Steamin’

DUTCH JAZZ HISTORY – STOOM & VERVOLGCURSUS BEBOP

Just for the fun of it I checked all the classic (hard) bop albums I reviewed over the past four years that featured musicians who participated in Stoomcursus & Vervolgcursus Bebop. Stoom & Vervolgcursus Bebop is the series of lectures on modern jazz and performances that the renowned Dutch pianist Rein de Graaff organized in The Netherlands from 1987 to 2012. De Graaff invited over American legends and unsung heroes for performances with contemporary European and Dutch counterparts. Almost without exception, the musicians were accompanied by his regular trio of bassists Koos Serierse (1936-2017) and Marius Beets, and the extraordinary drummer Eric Ineke.

The lectures and performances have been enormously valuable to the Dutch and European jazz landscape. De Graaff delivered his insightful introductions with understated humor. Season after season, Dutch jazz fans were treated to performances by legendary American jazz men and women that they never would have experienced in such an intimate setting would not the now semi-retired Rein de Graaff have taken great pains to locate them from practically all the States that do not begin with an ‘I’. He has been a straight-forward and acclaimed organizer. Plays mean piano too.

Here’s my check. Quite the list:

Marcus Belgrave, James Clay, Al Cohn, Junior Cook, Ronnie Cuber, Eddie Daniels, Charles Davis, Teddy Edwards, Art Farmer, Frank Foster, Curtis Fuller, Johnny Griffin, Barry Harris, Red Holloway, Clifford Jordan, Harold Land, Charles McPherson, James Moody, David “Fathead” Newman, Dave Pike, Julian Priester, Billy Root, Doug Sides, Louis Smith, James Spaulding and Art Taylor.

(Advertising poster 1987/88; Buck Hill, Teddy Edwards and Von Freeman 1991/92); Marchel Ivery, David “Fathead” Newman and the Rein de Graaff Trio 1989/90; Source: Coen de Jonge’s Belevenissen In Bebop. (Passage, 1997); Photography Anko Wieringa)

They usually performed at Vredenburg in Utrecht, Oosterpoort in Groningen and at small venues around the country. Many of these jazz greats stayed at De Graaff’s place in the village of Veendam, Groningen, where they were treated by their friendly host to a hearty breakfast and a view on the flat, wide and open spaces of the Northern countryside…

Coming season at the Flophouse Theatre: Billy Mitchell and Sal Nistico. Both Stoomcursus alumni. I’m not doing it on purpose. Those cats just keep wanderin’ through the backdoor!

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. De Graaff played with Dizzy Gillespie, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Clark Terry, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Sonny Stitt, Philly Joe Jones and many others. He won the Boy Edgar Prijs in 1980 and the Bird Award at North Sea Jazz Festival in 1986. Rein de Graaff semi-retired this year, adding a salute the end of his career with a widely publicized and successful farewell tour.

Read my interview with Rein de Graaff here. And my interview with his longtime companion Eric Ineke here.

The Rein de Graaff Trio featuring tenor saxophonist Sjoerd Dijkhuizen performs at Café Pavlov in The Hague on Sunday 8 September at 16:00.

Rein de Graaff - Early Morning Blues

Rein de Graaff with Marius Beets & Eric Ineke Early Morning Blues (Timeless 2019)

NEW RELEASE – REIN DE GRAAFF

Legendary Dutch bop pianist Rein de Graaff combines his forthcoming farewell tour with the release of a brand-new album, Early Morning Blues.

Rein de Graaff - Early Morning Blues

Personnel

Rein de Graaff (piano), Marius Beets (bass), Eric Ineke (drums)

Recorded

on June 27 & 28, 2018 at De Smederij, Zeist

Released

as TI 487 in 2019

Track listing

Avalon
These Are The Things
Early Morning Blues
Dear Old Stockholm
Don’t Blame Me
Godchild
Little Girl Blue
Fly Me To The Moon
Lover Man
Moonology
If I Had You
Early Morning Blues (alt. take)
Wahoo


Yes, that’s the bad news: De Graaff is retiring as a professional jazz musician. The good news: fifty years after his recording debut, the Groningen-born De Graaff delivers a jazz album that serves as but one example in his discography of the man’s masterly involvement in bebop and straight-ahead jazz. Self-acknowledged part of a small coterie of Last Of The Mohicans, De Graaff is of the opinion that straightforward jazz is hard to come by these days. No doubt, the fruitful, pre-crossover mainstream jazz landscape of the seventies and eighties, including countless playing venues and American legends carrying the flame, is by and large a thing of the past. Yet, considering the crowds that De Graaff has still drawn post-00, perhaps mostly consisting of elderly fans but also of a fair amount of youngsters, evidently the bop master has still inspired jazz aficionados and passed the peas to aspiring musicians one way or another. I was present at a rare jazz café appearance of De Graaff recently in The Hague – the 77-year old pianist usually appears strictly in jazz clubs and theatres – and noticed more than a few young lions eager to soak in everything De Graaff conjured up from the upright piano. To be sure, De Graaff has always made it his business to feature exceptional young talents on his tour schedules.

At said café Pavlov, De Graaff’s playing was remarkably fresh and energetic. Few human beings are as composed and level-headed as Rein de Graaff, who during a remarkable career as a leader and accompanist of countless legends like Dexter Gordon, Dizzy Gillespie, Hank Mobley and Johnny Griffin also was the owner of an electro ware wholesale company. His straightforward personality is reflected in logical phrases and musical stories. However, the blues and a certain edge are consistently present. Most likely, De Graaff has always reserved the fiery and sleazy side of the soul for his horn-like piano style, which was inspired so long ago by the work of Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Hampton Hawes, among others.

Plenty of fire in the set of Early Morning Blues, which typically consists of standards and a couple of originals and contrafacts that are tailor-made for the tasteful, long-lined stories of De Graaff. It ranges from evergreens as Dear Old Stockholm, Avalon, Fly Me To The Moon and the unaccompanied Little Girl Blue, ballads that were transformed into bop anthems by Charlie Parker like Don’t Blame Me and Lover Man, bebop compositions as George Wallington’s Godchild and Benny Harris’s Wahoo and, finally, the De Graaff compositions These Are The Things, Early Morning Blues (The album features two takes of the down-home, supple slow blues) and Moonology.

The trio interaction is marvelous. European master drummer Eric Ineke has been De Graaff’s partner-in-swing for nearly fifty years, bassist Marius Beets is a versatile modern jazz man whose pocket and immaculate choice of notes reveal a passion for Ray Brown and has been with De Graaff since 1999. Multiple examples of the group’s striking flexibility are available, Avalon and Dear Old Stockholm being particularly enchanting. Nowadays one would be hard-pressed to find the kind of cocksure and authoritative introduction of a tune like the trio’s uptempo version of Avalon. The concise combination of drum rolls, bass patterns and quicksilver piano lines is like a shot of classic jazz, like hearing for instance, filtered through their distinct personalities, bits of Sonny Clark’s Trio LP with Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. De Graaff’s sophisticated harmony and Ineke’s flexible approach of the beat considerably refreshes Dear Old Stockholm. It allows De Graaff the kind of freedom within a fixed set of changes that the pianist has always been comfortable with.

In this respect, De Graaff’s daring variations on the melody of Lover Man speak volumes. Right until the very end, the Rein de Graaff Trio is seriously takin’ care of business.

Rein de Graaff

Find Early Morning Blues at your local music store and De Graaff concerts. Liner notes by Steven A. Cerra.

Check out the schedule of Rein de Graaff’s Farewell Tour below. His regular trio of Marius Beets and Eric Ineke will be augmented with saxophonists Benjamin Herman, Maarten Hoogenhuis, Marco Kegel and Tineke Postma. Special guest: baritone saxophonist Ronnie Cuber.

Fri March 1: De Tor, Enschede
Sat March 2: Mahogany Hall, Edam
Sun March 3: Tivoli/Vredenburg, Utrecht 16:00 (feat. Ronnie Cuber)
Wed March 6: Brouwerij Martinus, Groningen
Fri March 8: De Harmonie, Leeuwarden
Sat March 10:Theater van Beresteyn, Veendam 15:00
Fri March 15:Bimhuis, Amsterdam (feat. Ronnie Cuber)

Pinheiro, Ineke & Cavalli Triplicity (Daybreak/Challenge 2018)

NEW RELEASE – PINHEIRO, INEKE & CAVALLI

The Portuguese guitarist Ricardo Pinheiro gets inspiration from many sources, even Ennio Morricone. But it’s the way Pinheiro and his mates Massimo Cavalli and Eric Ineke treat standards that makes Triplicity remarkable.

Pinheiro, Ineke & Cavalli - Triplicity

Personnel

Ricardo Pinheiro (guitar), Massimo Cavalli (bass), Eric Ineke (drums)

Recorded

on November 25, 2017 at Estudio Vale De Lobos, Lisbon, Portugal

Released

as DBCHR 75227 in 2018

Track listing

Blues Just Because
Cinema Paradiso
If I Should Lose You
Along Came Betty
You’ve Changed
Conception
Retrato Em Branco E Preto
When You Wish Upon A Star


In a trio without piano, doing without the harmonic safety rings of the pianist, the jazz musician will have to dig deep into the well of his creativity. Sonny Rollins did a number of iconic recordings, notably Live At The Village Vanguard. Motion by Lee Konitz is a key album. There’s the output of Elvin Jones with Joe Farrell and Jimmy Garrison. The common denominator of these records is, of course, drummer Elvin Jones, one of Eric Ineke’s greatest inspirations. Switching to guitar players, Barney Kessel, Jimmy Raney, Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell, Ed Bickert and Bill Frisell released a number of challenging albums in their lifetime. Avant-gardists like Arthur Blythe had their say in the trio concept sans piano as well. Nowadays, even if not everybody is yelling ‘Stein go away!’, the practice is fairly common. But an affair that is interesting from start to finish, is, more or less, fairly unusual.

Perhaps their European roots are responsible for the fact that guitarist Pinheiro, drummer Ineke and bassist Cavalli find few obstacles during their search of still newer land, just like fellow travellers Toots Thielemans, Elek Bacsik or Enrico Rava. A coherent narrative runs through the whole 46 minutes of Triplicity, courtesy of a Portuguese, Dutchman and Italian who, in that order, are sincere and intriguing, sublime and responsive, strong and lyrical. They have been associated for a number of years now and have also recorded Is Seeing Believing? with Dave Liebman. The sound of Pinheiro has a metallic edge, is perhaps like John Scofield’s not the sweetest and warmest, but stands out. His playing is both angular and expressive, synonymous with Portuguese coffee, that gives one a solid kick before revealing its many exciting flavors. Cavalli is solid but he also likes to dance, placing frivolous and inspiring figures behind the stories of his company.

Ineke is grounded in the American tradition. He draws from his experience of playing with myriad American legends and a lifelong passion for heroes like Elvin Jones, Philly Joe Jones, Kenny Clarke, but is very hip and prolific, getting a kick out of cooperating with colleagues of all nationalities and ages and still eager to step out of his comfort zone. Perhaps his North-European background is most evident in the way he neatly puts all the ideas that flow around into context, meticulous like the tower controller at Schiphol Airport. Contrary to airport officials, however, Ineke allows himself a lot of freedom to color in the lines, is subtle or heated dependent on the situation, and always melodic.

Pinheiro carries the embellishments and understated passion from his Brazilian/Portuguese forebears, and also a bit of Django Reinhardt’s pace and clarity, over to his style, especially during Pinheiro’s Blues Just Because and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Retrato Em Branco E Preto. Partly because of this, the tunes are more closely linked than one would generally assume. Retrato develops from a dark-hued bowed bass section into an angular folk romp with a cinematic character. It’s easy to imagine a little movie scene in the countryside, a tipsy old couple slowdancing in the moonlight, gyspy children playing with a cat’s tail, a woman with a tear in her eye that runs down through the gullies of her cheek… Blues Just Because is a Now The Time-ish melody, boprocked considerably by the group and soloist Pinheiro, whose integration of crunchy chords adds to his multiplex of animated lines. Pinheiro even found time to pay attention to the last chord. It’s a lurid one similar to the way Eric Clapton would, and did, end a Cream song! Endings seem to comprise something of a running gag by Pinheiro, who also finishes Along Came Betty and George Shearing’s Conception with quaint, if rather more soft-hued, chords.

Blues Just Because‘s construction allows a lot of freedom for the voice of each personality, a method that marks the complete set. Morricone’s Cinema Paradiso gets a spheric reading, the Sketches Of Spain-type tale from Pinheiro is underlined by effective counter-rhythm by Cavalli and Ineke. Cavalli makes the most of one of his many opportunities to solo on this album, speaking with gusto and emotion. Cinema Paradiso is song turned into meaningful improvisation.

Benny Golson’s Along Came Betty, the hard bop anthem best known in the classic version by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, is salsa-fied with, again, tasty bass and drum intermezzos and suspenseful counter-rhythm, which makes it simultaneously loose and swinging. The three voices of If I Should Lose You speak as a unit but also separately, a way of working that depends on the power of conversation, which Pinheiro, Ineke and Cavalli have in abundance. Pinheiro’s groove is contagious. His ability to stretch bars or leave turnarounds be seems in-built. Ineke’s subtle brush work is the foundation of the tune, surely an album highlight. Ineke is a master with brushes on this one, and also during You’ve Changed. Carl Fisher’s ballad is also marked by great Cavalli stuff, whose phrases during Pinheiro’s solo glance forward to his own following statements. Lithe, crystalline strumming from Pinheiro ends the ballad on a beautiful, bittersweet note.

Standards turned into meaningful alternatives, with a lot of motion. On the other hand, When You Wish Upon A Star, the Disney tune that has been performed by countless artists, Glenn Miller, Guy Lombardo, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Joe Pass, Keith Jarrett and Wynton Marsalis among them, will never be the same again. It is not an alternative but a relentless deconstruction. A drone with shadows of melody evoking the Indian raga, it is marked by evocative Ineke/Cavalli interaction and hypnotic Pinheiro playing, which suggests a definite upbringing with late sixties psychedelica. To perfectly trim the trio’s outlandish Disney-interpretation, Pinheiro makes use of dubbed guitar and a slice of feedback. Not unlikely, upon hearing it, the guys of Radiohead would be transformed from paranoid androids to frenzied fans of Pinheiro, Ineke & Cavalli’s extravagant closer.

The rabbit in the hat of an already surprisingly original album.

Find the album here.

03 Jazz Trio Opening (SedaJazz 2017)

NEW RELEASE – 03 JAZZ TRIO

The first thing that comes to mind listening to 03 Jazz Trio’s Opening is that it must be the work of a tight-knit outfit that has been playing together nightly for months.

03 Jazz Trio - Opening

Personnel

Joan Benavent (tenor saxophone), Matt Baker (bass), Eric Ineke (drums) Voro Garzia (trumpet 6-7), Toni Belenguer (trombone 6-7), Santi Navalon (piano 6-7)

Recorded

in 2016 in Valencia

Released

as SedaJazz Records DL.V1230 in 2017

Track listing

Opening
Sira I Xesca
Danseuses de Delphes
Añoranza
Coffe At The Almost Dead People Place
Speak Low
Grews Tune


That’s not the case. Although the protagonists have been crossing each other’s paths. The Spanish tenor saxophonist Joan Benavent and American bassist Matt Baker both live in Valencia. Dutch master drummer Eric Ineke, also an enthusiastic teacher at music schools and conservatories all around Europe, met Benavent at the Conservatory of The Hague. Subsequently, Benavent invited over Ineke to Valencia’s Seda Jazz school. There, Benavent coupled the drummer with the versatile Matt Baker to form a recording unit for Benavent’s ideas to come to fruition. The men participated in an avant-leaning session (and live performance) that turned out remarkably well.

By his own account inspired by John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, hard bop and classical music, there is nothing that suggests Benavent is overreaching. An immaculate and extravert stylist – Benavent searches the extremes of his horn but is neither wild nor aggressive – the big and clear-sounding saxophonist tackles such diverse compositions as Debussy’s Danses De Delphes, Weill/Nash’ Speak Low and Benavent’s post-boppish Opening. This particular ‘opening’ of the program, definitely marked by the ‘Impulse label’ vibe, is something else. The grand, bowed bass opening, loose drum polyrhythm and Benavent’s lyrical yet charged theme immediately works on the emotions, pulling you in the promising universe of the album. Bang! It further develops through the solo of Benavent, whose ‘singing’ tone effectively ices his cake of sheets of sound and staccato playing, via fluent switches of tempo by the trio, subtle interaction of snare drum with sax and bass and a melodic drum intermezzo to the humorous, concise coda in march rhythm. Held together by Benavent’s thematic variation throughout. A royal cake indeed.

Sira i Xesca is a playful and hefty dip into mambo land. Añoranza, a composition by E. Granados, presents a happy marriage between high drama and the smoky tenor atmosphere so typical for classic jazz. The fact that the album’s two mainstream jazz tunes – thoroughly swinging sextet treatments of Speak Low and Mulgrew Miller’s Grews Tune – are snowed under a bit by the album’s front-running setting, speaks volumes about the trio’s skills and passion.

Surely we will see a growth on (relatively) young Benavent’s part in the department of storytelling, perhaps the least imposing aspect of the album, a carefully prepared session that undoubtedly revolves around the controlled fury of Benavent and the trio’s alert interaction. Ineke, elder statesman of hard bop who nonetheless has done his part of ‘far out’ playing during his long career, feels like a fish in the water. Matt Baker, a jack-of-all-hi-level-trades working in the fields of jazz, world, folk and classical music, contributes a forceful tone, melodic, versatile phrasing and exceptional use of the bow.

The tart, touching first part of Debussy’s Danseuses De Delphes is followed up by a meaty drums/tenor battle, the song ending with a blast not unlike one of those surprising thunderous twists in a Mingus performance. The curious but effective mix of vamp and modality of Coffe At The Almost Dead People Place is enticing. Moreover, it’s gutsy and fresh. The whole sum of Opening is just that, made all the more exciting by the sonorous and punchy sound production.

Check out Joan Benavent’s website here.

Dexter Gordon - All Souls'

Dexter Gordon All Souls’: The Rob Agerbeek Trio Featuring Dexter Gordon (Dexterity 1972)

The Dutch audience caught Dexter at one of those nights, in top form. The fortunate event in the fall of 1972 is documented on the 2LP All Souls’.

Dexter Gordon - All Souls'

Personnel

Dexter Gordon (tenor saxophone), Rob Agerbeek (piano), Henk Haverhoek (bass), Eric Ineke (drums)

Recorded

on November 2, 1972 at the Haagse Jazz Club, The Hague, The Netherlands

Released

as Dexterity ST 1-001 in 1972

Track listing

LP 1
Side A:
Some Other Blues
Side B:
Stablemates
LP 2
Side B:
The Shadow Of Your Smile
Jelly Jelly
Side B:
You Stepped Out Of A Dream


In a letter to his friends in Copenhagen from October 12, 1972, Dexter Gordon expressed his joy of touring the Continent with a regular Dutch trio: ‘Dear Folks, this is ‘den gamle rejsemusiker (the old traveling musician) letting the folks back home know that I’m ok and am defending the colors! 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 success. For the most part I’m working with the same group… Hope everything is in order. Love, Absalon (Gordonson).’ (from: liner notes Fried Bananas, Gearbox 2017) Gordon referred to pianist Rein de Graaff, bassist Henk Haverhoek and drummer Eric Ineke, a superb trio that had been rapidly developing into one of Europe’s finest mainstream jazz units.

Another excellent pianist, Rob Agerbeek, also played regularly with the Sophisticated Giant. It is Agerbeek, together with Haverhoek and Ineke, who’s present at the Haagse Jazz Club on November 2, 1972, the Roman-Catholic All Souls, a night, the pianist describes in the liner notes to the album, he was unlikely to forget: ‘Why Dexter was at the top of his game that Thursday evening in November… I don’t know. But he was! Dexter was a bit languid from the Indonesian meal when we arrived at the club. I was afraid that it would turn out to be a routine job. But Dexter helped us out of the dream once he’d set in You Stepped Out Of A Dream! He was very inspiring. And the repertoire was diverse and a bit out of the ordinary. I had never played Stablemates up to then, although I kind of knew the chord sequence’. Dead honest Agerbeek. Indeed, on the recording one can just barely hear Agerbeek answer ‘I don’t know that one’ to Gordon’s call of the tune. The accomplished Agerbeek knew enough of it to deliver a fine performance. Before signing off with the quartet’s signatures, the Indonesia-born pianist proceeded to map out the chord progression matter-of-factly. (see below) Perhaps for passionate future stablemates to study.

It would be four years before Long Tall Dex made a great comeback in The United States. In Europe, where Gordon had been living since the early sixties, the tenor sax giant, largely responsible for translating the bebop language to the tenor saxophone two decades ago, having acquired the appropriately legendary status through his Blue Note albums of the early and mid-sixties, was highly acclaimed and in demand. His output of the last few years had been either stunning (1970’s The Panther) or excellent (1970’s The Jumpin’ Blues, 1972’s Ca’Purange and Generation). On stage, provided Gordon was relatively sober, he got going like few could. Unparalleled momentum.

What’s the secret of Dexter Gordon’s strong jazz personality? There always a certain mystique as to how jazz men and women transform their particular emotions and ideas from their instrument into the sounds for the audiences to enjoy. It’s part of the charm of that particular form of art and entertainment we call jazz. Evidently, Gordon’s sound is incredibly big and clear. He favors fat, sustained notes and builds long-flowing sentences, with only the occasional fast bop flurry of notes. He’s a terrific storyteller. I like to think of his stories as an ongoing rush of waves in the sea, new sensations seemingly coming from nowhere again and again, sensations that follow the preceding ones with natural ease. Moreover, Gordon plays lazily behind the beat, creating much tension. Dexter Gordon is also a humorous player who slyly and intelligently sprinkles his stories with quotes. Not to mention an unequaled giant of ballad interpretation. Gordon’s regular ride on the tonic, a tool that weakens the impact of solos by more inexperienced players, functions as the glue between his sentences in combination with his authentic sound, storytelling and time.

Obviously, both Stablemates and Some Other Blues, which fill the first LP of the album, offer abundant proof of Gordon’s unique attractiveness. Between them, arguably the former consists of Gordon’s greatest tale, while the latter sustains the most luscious hotbed of blues phrases. Stablemates is introduced comically by Gordon as ‘Benny Golson’s Stablemates… Stablemates… Stable Mable, keep your elbow off my table…’. Gordon, firing on all cylinders, is duly stimulated by the rhythm section. Henk Haverhoek is grooving relentlessly, Eric Ineke peppers Gordon’s strong-muscled tales with well-placed, propulsive bass drum and cymbal accents. During the trio’s hard-swinging moment of truth, Rob Agerbeek’s solo bears the mark of Horace Silver’s wise motto of meaningful simplicity, as he swings with clear, percussive lines, mostly in the middle register.

The way Gordon grabs a tune by the throat, in this instance John Coltrane’s Some Other Blues, is rather amazing. He dives headlong into a solo marked by constantly interesting combinations of blues phrases and poignant rhythmic variation, definitely an auditory hieroglyph for future generations to dissect and enjoy. Ineke’s probing and resourceful demonstration of cymbal crashes and press rolls and Rob Agerbeek’s surprising mélange of funky blues licks and sneaky dissonant cadenzas, add charm to the group’s take on Some Other Blues. Interesting choice of repertory, presenting further evidence to the well-known fact that, while Dexter Gordon influenced the young John Coltrane, he was also in turn inspired by Coltrane.

Supposedly, Gordon’s vocal performance of Billy Eckstine’s Jelly Jelly was meant as a breather, part hokum, part loose blues exercise. Johnny Mandel’s ballad The Shadow Of Your Smile brings the band back to serious business. At times heartbreaking, Gordon’s melancholic sentences stay close to the tune’s story of doomed love, which was written by Mandel for the movie The Sandpiper. It’s plainly superb. Last but not least, You Stepped Out Of A Dream is hard-driving, the immediate playful variation on the theme by Gordon suave and swinging. Again, Gordon stretches out, crossing the ten minute line, and never a dull moment. Indeed, All Souls captures Long Tall Dex at ease and in top form, and the Dexterity label’s one and only album release is a priceless document.

All Souls is only available on vintage vinyl. It’s about time for a CD and/or vinyl reissue of this important slice of Dexter Gordon and Dutch jazz, 45 years after the fact. Below is the link to Stablemates, released on drummer Eric Ineke’s album from 2017, Let There Be Life, Love And Laughter: Eric Ineke Meets The Tenor Players.

They Got Rhythm

REIN DE GRAAFF TRIO & GIDEON TAZELAAR IN CONCERT – Throughout the 50s and 60s, Haarlem in The Netherlands boasted one of the liveliest jazz scenes in the Dutch jazz landscape, churning out distinctive mainstream jazz players as Cees Smal, Harry Verbeke, Ruud Brink, Fred Leeflang, Ray and Dick Kaart. Drummer Eric Ineke, albeit a prototypical The Hague-ian hardbop cat for decades now, was born and raised in the city that gave its name to the famous cradle of jazz on the north side of Manhattan, New York. Authentic jazz gradually left the grounds of Haarlem, but now the Philharmonie strives to breathe life into the patient, organizing a series of diverse performances at the prestigious hall nearby the Grote Markt in the center of Haarlem. The monicker: Jazz At The Phil. The producer: saxophonist Yuri Honing.

The Rein de Graaff Trio plus a young lion on tenor saxophone, the 21-year old Gideon Tazelaar, kickstart the season into gear. During the season, Yuri Honing will provide short interviews on stage, but the highly acclaimed saxophonist is touring abroad so instead recorded the interview with De Graaff shortly before the event to be shown on the video screen that lights up the venue with a giant portrait of Rein de Graaff and the evening’s theme of ‘Boppin’ And Burnin’. Classy view! Unfortunately, bad sound quality prevents the audience from hearing the bulk of the interview.

No worries, pianist De Graaff, who turns 75 this month, is a seasoned master of ceremonies who introduces each tune in his own sweet, informative and level-headed way: the respectful way a jazz musician should treat its audience. De Graaff, elder European statesman of mainstream jazz who played with myriad legends like Dizzy Gillespie, Teddy Edwards, Hank Mobley, Johnny Griffin and Dexter Gordon, and his two companions, including the equally distinguished Eric Ineke, are crackerjack providers of their customary recipe of ‘bebop, ballads and blues’.

This is the way it goes: beforehand De Graaff and the other gentlemen take a quarter of an hour to pick the tunes they feel inclined to play, easy does it, since the American Songbook has been in their bones for ages, and then some. A deceptively nonchalant method that makes a night of the Rein de Graaff Trio not so much a preservation of the jazz tradition, but more a passing on to the next generation, provided it’s receptive for the challenge. Innovative? Not really, but world-class and always blues-based and swinging. Besides, as De Graaff mentions during one of the audible fragments of the interview, how are you going to develop avant-leaning playing without a secure knowledge of the roots?

It’s the details that reveal the band’s cachet. So then you notice the melodic Q&A’s of Eric Ineke with De Graaff’s long-lined, Hampton Hawes-type story of My Melancholy Baby. And Ineke’s appreciative nods in response to Tazelaar’s high register, edgy wail and quote of Coltrane’s Blue Train during Dexter Gordon’s blues tune Stanley The Steamer. You realize that tenor, bass drum and toms are like brothers and sisters, share a frequency that tonight renders the usual second horn in the classic hard bop format obsolete.

There’s bassist Marius Beets to pay attention to. The successor to Henk Haverhoek and the recently deceased Koos Serierse for almost two decades now, a groover who strives, and most of the time succeeds, to find the right notes to play, the asset that one of his heroes, Ray Brown, is so famous for. And there’s the combined, hard-swinging effort from note one during the opening tune Topsy that must be a warm bath for the young Tazelaar. De Graaff’s poised statements, spiced by risky twists and turns high up the keys, cannot leave Tazelaar unperturbed. Oh, you hear him think, it’s gonna be such a night!

Tazelaar, the outstanding, rapidly developing talent who is currently studying at Juillard in New York City, charms the audience with a full-bodied, smoky sound and an alluring, slightly-behind-the-beat timing, particularly during the quartet’s mellow but driving medium-tempo groove of I Thought About You. He’s been turning into a mature structural improviser and sets fire to Cotton Tail, eating up the I Got Rhythm-changes, unfazed, perhaps stimulated, by the fact that, in 1940, Ben Webster graced the Duke Ellington tune with a stellar, genre-defining solo. Tazelaar’s relaxed posture and sly grin are infectious.

Topsy, Cotton Tail, Embraceable You. And My Melancholy Baby, which, De Graaff remarks, was already played during the ill-fated trip of the Titanic. The Rein de Graaff Trio and Gideon Tazelaar really went way back this evening. The repertory was boppified and burned expertly.

Rein de Graaff Trio & Gideon Tazelaar

Place and date: Philharmonie, Haarlem, October 14, 2017
Line-up: Gideon Tazelaar (tenor saxophone), Rein de Graaff (piano), Marius Beets (bass), Eric Ineke (drums)
Website: Eric Ineke.
Website: Marius Beets.

This Was Buck Hill

RIP BUCK HILL – Like most of tenor saxophonist Buck Hill’s fine accomplishments, the news of his passing also slipped through the cracks. Hill, born in Washington D.C. on February 13, 1927, passed away on March 20 at the age of 90 in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Roger Wendell “Buck” Hill was active from the late forties and played with Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Max Roach. Masters like Sonny Stitt, Milt Jackson and Gene Ammons, when visiting D.C., always asked for Hill to share the stage. At the same time, Hill worked at the US Postal Office and often was referred to as ‘the swinging postman’. He also worked as a cabdriver. A focus on taking care of his family and a strong dislike for traveling kept Hill’s career firmly under the radar. Nevertheless, Hill recorded a number of albums for Steeplechase, Muse and other labels from the late seventies to the ’00s. Hill was an acclaimed sideman with Charlie Byrd in the mid and late fifties (featured on the ’58 and ’59 Riverside albums Byrd’s Word and Byrd In The Wind) and singer Shirley Horn in the eighties and nineties.

From left to right, clockwise: This Is Buck Hill (Steeplechase 1978); Scope (Steeplechase 1979) and Capital Hill (Muse 1989)

His initial albums for Steeplechase, This Is Buck Hill (’78) and Scope (’79), are treasured artifacts for serious mainstream jazz aficionados and typical of Hill’s superb musical vision. On these albums, you’ll find a candid tenorist who tops off his fluent bop phrasing, commanding attack and resonant, clear (Clifford Jordan-ish) sound with edgy, post-boppish lines. Drummer Billy Hart, D.C. native, mentored by Hill and present on both recordings, introduced Hill to Steeplechase’s boss Nils Winther. Bassist Buster Williams and pianist Kenny Barron reflect on Hill’s personality and style in the liner notes of Scope. Williams: ‘A timeless phenomenon. His ideas always sound ageless and his sound is so big and warm.’ Kenny Barron: ‘He is a fantastic horn player. His playing is very steeped in tradition and yet very contemporary. His writing is so fresh that it’s hard to play cliches.’

In the early nineties, Dutch pianist Rein de Graaff, who arranged countless gigs with American legends and contemporary players for his legendary bop lectures and performances throughout the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s, toured and recorded as ‘Tenor Conclave’ with Teddy Edwards, Von Freeman and Buck Hill. De Graaff remembers a tour in 1992 with this stellar line-up as if it was yesterday. ‘Hill was a very accomplished player. Didn’t miss a note. He was still known as ‘the swinging postman’ which was only partly true. By then, he had a job at the office. Hill was a fanatic vegetarian and was constantly commenting on the tastes of Freeman, whose favorite meal was large portions of T-bone steak and cola. He was very down-to-earth and introverted.’

From left to right, clockwise: Tenor Conclave (Sesjun 1992); Uh Huh! Buck Hill Live At Montpellier (Jazzmont 2000) and Relax (Severn 2006)

Drummer Eric Ineke was part of those swinging proceedings. He also played with Hill in 1981 and 1982, when Hill supported Shirley Horn: ‘Shirley Horn called me in ’81 to replace Billy Hart in Loosdrecht. I was immediately impressed by Hill. He swung like mad, had great timing and a big sound. A year later, I did two nice gigs with Hill again in Loosdrecht, the first with Cees Slinger and Fred Pronk, the second with Shirley Horn, on the same evening. Hill was a very nice guy, no-nonsense.’

In short, a highly recommended player in that already very imposing landscape of tenor saxophonists.

Find Hill’s informative obit in The Washington Post here.