Billy Higgins repeatedly about the ‘Higgins island flavor’. Higgins always answered matter-of-factly: “I studied with Ed Blackwell, you know.”

Dexter Gordon’s carefully crafted, behind-the-beat blues story is also a big treat. It blends well with Hancock’s ready and able piano comping, while Hancock includes in his poised solo a number of gorgeous, rollicking cadenzas suggesting both Earl Hines and Maede Lux Lewis. The sound of the piano is round, transparent and upfront, as if Hancock’s playing beside you at the bar. Splendid acoustics at the high-roofed joint in Englewood Cliffs, courtesy of the recently deceased master of modern jazz engineering, Rudy van Gelder.

The inclusion of Dexter Gordon on Takin’ Off has been an obvious delight to many, yours truly included. Gordon, fresh in the act of an iconic comeback on Blue Note in the early sixties after a troubling, preceding decade that was largely wasted on stints in prison (with early May dates Doin’ Alright and Dexter Calling in the pocket) hits a homerun in The Maze, a tacky tune that swings while incorporating McCoy Tyner’s orchestral voicings. This period saw the influence of John Coltrane on Gordon, whose early sides, strikingly, had captivated Coltrane. Insidiously, Gordon’s resonant, fluent solo in The Maze reaches boiling point. Majestic. Trumpeter Freddie Hubbard is his usual sizzling self, raising the stakes with spirited, virtuoso playing. In the ensembles, the forward motion of Hubbard and the nonchalant beat of Gordon create a pleasant, edgy tension that blends well with Hancock’s old-timey yet sophisticated delivery.

Strong points of a flawless, immaculate debut. The chemistry kid had arrived.

Eric Ineke Let There Be Life, Love And Laughter: Eric Ineke Meets The Tenor Players (Daybreak/Challenge 2017)

Crisp and alert drumming on Eric Ineke’s latest Challenge release, Let There Be Life, Love And Laughter: Eric Ineke Meets The Tenor Players. The album brings to life performances of the now seventy year old Ineke with legends like Dexter Gordon and Lucky Thompson, and contemporary colleagues like David Liebman and Grant Stewart.

Eric Ineke - Let There Be Life, Love And Laughter: Eric Ineke Meets The Tenor Players

Personnel

Track 1: Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Rein de Graaff, Koos Serierse, Eric Ineke; Track 2: Dexter Gordon, Rob Agerbeek, Henk Haverhoek, Eric Ineke; Track 3: Johnny Griffin, Rein de Graaff, Koos Serierse, Eric Ineke; Track 4: Grant Stewart, Rob van Bavel, Marius Beets, Eric Ineke; Track 5: David Liebman, John Ruocco, Marius Beets, Eric Ineke; Track 6: Clifford Jordan, Rein de Graaff, Koos Serierse, Eric Ineke; Track 7: Lucky Thompson, Rob Madna, Ruud Jacobs, Eric Ineke; Track 8: George Coleman, Rob Agerbeek, Rob Langereis, Eric Ineke

Recorded

Recorded on October 24, 1984 at De Spieghel, Groningen (track 1); November 2, 1972 at De Haagse Jazzclub, The Hague (track 2); September 16, 1990 at De Brouwershoek, Leeuwarden (track 3); May 17, 2014 at Bimhuis, Amsterdam (track 4); November 20, 2014 at De Singer, Rijkevorsel, Belgium (track 5); October 12, 1983 at NCRV Studio, Hilversum (track 6); November 22, 1968 at B14, Rotterdam (track 7) and April 18, 1974 at Hot House, Leiden (track 8)

Released

as DBCHR 75226 in 2017

Track listing

Body And Soul
Stablemates
Wee
Bye Bye Blackbird
Let There Be Life, Love And Laughter
Prayer To The People
Lady Bird
Walkin’


It is an intriguing and a rewarding project, the combination of so many different styles of tenor playing. In his book co-written with Dave Liebman, The Ultimate Sideman, Ineke, premier European modern jazz drummer who played with numerous legends like Dizzy Gillespie, Hank Mobley and Freddie Hubbard, ruminates on the intrinsic bond between the tenor saxophone and drums: “The tenor saxophone is one of the instruments that is really made for jazz music, much like the trap drums. They are quite similar in that respect. It blends very well with the drums, particularly with the cymbal and with the tom tom sounds.” Ineke swings equally hard with tenorists, altoists or baritone players, yet the conversations of the drummer with Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, et. al. eloquently prove his point. These conversations also are evidence of Ineke’s flexible approach to the manifold ways of phrasing and timing from the classic heroes and contemporary stunners of jazz.

A lot of crackerjack tenorism on Let There Be Life, Love And Laughter. George Coleman, a monster on tenor and perhaps still undervalued, sets fire to the Hothouse in Leiden with Walkin’. A tune that, incidentally, was so influentially performed in 1954 by Coleman’s band leader of 1963/64, Miles Davis, a session that included Lucky Thompson. On this version, Ineke acts accordingly, ‘bombing’ generously and answering Coleman’s staccato, recurring figures equally furiously. Fire and brimstone!

Dexter Gordon’s typically ‘lazy’ but forceful statements on Stablemates, taken from the sought-after LP All Souls: The Rob Agerbeek Trio Featuring Dexter Gordon, are kept in check by Ineke’s steady beat. Gordon wails one of his great solo’s of the seventies. Pushed to the max, another giant of tenor, Johnny Griffin, is flying home at breakneck speed on the bop standard by Denzil Best, Wee. It’s a propulsive high point of the Rein de Graaff Trio, which included bass player Koos Serierse and is marked by high-level bop drumming with a leading role of the ride cymbal. Rein de Graaff’s Bud Powell-influenced solo is ferocious, masterful, the tension is heightened by bold lines up and down the keys. Johnny Griffin is having serious fun. At the end, the Little Giant sardonically and playfully comments on the prolonged Ineke coda: “Shut up! You drummers playin’ so loud. Jazzzzzz music! Where am I, Leeuwarden? Dankjewel.”

On another side of the spectrum Ineke delicately accompanies Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, whose sensuously masculine, breathy take of Body And Soul is most arresting. There’s the clean, round and honestly emotional tone of Clifford Jordan, who plays his original composition Prayer For The People. Lucky Thompson also possessed a lithe, mesmerizing tone on the tenor saxophone. Thompson, an essential link between swing and bop, is heard on Lady Bird on a radio recording at club B14 in Rotterdam in 1968. 1968… where have all the flowers gone: the period in which the professional career of Eric Ineke, who celebrated his 70th birthday recently at The Bimhuis, really took off.

Also from that venerable venue in Amsterdam stems Ineke’s recording (including regulars from his hard bop outfit Eric Ineke’s JazzXpress, pianist Rob van Bavel and bassist Marius Beets, who also took excellent care of this album’s mixing and mastering) with Grant Stewart. His story of Bye Bye Blackbird is relaxed but driving, motivated by Ineke’s lilting rhythm. At forty-six, the Canadian Stewart is the youngest tenor player on the album. Considering Eric Ineke’s supportive attitude towards young Dutch hard bop guys as well as international students on the Conservatory Of The Hague, where he teaches, it would’ve been the cherry on top if a collaboration with a young lion could’ve been included.

On the title song, Ineke cooperates with long-time collaborator Dave Liebman and John Ruocco. During a rendition of the pretty Kurt Weill composition that alludes to the intrinsic Dixie-feel of early Ornette Coleman tunes, Liebman and Ruocco travel a similar avant-leaning path, Liebman with exuberant tinges, Ruocco more introspective. The beat seems to have time-traveled from Baby Dodds to Ed Blackwell to Eric Ineke. A noteworthy excursion to the woods from the hard bop aficionado, who, lest we forget, periodically traveled to modal landscapes with Rein de Graaff and far-out territory with Free Fair in the mid and late seventies.

Let There Be Life, Love And Laughter is a thoroughly enjoyable reminder of the swing and expertise that Eric Ineke has always brought to his gigs with incoming Americans. And I’m sure it will be a revelation for jazz fans who have heretofore been dependant on hearsay.

Find Let There Be Life, Love And Laughter: Eric Ineke Meets The Tenor Players here.

Fried Bananas

NEW RELEASE: DEXTER GORDON. In 1972, Dexter Gordon lived in Copenhagen and had been in Europe for ten years. He had usually toured the continent by picking local musicians, but in the early and mid-seventies Gordon commonly played with a Dutch ‘working band’ consisting of pianist Rein de Graaff, bassist Henk Haverhoek and drummer Eric Ineke. In the liner notes of the latest Gearbox vinyl release, Fried Bananas, Gordon’s widow, Maxine Gordon, remembers the expatriate tenor saxophonist being overjoyed by this touring deal. Dexter wrote to friends in Copenhagen: “This tour is quite fantastic; we are traveling through Holland, Germany, Luxembourg, Belge and France! It’s six weeks no, seven weeks and I’m getting rich! Anyway, it’s very well organized and seems to be a succes. For the most part I’m working with the same group…” Fried Bananas, a November 3, 1972 gig at the small town of Heemskerk in The Netherlands, recorded for a VPRO radio broadcast, shows Gordon in top form, relying on a tight-knit trio that knows the kind of muscular, bop-inflected music that the maestro plays inside out.

Typical of Dexter Gordon, the 49-year old tenor saxophonist throws himself headlong into his self-penned tune Fried Bananas, taking care of business from note one, telling a big-sounding tale full of behind-the-beat blues, witty asides, barks and wails and an imposing dose of hard bop mastery. He’s in no hurry, unfazed, relentless. The group answers the call of Dexter with zest. Rein de Graaff puts in excellent, flowing statements not unlike those of the former Gordon associate and fellow legend, Sonny Clark. Gordon charmingly introduces Body And Soul: “If you play tenor, you have to play this tune, haha.” It is, however, not often played like this, as the trio lays down a slow-midtempo bounce that brings back memories of the famous Coltrane version on Coltrane Sounds, courtesy of, among other things, Eric Ineke’s lithe counterpoint. Their avant-leaning approach gently nudges Gordon into alleys where carefree, frivolous notes have been waiting to get out of hiding. The other Gordon original, The Panther, was released on Gordon’s magnificent 1970 Prestige album The Panther. It’s a funky, beat-heavy blues, fruitful territory for Gordon’s cliché-free, forceful blowing.

In the early seventies, not only the major cities but almost every small town in The Netherlands had a club where jazz was hosted. Remarkable, from today’s viewpoint. The legendary Dexter Gordon graced a myriad of small venues like Societeit Progress in the Lowlands with his hard-boppin’, big-sounding artistry. The historical importance of this release to the Dexter Gordon and modern jazz legacy cannot be overstated.

Find the release in store here and check out the Gearbox website here.

For further information about the Dexter Gordon legacy, go to The Dexter Gordon Society and dextergordon.com.

Clear The Dex

NEW RELEASE: ERIC INEKE – Watch that ride cymbal beat. Whether it’s Cheese Cake, Sticky Wicket or Soy Califa that the Eric Ineke JazzXpress covers on the Dexter Gordon tribute album Dexternity, it’s the asset that makes this thing swing. If there’s anyone in the European jazz area well-equiped to showcase the music of Dexter Gordon, it’s Eric Ineke. The Dutch drummer worked with the modern jazz legend from 1972 till 1977. Instead of picking local European rhythm sections, the Copenhagen-based tenor saxophonist relied mainly on the highly dedicated and dependable ‘working band’ of pianist Rein de Graaff, bassist Henk Haverhoek and Eric Ineke.

Dex, clearly, is in his bones. The 69-year old Ineke showcases a hard bop sensibility that permeades the entire set of Ineke’s group, which celebrated its ten-year anniversary this year. His ride gallops frivolously but steadily and his bass kick, single strokes and fills, in responsive sync with the fat-bottomed, tasteful double bass playing of long-time Ineke associate, bassist Marius Beets, ask urgent questions that their fellow members answer with zest: Sjoerd Dijkhuizen, a strong-toned tenorist who likes to reach for fluency in Mobley/Dex-fashion and in the tradition of Dutch hard bop pioneer Ferdinand Povel, has particularly alluring moments in Fried Bananas, taking gutsy left turns away from the changes, embellishing them with an occasional edgy overtone. Meanwhile, trumpeter Rik Mol accounts for a nice contrast with a cleaner, somewhat more understated kind of swing.

Ineke freely advocates his fondness for Elvin Jones-type cross rhythm in, for instance, the only non-Gordon tune on the album, Body And Soul (that, as Gordon professed, ‘should be played every night’). Lithe cross rhythm as part of the interaction with soloist Rob van Bavel, who puts in lines of exquisite cadence and breathy voicings. Van Bavel, subsequently, provides lyrical backing on the enchanting Gordon melody Tivoli, a platform for soothing soprano sax statements from Dijkhuizen and, not least, dense, intense harmony of soprano and trumpet. Together Dijkhuizen and Mol sound like sirens luring seamen from behind the rocky mountains of the Greek coast with their ephemeral melodies. Details like these add flavor to a supurb contemporary reading of the real deal, American jazz from the fifties and sixties.

The Eric Ineke JazzXpress

Dexternity is The Eric Ineke JazzXpress’ sixth album released by Challenge/Daybreak on September 16. Find the link here. Liner notes by Maxine Gordon and Eric Ineke. Read my recent interview with Eric Ineke, who performed and recorded with a host of American legends, here.

Rein de Graaff 2

Rein’s Dream

At the distinguished age of 73, pianist Rein de Graaff preserves a childlike enthousiasm for his trade, which he typifies matter-of-factly as ‘bebop, ballads and blues’. As a boy of 15, De Graaff entrusted his equally jazz-crazed pals with the wish to one day play with his heroes Hank Mobley, Dizzy Gillespie and Dexter Gordon. “I never would have thought that dream to come true. But, amazingly, it did.”

They told me De Graaff had long since decorated one of his rooms in his countryside bungalow as a jazz museum. Well, make it two rooms. De Graaff has led me from one room, filled with the monumental archive of his career and hundreds of jazz magazines (e.g. all Downbeat Magazine issues up to 1970, which speaks for itself if you’ve learned to know anything about De Graaff’s tastes) to another that hosts a grand piano, walls adorned with vintage photographs, concert posters and a vast collection of original classic bebop and hardbop albums on labels as Blue Note, Prestige, Clef/Norgran, Savoy, Bethlehem and Argo. I’m the drooling kid in the candy store. Come to think of it, if it comes to collecting vinyl, Rein de Graaff transforms into a boy that has entered the Efteling amusement park as well. Collecting has been a lifelong passion. “I just got back from a Los Angeles festival. There was a record fair just outside the Capitol building. It was great!”

For De Graaff, the classic jazz of the late fourties to the late sixties that his speaker system churns out has always remained the real deal. “Jazz shouldn’t be too clean, it has to have an edge, something dirty and smoky. The music I play comes from the smoke-filled clubs, where sex often was cheap, and the blues was heard… I started out at the end of the era when New York clubs had music from 10 to 4. And then there was Slugs’. I usually went to bed at 8 in the morning. Nowadays, I’m having breakfast at 8! Naturally, there was something going on. I mean, who’s sitting at the bar? Hustlers, for instance. It was partly a criminal environment. All these things somehow ring through in the music.“

No reason for Sam Spade to stake out De Graaff’s Veendam residence, though. Just the music. A gentlemen from peat country, the north-eastern region of Groningen in The Netherlands. A man for whom a bargain is a bargain. This man has been a boy, frail and white as whipping cream, who happened to land in classic jazz paradise. That, indeed, is Rein de Graaff’s unusual, arresting story.

Partly anyway. It was clear from the outset that the young man from an upper middle-class family had a natural talent for music and playing piano that could bring him places. The boy had soaked up the sounds of Charlie Barnett, Winifred Atwell and played ragtime when one day the radio broadcasted Charlie Parker’s Shaw ‘Nuff and Stupendous. He heard Bud Powell play Tempus Fugue-It, Clifford Brown blast through All Chillun Got Rhythm. The kid was hooked, caught in ‘Webb City’. Getting involved into bebop with a cultish zeal reminiscent of its inventors, Rein de Graaff’s self-taught playing matured, under further influence of albums as Interpretations By The Stan Getz Quintet, The Jazz Messengers At The Cafe Bohemia and Griffin/Coltrane/Mobley’s A Blowing Session.

“People usually stay true to the music that makes an impression on them when they’re 15 or 16. It’s ingrained. That certainly holds true for me. Introducing Lee Morgan was and still is an all-time favorite. Hank Mobley is stunning, and the rhythm section is extremely lively. Of course, Blakey backed Mobley on some wonderful classics, like Soul Station, but the Art Taylor/Doug Watkins combi is dear to me.”

“I have most of the classic West Coast albums now, but I didn’t like West Coast jazz when I was young. The only record I liked was Shorty Rogers’ Modern Sounds. Take a listen here, that’s not cool, right, it’s hot! Great arrangements too. A bebop album that blew my mind was It’s Time For Dave Pike. Yeah man, that’s great, it’s Charlie Parker on vibes. I took it to his gig at a club in Groningen in 1967 and asked Dave Pike to sign it. I wasn’t a kid anymore but thought to give it one more go as far as signatures were concerned! I felt that our thought processes were alike. And it proved they were. Later on, when we became friends, it totally clicked. By the way, that vibraphone over there is the one that Dave used for the It’s Time For Dave Pike album.”

(From left, clockwise: Lee Morgan – Introducing Lee Morgan, Savoy 1956; Shorty Rogers – Modern Sounds, Capitol 1952; Dave Pike – It’s Time For Dave Pike, Riverside 1961)

By the early sixties, De Graaff, who didn’t fancy getting into Chopin and the like at Conservatory, gigged steadily, had won a prize at the Loosdrecht Jazz Festival, toured Germany with a swing orchestra, and even shared the stage with Sonny Stitt at the Blue Note in Paris. Back in The Netherlands, De Graaff scoured Amsterdam clubs, particularly the Sheherezade, where the expatriate tenor saxophonist Don Byas mentored young lions like De Graaff and his friends and colleagues such as saxophonist Dick Vennik, drummers Eric Ineke and John Engels and trumpeter Nedley Elstak.

But the big year for De Graaff turned out to be 1967. The pianist rises from his chair and beckons me to come up close to the photo wall. “So you’ve seen the big picture of me and Hank Mobley on stage over there, right. But look here, this one you have never seen. Hank, Evelyn Blakey (Art Blakey’s daughter) and me, we’re watching tv.”

In 1967 the 24-year old De Graaff traveled to New York. He said to his friends that he wanted to experience the jazz life of his heroes and, jokingly, added that his main goal was to play with Hank Mobley. For De Graaff, Hank Mobley was and has always remained the personification of jazz. “I got out of the subway in the Lower East Side and the first man I saw was walking with a trumpet case at the other end of the sidewalk. He looked familiar. He looked like Kenny Dorham, one of my all-time heroes. I followed him for a while and then had collected enough nerve to ask if he really was Kenny Dorham. Indeed he was! Subsequently, Dorham invited me to come up to the East Village Inn at night.” The following week, De Graaff hung out with musicians like Walter Davis Jr., Barry Harris and Evelyn Blakey, at whose place De Graaff had dinner one night. Evelyn knew of Rein’s wish to see Mobley and invited Mobley as a surprise guest for the astonished, skinny piano player from Holland. “She asked me to open the door. I obeyed. My heart burst out of my chest. There was Hank Mobley. ‘Hi, I’m Hank’, he said.”

In New York, De Graaff played with Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Elvin Jones and Joe Farrell. It was a dream come true. It was pretty devastating, however, regardless of their brilliant, swinging game, to see his heroes play sleazy bars for a nickle, while he opinioned that their stature should be of concert hall level, and to see some of them, like bassist Paul Chambers, succumb to a dreary, destructive alcoholic life style. “I saw some of that as well in Germany and The Sheherazade, it was a bit scary. I decided to follow a different path.”

The following decades would see the pianist lead a prolific but most unusual jazz life. Working by day in the electro ware wholesale company of his father (which De Graaff continued in later life and sold at the age of 56), De Graaff played at night and during days or weeks off. His popular De Graaff/Vennik quartet ventured more and more into modal jazz territories, while De Graaff also supported Americans such as Johnny Griffin, Dexter Gordon, Clark Terry, Arnett Cobb, Dizzy Reece, Carmell Jones and Red Rodney on their Dutch and European gigs. Great experiences, with lessons to be learned as well, like those from Griffin and Art Taylor, who played either at furious breakneck speed or extra slowly, getting into a distinctive ‘groove’, something De Graaff called ‘American Tempos’.

It was an outrageously busy lifestyle. Better to burn out than to fade away? “I didn’t drink. That helps. And I was young, able to get along without much sleep. Sometimes I got home at 4 in the morning and was at the office at 8! And for instance, when I had a business meeting far away, I would combine it with a gig the night before! Most of all, playing jazz was my high, gave me a lot of adrenaline. My work gave me a kick as well. All that keeps you on your toes!”

De Graaff’s skin has that antique porcelain quality. Aged but still quite smooth. Strands of yellow-ish hair embellish a white crop, like sheep wool. Slightly wavy hair, and always that broad curl at the back of his neck. Not too neatly trimmed. An edge. “But yes, I lived three lives. My wife and children are proficient in music and they were understanding.” Then, dryly: “I wouldn’t have married her otherwise. But indeed, I was away a lot and didn’t see enough of my little daughter. I decided to do it differently when my son was born. The kids loved it as well, though, having those Americans around. Instead of hotels, they stayed at our place. Teddy Edwards and Babs Gonzalez were housefriends. Babs always played checkers with my kid daughter,” laughs De Graaff. More laughs erupt when De Graaff recounts the extended sleepovers of Johnny Griffin and Art Taylor, who always slept in a bunk, ‘can you imagine?!’

A white boy amidst Afro-American legends, many of whom were desperate, troubled, grappling with racism, dissapointed in American society, and, like Art Taylor, quite militant about it. “You’ve read Taylor’s book Notes and Tones, right? (Ed., Art Taylor’s controversial 1982 book of interviews with fellow musicians) The thing is, these guys transformed into Europeans in a way. Don Byas spoke Dutch, Art Taylor spoke French. Life in Europe wasn’t so stressed, they were more relaxed in general. In The States, the cops were on their backs all the time and they were ripped off regularly. It wasn’t like that over here.”

“Musically, I just gave my best. At the start of my career in New York, and later in Detroit with trumpeter Louis Smith, I was sometimes the only white musician in the group. Oh, I’ve had a bassist say to me once, (De Graaff puts on a deep, gritty voice) ‘Show me how good you are’. I made sure I did. The thing is, jazz is the shared language. You communicate on that level. I remember what the emcee said when I was on stage with Hank Mobley. He said: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, how about a big hand for Hank Mobley, Herbie Lewis and Billy Higgins, and the young man from Europe. You heard the man, he’s preaching the same message as we do.’

(From left, clockwise: Dexter Gordon & Rein de Graaff; Rein de Graaff, Herbie Lewis, Hank Mobley & Billy Higgins; Art Taylor, Henk Haverhoek, Johnny Griffin & Rein de Graaff)

I mention De Graaff’s version of Gil Fuller’s I Waited For You (from Drifting On A Reed, Timeless, 1977), a classic De Graaff cut of long, flowing lines, spare blue notes, tumbling and rollicking lyrical modes and some ‘out’ phrases. “That was inspired by Joachim Kuhn, who although he didn’t really swing, was outrageously good. I was into McCoy Tyner as well, our quartet developed more of a ‘new thing’. Musicians advised me to quit bebop, start something new. It was kind of a breather for me, a liberation, really. And the quartet was so propulsive! That avantgarde stuff didn’t sit too well with the legends, though. I remember Dexter Gordon saying one night, ‘Rein, stop that Chick Corea shit, will you!’

The quartet existed until 1989, but in the late seventies De Graaff again took some advise to heart. “Now audiences said, ‘Hey Rein, you used to play such beautiful bebop, why don’t you get back into that? Of course that’s when I went to New York to record New York Jazz (Timeless/Muse, 1979) with Tom Harrell, Ronnie Cuber and the classic rhythm section Sam Jones and Louis Hayes. I used to play along with all those Cannonball Adderley albums at home, you know!”

A combination of Horace Silver, Bud Powell, Sonny Clark, Hampton Hawes and a touch of Lennie Tristano, De Graaff has made his mark as one of the premier European bebop/hardbop pianists. An ‘unpianistic’ pianist, relishing long, flowing lines that he tries to construct as horn men do. A more gentle touch, like his friend Barry Harris, in contrast to Powell’s hammering lightning bolts. “Someone in The States once said to me, ‘hey man, you blow a nice piano!’ Horns have fringes. Playing piano like Oscar Peterson is not my ambition. He was the best in the world, but I couldn’t care less. All over the keyboard, flurries of arpeggio’s, brilliant, perfect playing, but constant brilliance and perfection becomes boring after a while.”

“I think I was a fanatic. That’s crucial, you gotta have that dedication and obsession. Let me tell you a story guitarist Peter Leitch told me. He teached a class at Conservatory, there was a talented guitar player. Leitch said, ‘okay, I’ll see you at the workshop on Friday.’ The young man said, ‘No, I can’t make it, I have to hang wallpaper at my grandma’s’. You know, that’s not the right mentality. Small wonder, we’ve never heard from the gentlemen since.”

Like Barry Harris, De Graaff has been a true ambassador for bebop and hardbop. From 1986 till his 70th birthday in 2012, De Graaff gave four lecture/tours a year, playing and explaining the music that grew out of Charlie Parker et al. Essential jazz history, embellished by an endless list of acclaimed and underrated Americans: Teddy Edwards, Clifford Jordan, Johnny Griffin, James Moody, Ronnie Cuber, Charles McPherson, Harold Land, Houston Person, Frank Foster, David “Fathead” Newman, James Clay, Barry Harris, Webster Young, Bud Shank, Billy Root, Herb Geller, Al Cohn, Louis Smith, Art Farmer, Eddie Daniels, Lew Tabakin, James Spaulding, Bob Cooper, Gary Foster, Pete Christlieb, Gary Smulyan… That’s when people started nicknaming De Graaff ‘Professor Bop’. “That was the source. Guys like Johnny Griffin, he could tell how it was to play with Monk, Harold Land what Clifford Brown was about. And Teddy Edwards, come on, he invented bebop!”

Fortune’s favorite? A fullfilled man, certainly. But where have all the flowers gone? At 73, De Graaff concedes that he’s starting to become a regular visitor of the crematorium. De Graaff puts his arm in the air and moves a closed hand back and forth slowly. “It’s the Big Hand working. Here it goes, ‘swoosh’, takes a bunch of us, draws back again, only to resume its relentless work… Dave Pike passed away last year.” You can hear a pin drop. Says De Graaff, his face now a brittle mask that hides sorrow. Only human: “That really made me kind of sad. We were like bloodbrothers. But ok, we performed, made a record. Fine. At least, that’s consigned to posterity.”

“I’ve got nothing but nice memories. My favorites? The first time that I played with Hank Mobley is really dear to me. Also, my tour with Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt and Philly Joe Jones was fantastic. I knew these guys inside out from their records, but to sit beside them on stage really is something else. They play familiar phrases and licks, but the licks are theirs, original. The impact is enormous.”

His blue-grey eyes, mostly hidden behind wrinkled eyelids like ladybugs in the cracks of cobblestones, suddenly grow: clarity, earthiness, a little tenderness. “I carefully pick my recording projects, it has to be something fresh. That’s why I did duet albums and performed with two baritones, for instance. It’s still possible to be creative in bebop and hardbop, or what you’d call mainstream jazz. I will be doing my Chasin’ The Bird tour in the near future. That would give you an idea of what that tour is about, right?”

Rein de Graaff

Pianist Rein de Graaff (Groningen, 1942) recorded more than 40 albums, both as a leader and in cooperation with numerous Americans and fellow Europeans. He won the Boy Edgar Prijs in 1980 and the Bird Award at North Sea Jazz Festival in 1986. From 1986 to 2012, De Graaff organised Stoomcursus and Vervolgcursus Bebop: lectures about bebop, which included performances by a host of American and Dutch luminaries, as well as upcoming youngsters. De Graaff’s career is chronicled in Coen de Jonge’s Belevenissen In Bebop. (Passage, 1997)

Selected discography:

Body And Soul (with J.R. Monterose, Munich 1970)
The Jamfs Are Coming (with Johnny Griffin & Art Taylor, Timeless/Muse 1975)
Modal Soul (Timeless 1977)
New York Jazz (Timeless/Muse 1979)
Good Gravy (with Teddy Edwards, Timeless 1981)
Live (with Arnett Cobb, Timeless 1982)
Rifftide (with Al Cohn, Timeless 1987)
Blue Bird (with Dave Pike & Charles McPherson, Timeless 1988)
Nostalgia (Timeless 1991)
Blue Beans & Greens (with David “Fathead” Newman & Marcel Ivery, Timeless 1991)
Baritone Explosion (with Ronnie Cuber & Nick Brignola, Timeless 1994)
Alone Together (with Bud Shank, Timeless 2000)
Blue Lights The Music Of Gigi Cryce (Timeless 2005)
Indian Summer (with Sam Most, Timeless 2012)

Fried Bananas, the vinyl release of a 1972 Dexter Gordon performance with the Rein de Graaff Trio by Gearbox Records is due in November.

A View From The Stage

Bass player Henk Haverhoek put up pictures of his gigs with classic jazz men on his website. Check it out: snapshots of Dutch jazz history.

(From left clockwise: Johnny Griffin and Henk Haverhoek; guitarist Rene Thomas, Eric Ineke and Henk Haverhoek; portrait of Henk Haverhoek)

American jazz musicians have traveled and lived in Europe since the thirties. The migration was at its peak in the sixties and musicians concentrated predominantly in Paris, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Amsterdam: visitors without rhythm sections, which made them dependent on local musicians. Not everyone was up to it, but talented journeymen or pros succeeded in combining a deep passion for the music of their American heroes with versatility and studiousness, maturing greatly from playing with these iron-willed jazz individuals.

Among them was bassist Henk Haverhoek, who has been active both in the Dutch jazz scene and internationally, as well as a studio/theatre/radio show musician and teacher since the mid-sixties. In 1968, Haverhoek joined pianist Rein de Graaff and saxophonist Dick Vennik’s hard bop/modal jazz quartet, which recorded and performed prolifically and succesfully in the late sixties and seventies. Haverhoek and the quartet supported, among others, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt, Johnny Griffin, Charlie Rouse, Clifford Jordan, Freddie Hubbard, Junior Cook, Woody Shaw and Lee Konitz. Haverhoek also played with Ben Webster, Duke Jordan, Mal Waldron, Horace Parlan, Thad Jones, Slide Hampton and Joe Henderson. Could’ve done worse.

Dexter Gordon - One Flight Up

Dexter Gordon One Flight Up (Blue Note 1964)

Dexter Gordon’s marvelous stretch of early and mid-sixties Blue Note recordings occured both in the US and in Europe. As one of an increasing number of American jazz expatriates in the sixties, the tenorist had settled in Copenhagen, Denmark. When back in the US for short periods, Gordon recorded at Rudy van Gelder’s studio. Our Man In Paris – obviously – was recorded in Paris, just as Gordon’s outstanding, daring 1964 album, One Flight Up. Gordon beautifully explores new (partly) modal grounds.

Dexter Gordon - One Flight Up

Personnel

Dexter Gordon (tenor saxophone), Donald Byrd (trumpet), Kenny Drew (piano), Niels Henning Orsted-Pedersen (bass), Art Taylor (drums)

Recorded

on June 2, 1964 at CBS Studios, Paris, France

Released

as BLP 4176 in 1964

Track listing

Side A:
Tanya
Side B:
Coppin’ The Haven
Darn That Dream


Just over 19 minutes long, the free-flowing Tanya, a Donald Byrd composition, occupies the whole of side A. It has an easygoing yet urgent swing from start to finish. During the two opposing sections of tension and release that comprises the song’s structure, Dexter Gordon carefully builds his solo, phrasing assertively and fluently. He displays strong, wailing lines. Gordon’s standard is incredibly high. Obviously, his extended engagements at Copenhagen’s foremost jazz club, Club Montmartre, had given him the opportunity to further hone his already impressive craft.

Kenny Drew and Donald Byrd alternate well between atmospheric and pungent playing. But the key to Tanya’s succes undoubtly is the work of Art Taylor and Niels Henning Orsted-Pedersen. They keep the extended groove going not only by keeping steady time, but also by their free-spirited playing. Basically their voices are as important as that of the front row. Orsted-Pedersen was only 18 years old and already one of Europe’s prime bass players. A great technician, his strongly plucked notes are perfect companions to Art Taylor’s snap-crackling, syncopated, powerful drum rolls. Art Taylor – also an expatriate at the time – had always been in great demand and recorded with almost all the major jazz figures of the fifties and sixties. His work on One Flight Up, especially on Tanya, is definitely one of his greatest achievements on record.

The Paris production of Taylor’s drums is amazing; lively, spacious. Indeed, the whole album benefits from excellent engineering. No worries for Rudy van Gelder at the other side of the big pond. Kenny Drew’s Coppin’ The Haven has a similar structure as Tanya. Gordon’s immaculate execution and long phrases are the pillars of a fullfilling tenor tale. Kenny Drew delivers a good mix of inside and outside phrases, alternating between the impressionism of McCoy Tyner in the modal section and funky, fiery lines in the swinging part. Gordon finishes the set with a lush, vigourous interpretation of the DeLange/Van Heusden standard, Darn That Dream. It’s on par with the like-minded ballads of his previous Blue Note albums, such as Dexter Calling and A Swingin’ Affair. Because of the coherence in sound and high quality interplay, Darn That Dream blends well with Gordon’s forays into modal jazz.

Thus ends a courageous, mesmerising classic album in the catalogue of the great Dexter Gordon.