Laurence Fish Quintet Sen’s Fortress (O.A.P. Records 2017)

With obvious delight, pianist Laurence Fish guides his quintet through a lively market place of standards and originals on his debut album as a leader, Sen’s Fortress.

Laurence Fish - Sen's Fortress

Personnel

Laurence Fish (piano), Caspar van Wijk (tenor saxophone), Tom van der Zaal (alto saxophone), Nanouk Brassers (trumpet track 4 & 10), Matheus Nicolaiewsky (bass), Eric Ineke (drums)

Recorded

on December 16 & 20 at O.A.P. Studio, The Hague

Released

as OAPR1702 on May 14, 2017

Track listing

Things Ain’t What They Used To Be
Roam
Second Time Lucky
Mariposa
Close Enough For Love
Ghost Of A Change
Sen’s Fortress
Ligia
Eshu’s Hat
Dust
Love Is A Many Splendored Thing


The Hague has been the premier Dutch bop and hard bop city since the fifties and the town is still littered with places where musically gifted young and older cats meet. Such is the case with the musicians on this disc, who either have been associated with the Royal Conservatory or living in The Hague. The Laurence Fish Quintet, which includes the veteran Dutch drum hero Eric Ineke, delivers an excellent set of mainstream jazz.

Assumingly in sync with a gentle personality, the London-born, thirty-two years old Fish employs a lithe touch and works around the melodies with carefully crafted steps, adding creamy voicings and happy-go-lucky tremolos. A versatile stylist, Fish alternates a thoroughly swinging after hours rendition of Mercer Ellington’s old warhorse Things Ain’t What They Used To Be and the standard Love Is A Many Splendored Thing, which is marked by a sweet-tart conversation between altoist Tom van der Zaal and tenorist Caspar van Wijk, with moody ballads such as Mariposa, one of five compositions by Fish. The tune includes a lyrical contribution by trumpeter Nanouk Brassers, whose tone and delivery brings back memories of Art Farmer. And, as an astute marriage counselor, in his solo Laurence Fish seals a happy marriage between romance and ringing blue notes. Fish tastefully stretches out in Ghost Of A Change, another standard of this 59 minute set. A maximum of 45 minutes (the LP-format, I’m old-fashioned and I don’t mind it…) would, arguably, have more impact than the hour that fills the album, which, by the way, sounds remarkably transparent, spacious and warm.

Eric Ineke’s experience and expertise provides the glue that sticks together the various parts, providing spot-on accents and delicacy and fire proper for the occasion. His propulsive approach, which blends well with bassist Matheus Nicolaiewsky’s swift and firm bass playing, comes in handy during the uptempo original compositions by Fish that bring to mind the adventurous Blue Note recordings of the mid-sixties. Without a doubt, Fish writes a killer tune! Both the modal jazz-tinged Roam and Sen’s Fortress are complex but catchy themes, alluring riddles of tension, release and quixotic twists and turns, that offer a challenging canvas for the sidemen’s strokes. The outgoing Caspar van Wijk, occasionally attacking in the manner of Joe Henderson, tells a coherent story. Mildly contrasting, Tom van der Zaal’s statements are balanced but forceful. Both young saxophonists conjure up delicious phrases from the rich well of hard bop saxophone art. Besides presenting fine statements by Van der Zaal, Van Wijk and Fish, Second Time Lucky is a beautiful song that ignites a smile like cheerful classics such as Shiny Stockings.

Sen’s Fortress is a location in a computer game. Laurence Fish might play it as fanatically as your average high school kid, the pianist’s core business is making music with an enthusiastic nod to the tradition. It’s good news for fans of mainstream jazz if Fish would continue his path down the straight-ahead road, hopefully writing more avant-leaning compositions in the process.

Find Sen’s Fortress here. The album will be available on May 14.

Find the website of Laurence Fish here.

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.

Knight Rider

ERIC INEKE – A lack of taste and decency from the officials may have prevented the Ajax stadium being christened Johan Cruijff Stadium a year after the passing of Holland’s soccer genius, they sure know how to treat their jazz luminaries. On his 70th birthday on Saturday, April 1, which was celebrated with a concert at The Bimhuis, drummer Eric Ineke, who during a fulfilling career of almost fifty years cooperated with legends like Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin and Dizzy Gillespie, was knighted as Ridder in de Orde van Oranje-Nassau for his outstanding contributions to the Dutch jazz realm by the deputy mayor Simone Kukenheim. An otherwise less formal evening, hosted by Cees Schrama and Frank Jochemsen, was divided into a series of concise sets by Dutch powerhouse line-ups including Tineke Postma, Rein de Graaff, Marius and Peter Beets, driven by Ineke’s trademark propulsive style in the tradition of Elvin Jones and Philly Joe Jones. Ineke’s regular hard bop quintet Eric Ineke’s JazzXpress performed twice and during the second set was supplemented with alto saxophonist Tineke Postma. De Graaff and Ineke, buddies-in-soul since the late sixties, played freely around the beat in standards like How Deep Is The Ocean, tight-knit as usual. Ineke also responded enthusiastically to Postma, answering her adventurous structural improvisations with like-minded, horn-like phrases on snare and tom. Horns-a-plenty: tenor saxophonists Sjoerd Dijkhuizen and Simon Rigter provided mature and tasteful tenor tales. The young trumpeter Gidon Nunes Vaz is a rapidly developing musician with a beautiful tone and a style best likened to forebears as Kenny Dorham. Pianist Peter Beets, just back in town from a concert of Paul McCartney compositions with Roger Kellaway in New York, clearly relishes fiery, Oscar Peterson-type takes on tunes as Con Alma. The trio with Peter Beets also accompanied promising singer and organizer of the show, Jurjen Donkers. While the first set of the JazzXpress focused fluently on Dexter Gordon tunes as Fried Bananas and The Panther, the second set harked back to the glory days of mid-sixties, avant-leaning hard bop that was being made on the Blue Note and Impulse labels. It was an absolute gas, Jarmo Hoogendijk’s Waltz For Woody and Ray Brown’s Lined With A Groove being stunning high points. Pianist Rob van Bavel tapped into his seemingly limitless reservoir of inventive voicings and impressionistic lines. During the final jam on Rhythm-A-Ning, all participants present on stage, Ineke’s hard, alert swing was still in check. The audience was delighted and the knighted 70-year old Ineke was in good spirits.

During Eric Ineke’s Birthday Jam, the new Challenge Records release Let There Be Life, Love And Laughter: Eric Ineke Meets The Tenor Players was presented. An overview of Ineke’s cooperations over the years with tenor saxophonists like Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Lucky Thompson, George Coleman, Clifford Jordan, Grant Stewart and John Ruocco. Find the album here.

Photography: Map Boon

Just Friends

ERIC INEKE – On Saturday, April 1, drummer Eric Ineke will be celebrating his 70th birthday with a Super Jam at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam. There will be performances by Ineke and other Dutch luminaries such as Rein de Graaff, Ruud Jacobs, Peter Beets and Tineke Postma. Find info and tickets here.

During a long and fulfilling career, Ineke, foremost European modern jazz drummer in the tradition of Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones, Billy Higgins and Louis Hayes, has collaborated with countless American legends like Dexter Gordon, Dizzy Gillespie, Lucky Thompson, Hank Mobley, Freddie Hubbard and Johnny Griffin and sustained long-time associations with Ferdinand Povel, Dick Vennik, Ben van de Dungen & Jarmo Hoogendijk, Benjamin Herman and Dave Liebman. For nearly four decades, Ineke has been playing with the Rein de Graaff Trio. Ineke has been leading his own hard bop quintet, Eric Ineke’s JazzXpress, for eleven years now.

Gary Smulyan

Chasin’ The Bari

A meeting with baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan isn’t complete without a mention of Encounter!, the masterpiece of his all-time bari hero, Pepper Adams. “Pepper is the all-round master. And what a sound!”

Like many fellow Americans that are and have been eagerly doing the freedom jazz dance, Smulyan spends a lot of his work time in Europe. Currently, Smulyan is touring The Netherlands with the trio of pianist Rein de Graaff, a series of gigs billed as Chasin’ The Bird. Smulyan, a congenial gentleman with strong hands and fluent talker with a glance that alludes to a romantic rendezvous between sincerity and good humor, explains: “I have been touring with Rein’s trio about every two years for a long time now. I tell you, we’re flying from note one. These guys really know where it’s at. The venues are lovely and Rein isn’t only a great piano player but an extraordinary organiser as well. It’s a warm bath.”

Chasin’ The Bird, one hell of a job. Or, correction, heavenly duty. “I can’t get enough of Charlie Parker. In fact, I’m still awe-struck. Bird’s a daily treat on the menu. Strangely enough, Parker is regularly taken for granted. From talking to musicians I sometimes get the impression that they only scratched the surface of Parker, didn’t look further than the well-known recordings. But there is a wealth of revealing material, like the bootlegs, some of which luckily have come to the surface legally. Lately, I’ve been listening a lot to those amateur recordings Dean Benedetti made of the Bird solos. It’s astonishing! His rhythm, harmony, time, just otherworldly. Sometimes freshmen ask me, ‘what’s the secret, how do you do it?’. Well, there is no secret. Bird is the well you need to drink from. Find your own taste while you’re at it. Lest we forget, of course Bird was influenced significantly by Lester Young, among others, there’s the tradition, there are the bloodlines… However, Bird is The One.”

Starting out in jazz as an alto saxophonist, Smulyan was heavily influenced by Phil Woods, who, it goes without saying, developed a distinctive and brilliant musical personality in the Parker tradition. Born in Bethpage, New York in 1956, growing up in Long Island, the aspiring Smulyan was close to the centre of modern jazz, Manhattan, and as a consequence, Phil Woods. “In the early days, I even dressed like Phil Woods, down to the singular leather cap! At any rate, I played alto until I was twenty-two, hadn’t even touched the baritone. My jazz schooling really gained depth when I acquainted Billy Mitchell, Dave Burns, Joe Dixon, who became my mentors. It’s really important to come across guys that are on a higher level and have more knowledge than you and who, above all, honestly point out your shortcomings. Kind of steer you in directions with integrity, you know. That’s why I’m consciously open minded to youngsters. I’m grateful for meeting my mentors and strive to pass the peas in a worthy manner myself.”

(Clockwise from left: Charlie Parker; Pepper Adams; Gary Smulyan)

Sitting in with his mentors, and soon, legends like Chet Baker and Lee Konitz, Smulyan and the little horn seemed a perfect pair. Until the big horn came along. In 1978, the phone rang, and the question was if Smulyan would like to play in the big band of Woody Herman. On baritone. “Well, it didn’t take me long to figure out that puzzle. Luckily, I had two weeks to spare. I bought a Yamaha baritone and studied some tunes I knew were in the Herman book. Suddenly, I found myself sitting beside tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, who became a life-long friend. That phone call was one of those fortuitous moments that sometimes occur in one’s life. Right place, right time. Initially, it was quite unnerving, a risk. But I strongly believe that it’s important to take a risk, grab that opportunity.”

The association with Herman’s Young Thundering Herd was the start of Smulyan’s career as a baritone saxophonist that has been going on for almost forty years. Among many other endeavors, Smulyan played in the Mel Lewis Orchestra, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and cooperated with Freddie Hubbard, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz and George Coleman, and records prolifically as a leader. A regular winner of the Downbeat Reader’s and Critic’s Poll and Grammy Awards, Smulyan is the to-go-to baritone saxophonist on the scene today. First it was Pepper, now Gary Smulyan is the all-round master. Ooh, ooh, ooh, what a little phone call can do to you.

“Like I always say: I didn’t choose the baritone, the baritone chose me.”

“It’s not such a cumbersome instrument as they say. At least, I don’t see any difference with the trombone, tuba, or drums for that matter. It’s in the way that you use it. And how can it be awkward when you do it with love? Furthermore, there are not many baritone players around as opposed to tenor or alto players, so if you’re proficient, there’s a lot of work. The baritone is the underdog. Sometimes I take the horn out of my suitcase and just see those eyes popping out of the head of a spectator! Mulligan is the only baritone saxophonist who is known by the general public. At any rate, if you would’ve told me at age fifteen that I would become a baritone saxophonist, I would’ve said you’re crazy. That’s why I’m still, occasionally, floored by happenings in my life. Such as my cooperation with Tommy Flanagan on my 1991 Homage album of Pepper Adams pieces. Flanagan!”

A number of baritone saxophonists influenced Smulyan, among them the father of the bari, Harry Carney and the modernists Leo Parker and Cecil Payne. However, Smulyan’s main man is Pepper Adams, the little man with the big horn who took the baritone to the next level, displaying the blistering speeds of bebop, rare harmonic ingenuity, a composer’s sense of continuity, agressive rhythm, a bark-like timbre and a huge, imposing sound. “It’s all there on Encounter!, Adams’ 1968 Prestige album with Zoot Sims, Tommy Flanagan, Ron Carter and Elvin Jones. The epithome of Pepper’s art. I’m still enthralled by his sound on that album! Sound reflects the personality, it’s paramount, it’s your voice. And boy, does Pepper have a marvelous voice. Rhythmically, harmonically, his standard of playing is tremendous. Rudy van Gelder’s production is out of sight, very transparant and spacious. Partly straightforward, partly avant-leaning, the vibe is remarkably free. Also because of Elvin Jones, of course. There are a number of challenging tunes, like Punjab, the Joe Henderson tune. Zoot Sims, a more straightforward swinger and a big favorite of mine, really seizes the opportunity. He’s an interesting partner for Pepper. The tunes are short, I like that. Short is good! Although I like to stretch out, a maximum of allotted solo time isn’t necessarily a disadvantage. Enough time in short tunes for harmony as well. It stimulates creativity. Look at Duke Ellington, the enormous wealth of stuff that he put in those 3 or 4 minute tunes. I also love the Pepper Adams album Ephemera, with Mel Lewis, George Mraz and Roland Hanna, for many of the same reasons. 10 To 4 At The Five Spot? Great album. But that piano! Horribly out of tune. It’s hard to listen to. Poor Bobby Timmons.”

(Clockwise from left: Pepper Adams – Encounter!, Prestige 1968; Pepper Adams – Ephemera, Spotlite 1973; Charlie Parker – The Complete Benedetti Recordings Of Charlie Parker, Mosaic 1990)

A lot of Pepper and a lot of pepper, in the guise of a singular type of controlled fury, is evident in the playing of Gary Smulyan. Furthermore, a distinctive voice with his own brand of harmonic finesse, a strong beat, acute wit and a striking penchant for telling a coherent tale rings through. “I’m concerned with the architecture of my lines, with secondary motives, for instance. The kind of structural improvisation that runs through the career of Sonny Rollins. I’m not consciously aware of it, but these things probably lurk somewhere in the back of my mind, while I’m hoping to find beautiful lines. Beautiful lines and beautiful sound is what it’s all about.”

Does middle-to-old age matures the beautiful products of a jazz life, like it does a Bordeaux wine or Ardbeg Scotch? And does it peel off some of the rough edges? Evidently, there’s so much wisdom in the playing of elders like Charles McPherson, Barry Harris, Jimmy Heath. Smulyan chuckles: “Hey, I’m only sixty! Though I feel like I’m fifty-nine. Well, I’m not the same person I was like the twenty year old kid, or the forty year old man. What you go through in music and life is reflected in one’s musical voice, I’m not an exception. However, some sixty year olds might tend to take it easy. Not me. Regardless of my shifting approaches, I still love to play fast!”

Maybe it’s the soul patch sitting, Zen-masterly, under Smulyan’s lips. Or the composed stroll of Smulyan before and after the interview, bringing him to the side walls and show cases of the hotel. Casually dressed in jeans and a sweater, hands folded behind his back, Smulyan bows slightly forward like a collector of Louis XI grandfather clocks on an antique fair, or a monk peeking over the shoulder of a novice at work on a weighty book in the athenaeum. Keen-eyed, curious. Maybe it’s just a hunch that Smulyan’s birds are flyin’ high and dry. Fire down below in the heart, yet a heart at peace with beating evenly. “I’m very pleased about the way things turned out and how I’m doing now.” Chuckling: “The phone keeps ringing and I sometimes succeed in coaxing producers into projects. Most of all, I’m glad to live my life in the jazz realm. Essentially, jazz is a social affair. Nowadays, people have turned inwards more and more, individualism is overbearing. But jazz is communication. From the pals I visited to play and discuss records with day and night as a young aficionado, to the colleagues and friends in the studio and on stage, it’s about doing things together. Until recently, I teached music college students with developmental disabilities at Berkshire Hills. Their accomplishments are amazing. Jazz is a great tool, you know. It’s refreshing to see the bigger picture.”

Gary Smulyan

Gary Smulyan is the most sought-after baritone saxophonist in jazz today. A five-time winner of the Downbeat Critic’s and Reader’s Poll and a six-time winner of the Grammy Award, Smulyan has built a sizable and diverse resume as a leading recording artist and been a long-serving member of The Mel Lewis Orchestra, Mingus Big Band, Dave Holland Octet and Big Band and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, as well as the bands of soul and blues giants Ray Charles and B.B. King. Smulyan has cooperated with, among others, Gerald Wilson, Tommy Flanagan, Jimmy Knepper, George Coleman, Joe Lovano, Tom Harrell, Bob Belden, Christian McBride and Mike LeDonne. Smulyan is a faculty member at Amherst College, Massachusetts and teaches at Manhattan School Of Music, NYC.

Selected discography:

As a leader:

Homage, (with Tommy Flanagan, Criss Cross, 1991)
Saxophone Mosaic, (Criss Cross, 1993)
Blue Suite (Criss Cross, 1999)
The Real Deal (Reservoir, 2003)
Smul’s Paradise (Capri, 2012)
Bella Napoli (with Dominic Chianese, Capri, 2013)

As a sideman:

Mike LeDonne, The Feeling Of Jazz (Criss Cross, 1990)
Cedar Walton, Roots (Astor Place, 1997)
Dave Holland Big Band, What Goes Around (ECM, 2002)
Gerald Wilson, In My Time (Mack Avenue, 2005)
Joe Magnarelli, Always There (Criss Cross, 1998)
Mark Masters Ensemble, Ellington Saxophone Encounter (Capri, 2012)

Gary Smulyan’s latest release, Royalty At Le Duc, was released in January 2017 by Sunnyside Records. Find here.

Go to Gary Smulyan’s website here.

Is Seeing Believing?

Liebman, Ineke, Laghina, Cavalli & Pinheiro, Is Seeing Believing? (Challenge)

Saxophist and flautist Dave Liebman, the musical equivalent of Sesame Street’s cookie monster, has done about everything from being part of the Miles Davis group in the early seventies to writing chamber music. Liebman has also been an expert educational writer and organiser. Among other endeavors, he founded the International Association Of Schools Of Jazz, stressing educational cooperation without borders. It’s this responsive spirit that’s at the heart of Is Seeing Believing, a collaboration between the five IASS colleagues Liebman, veteran Dutch drummer Eric Ineke (a longtime Liebman associate who also played on, among others, Lieb Plays The Beatles and Lieb Plays Blues à la Trane), pianist Mário Laghina, bassist Massimo Cavalli and guitarist Ricardo Pinheiro. An international cast that cooks a varied brew. Excepting a robust interpretation of Old Folks, marked by the vibes of John Coltrane’s Impulse output, courtesy of Liebman’s freewheeling, uplifting phrases and Ineke’s lush, pulled-and-pushed rhythm, and the Post Bop-meets-Gypsy-meets-Dixie-meets-Prog Pinheiro tune Ditto, the repertoire is soft-hued, introspective, a gentle but stirring lake of intricate, fine-tuned jazz. A conversation between Liebman’s sensual soprano and Pinheiro’s spicy acoustic guitar is the centre of the warm-blooded piece of folk jazz, Coração Vagabundo. On the other tunes, Pinheiro plays electric guitar, employing a prickly, Jim Hall-ish sound, and daring to turn into eccentric pathways during his concise stories. Like in the sprightly take of Skylark, wherein Liebman and Pinheiro improvise simultaneously. With the wisdom of the elder master, Liebman’s tenor work is spirited without excessive frills. The highlight is the title track, a composition of slow-moving voicings that meander on the sensitive, resonant sound carpet of Ineke, which nicely lets the personalities of the soloists ring through. Pianist Mário Laghina’s embrace of the melody is enamouring, sometimes following the steps of Liebman, sometimes going against the grain teasingly. Part of an album of moving and intelligently crafted modern jazz.

Liebman, Ineke, Laghina, Cavalli & Pinheiro - Is Seeing Believing?

Find Is Seeing Believing? here.

Ruud Breuls - Robert Roozenbeek Photography

Ready For Rudy

Ruud Breuls, sideman par excellence and trumpeter in the renowned German WDR Big Band, lives and breathes straightforward modern jazz, with a particular passion for Freddie Hubbard. “Hard bop is the ideal canvas for my sound.”

Afoggy day in Amsterdam town. The Muziekgebouw Aan ’t IJ is empty, our voices richochet off the walls like the sounds of wild animals inside a hollow oak tree. Familiar terrain for Breuls, who among many other endeavors, starred as a soloist in Shades Of Brown, a tribute to Clifford Brown by the Metropole Orchestra. Breuls, a slender, tall man dressed in a classy woolen overcoat, the soft-hued southern Limburg accent still intact after years in central Holland, enthusiastically peers into the layers of mist that hover over the IJ River. He says, with the sense of wonder typical of his region of birth, where lady chapels are an equally common sight along the roads than traffic signs: “I’ve got my camera with me, you never know. A bit of sun might peek through the fog. That’s beautiful, almost mystical…”

Also very ‘Limburg’: the marching band. “Yes, I grew up with marching bands. They really meant business! It was my initiation into music, but hardly a defining moment. What is? You know, laying out a career path only explains the musician on a superficial level. A defining moment runs deeper. It’s about atmosphere, feeling. More than the fanfare, LP’s fundamentally brought about a change. My brothers came home with records, I loved hard rock, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath. Then there was that Brecker Brothers album, Heavy Metal Be-Bop. Wow! Weird! That cover with the helmet and trumpet, fascinating. They were funky and improvising, which was still a mystery to me. However, the first real defining moment was a Count Basie compilation album. Including Thad Jones and Snooky Young. Oh, Jezus, what is this?! Well, it was swing, of course. A seed was sown.”

The seed, eventually, carried the young, humble Southerner around the country and the globe in a varied assembly of outfits. While specialising in the classic hard bop quintet formation, co-leading hard-swinging groups like Buddies In Soul with veteran pianist Cees Slinger and saxophonist Simon Rigter onwards from the early nineties, Breuls’ career as an orchestral player flourished. Breuls played in the Metropole Orchestra, Dutch Jazz Orchestra and Jazz Orchestra Of The Concertgebouw. Simultaneously, the trumpeter worked in popular music genres, performing and recording with national celebrities like Marco Borsato, Andre Hazes and Gordon, notably with The Stylus Horns, as well as international artists like Seal and Nathalie Cole. Revealing a healthy dose of self-mockery, Breuls assesses his current, declining amount of commercial jobs. “I’m too busy. But honestly, the wrinkles of middle age do not really fit the commercial profile as well anymore. However, they’re perfect for a jazz man!”

For Breuls, his other major defining moment was the discovery of trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. “It was life-changing. To this day, Hubbard is the reference for my style. He’s my main man, Freddie’s in my heart, from the day I bought a Blue Note twofer LP in Rotterdam at age nineteen. It contained Here To Stay, Ready For Freddie, Goin’ Up and Hup Cap, I think. I was stunned! The way Hubbard sculpted his lines and coloured his phrases and bent his notes. The flow of ideas, the swing and that bright sound. That was it. Basically, the Hubbard style of the early sixties defines the way I play. The way I would like to play.”

“There were others, of course. I learned that Miles Davis was the chief god, the genius of the use of space. An unforgettable identity. There’s Lee Morgan, the funky master. I really admire his bravura. It’s delivery time: here’s Lee! The way Morgan forges himself through those changes on Coltrane’s Blue Train album, you know, in Lazy Bird, is a gas. You should write out those lines, frame and put them up on the wall, they’re so beautiful. There are musician’s musicians like Kenny Dorham, Woody Shaw. Outstanding. And there’s Clifford Brown, of course. Brilliant in all registers and what a sound. Although I’m versed in bebop as well, when I did that Clifford Brown performance, I was glad we concentrated mainly on ballads instead of the faster bop tunes!”

“Sound is the identity of the musician. Some trumpeters use a lot of air. That’s beautiful. But I just can’t. A straightahead, round and open tone comes natural to me. It’s allowed to shine and shimmer. I’m white, not black. In a sense, my style is tongue-in-cheek. The sound is clean, pure, would almost fit in a symphony orchestra. But what I play is unadulterated jazz, obviously.”

The passion for straightforward jazz is shared with a coterie of musicians, notably drummers. “It really is hard to explain, borders on telepathy. Like the drummers of the classic hard bop era, guys like Eric Ineke, John Engels, Cees Kranenburg, and including free bird Han Bennink, are, for all their supurb skills, propulsive groove-masters first and foremost. The American drummer Adam Nussbaum as well. And they’re unique in listening to the soloist, stimulating him instead of dominating the proceedings. They have an in-built sense of the phraseology and rhythm of the classic horn players and recognize all the quotes, more so than myself! Eric Ineke especially, he’s liable to lay you down on the barbecue! A shout here and there. That’s a party! It’s a primitive, jungle feeling, jazz in its purest form. From the contemporary trumpeters and jazz musicians, I really regard Roy Hargrove as a hero. A perfect synthesis of hardbop and bebop. Most of all, he’s such an honest musician.”

Pure jazz has a hard time. “We’re a minority in The Netherlands. It’s not hip, supposedly not innovative enough. Which is weird and really irritating. My beloved hard bop, and the tradition and bebop as well of course, make up the fountainhead of jazz. It really is a good development that many young guys are into odd meters and have non-jazz influences. But ideally, those influences would be the icing on their real jazz cake. But all too often the real jazz is left out in the cold. But when played well, hard bop is fresh as a spring leaf. As busy as I am, I try to do at least two or three quintet gigs a month now, with my old pal Simon Rigter for instance. The quintet format is essential for my well-being! I would really like to do more of this stuff again, to be honest. I did a little tour with saxophonist Benjamin Herman and John Engels a couple of years ago. That was great. Benjamin and me are on the same wavelength. I would love to get together again.”

As tall and marked by more than a half decade of life experience on this globe we sometimes call the Big Bad Apple the 54-year old Breuls may be, occasionally seasoning his anecdotes with a fervent four-letter word, there’s a spark of a young boy inside. A sensitive kid who has a hard time fitting in with the hardliners on the schoolyard. One to cherish, soothe. Something in the personality of Breuls is tender, fragile. The carefully crafted style and crystalline sound of Breuls symbolize part of that innocence, suggest a longing for the angels to speak up. His sensitivity, Breuls contemplates, is the reason behind the trumpeter’s life as a sideman. “Those are deep waters. Essentially, it has to do with my family history. Basically, my confidence level is low. The trumpet is a challenge to deal with that. My role as a sideman, as opposed to a leader, is a logical extension of my personality. Besides,”, Breuls chuckles, “I was asked for everything I’ve done, you know.”

“I did a lot of gigs with Michiel Borstlap. He was very stimulating, really pushed me to the front. Figuratively, but also quite literally! Michiel is a very compassionate human being. We share a love for Hubbard, and Herbie Hancock as well. I liked to play fusion, occasionally. So, I was quite upfront there with Michiel, in spite of myself. As ‘Miles’ with the Metropole (Breuls was the leading soloist during integral performances of Porgy & Bess and Miles Ahead, among others, FM) and Clifford Brown, I was in the limelight as well, of course. It was a real good feeling to get under the skin of those giants. As an effect, I really pushed my envelope, playing better day after day. At any rate, the seat in the WDR chair really suits me to a T. The alternation of playing the parts and solo spots is wonderful.”

The volume of Breuls’ voice is turned up a notch or two. “Aaah… The WDR Big Band is really something. One hell of a big band! An interesting international cast. The gutsy delivery of the WDR Big Band floors me completely. And the variety of guest stars is striking. Since I’m in the band, we’ve had Jimmy Heath, Ron Carter, Billy Hart, Al Foster, Dick Oatts, Chris Potter, Antonio Sanchez, Ambrose Akinmusire… I really dig my role in the sound spectrum and relish the solo spots. I’m like that little devil jumping out of the box. Everybody is on their toes and we’re really stimulated to be greasy, to scrape off the layer of varnish. The WDR has a hard-boiled attitude: give us the fucking juice, man! Come on! You wanna be a jazz player?! You know what I mean?”

One wouldn’t be surprised if that band will account for defining moment number 3 in the life and career of Ruud Breuls. “Who knows? Time will tell. Those things really have to be left to fate.”

Ruud Breuls

Ruud Breuls (Urmond, 1962) is featured on more than 300 albums, both jazz and popular music. Since the early nineties, Breuls has been part of big bands such as the Dutch Jazz Orchestra, Metropole Orchestra, Cubop City Big Band and the Jazz Orchestra Of The Concertgebouw. He currently is a member of the WDR Big Band. Breuls has also been active in long-term, small ensembles such as Buddies In Soul and Major League. The trumpeter performed and recorded with, among others, Kenny Barron, The Beets Brothers, Bob Brookmeyer, Billy Cobham, Michiel Borstlap, Ronnie Cuber, John Engels, Billy Hart, Jimmy Heath, Benjamin Herman, Bill Holman, Eric Ineke, Joe Lovano, Vince Mendoza, Michel Portal and Mike Stern. Breuls teaches at the Conservatory Of Amsterdam. In 2013, Breuls won the Laren Jazz Award. In the Spring of 2017, a Louis Armstrong project of Breuls and Simon Rigter will be released by Sound Liaison on CD and made available as high-resolution downloads.

Photograph of Ruud Breuls above by Mattis Cederberg; on the homepage by Robert Roozenbeek Photography.