Photography: Karin van Gilst

The Night Trippers

Trumpeter Ellister van der Molen finally fulfilled her dream of visiting the prominent cradle of jazz, New Orleans. “Being in the jazz business may equate with blood, sweat and tears but it remains a privilege to be a musician, travel some place and fit right in. Especially in New Orleans.”

As the controversial country star-turned-hilarious-mystery-writer Kinky Friedman said about the dead New Yorker: “He’s not really dead, he’s just currently working on another project.” A similar thing could be said about the New Orleanian. His funeral may seem your trial but the next thing you know he’s dancing on the ceiling of his casket.

New Orleans is rhythm, movement, jubilation. In New Orleans, they don’t play a certain genre, they make music. The melting pot of New Orleans has fascinated myriad musicians and music lovers, not least Dutch trumpeter Ellister van der Molen. Last year, Van der Molen and her long-time jazz buddy, pianist and organist Bob Wijnen, spent an exciting week in The Big Easy. NOLA, sophomore effort of their band RED, which also features tenor saxophonist Gideon Tazelaar and drummer Wouter Kühne, was presented on November 28. NOLA comes as a stylish EP-sized book of drawings by Quirine Reijman and includes a hi-res download of the album that was recorded in front of a small live audience at Muziekomroep in Hilversum by Sound Liasion with one mike, which gives it an incredibly transparant and lively analog vibe. The process brings to mind the pioneering “live at the studio club” recordings of Cannonball Adderley. NOLA is an enchanting evocation of New Orleans music culture. Read the review here.

The Hague is the appropriate meeting point for Van der Molen. More specifically, her practice space in the MOOOF building, where she is at ease amidst an off-white grand piano, keyboard and drum kit and original sketches of NOLA’s artwork. And lest we forget, her trumpet and flugelhorn. Too bad the building is turned over to project developers, who will make it into an apartment block of a brand-new yuppie quarter and see to it that every artist has left the premises at the end of this already troublesome year. Van der Molen was born in The Hague and auditioned at the talent faculty of the Conservatory at age 10, playing Moanin’ in duet with her father. Van der Molen chuckles: “I passed on one condition: that I promised not to play jazz anymore!”

She made her mark as a young, prizewinning talent of classical music but after a frustrating period of embouchure problems returned to her first love of jazz under the wings of Hague staples as Simon Rigter and Eric Ineke. She’s a big fan of legends as Clifford Brown, Miles Davis and her mentor Ack van Rooyen. The residential city’s long-standing reputation as (Hard) Bop City #1 has not been lost on Van der Molen. “Evidently, the cliché of The Hague as the mainstream jazz epicenter is the truth. But we shouldn’t forget that it harbors a lot of artists that perform in other styles as well, such as Wolfert Brederode, who is an ECM recording artist. By the way, recently I was featured on The Hague Songbook Exchange on the Challenge label, which linked jazz and electronic artists from The Hague, having them play each other’s compositions. It finds me dangerously close to free form.”

(Clockwise from l. to r: RED: Ellister van der Molen, Gideon Tazelaar, Wouter Kühne and Bob Wijnen; NOLA – Sound Liaison 2020; Ahooo! – RED 2018)

She speaks warmly of life in her hometown. The subject of New Orleans puts a similar twinkle in her eyes. “I had a couple of new projects on my mind; Latin boogaloo and the culture of New Orleans, which I had never been to before. As it happens, the audiophile label Sound Liaison gave me a call, asking if I had any plans, which kind of won me over. I always wanted to go to New Orleans because of its jazz history and its major jazz legends. Teaming up with Bob was perfect. To be honest, I hesitated about traveling down there as a woman on my own. Bob is half-blind, thus would most likely neither gamble on going single. We’ve known each other for so long and are like twins.”

Van der Molen and Wijnen were quick off the mark. “There’s this weekly magazine, Off Beat, which announces every gig in town. We were in New Orleans in November 2019. There’s live music 24/7, mostly concentrated in two or three streets, predominantly Frenchman Street. We saw drummer Herlin Riley at Snug Harbor. We sat in with Delfeayo Marsalis and his big band. And we played with the legendary local hero, drummer Johnny Vidacovich at the Maple Leaf. We went to jam sessions. In New Orleans, it’s rude to refuse to sit in. They’ll say: ‘You play trumpet? Alright, play!’ Of course, there’s the second line of the brass bands, which usually are not announced. You find yourself on a street where everybody is movin’ and groovin’ and dancin’. It starts pleasantly but after a while things tend to turn shady, with joints and booze and such, which usually is the moment to grab a cab to a better neighborhood. Evidently, there’s still a lot of poverty.”

Hurricane Katrina was not only a human disaster but also a blow to cultural life for the simple fact that many musicians were evacuated. But the musical pulse, if anything a message of resilience and hope in the black community, never completely faltered and post-Katrina gradually regained steam. “New Orleans music remains a strange and exhilarating brew. You have brass bands, traditional NO music, dance music, blues, funk, jazz. I have the impression that there’s a lot of overlap. Musicians do not stick to one genre but play in different bands. That’s probably because they have affinity with the tradition, otherwise they would not have been in New Orleans. Without giving a moral judgment, this is opposite to the suit-tie-handclap-tradition and pigeonholes of Europe and New York. In New Orleans everyone mingles. It is a very lively scene.”

Clockwise from l. to r: It Ain’t My Fault; Just A Closer Walk With Thee; Ahooo!)

Van der Molen, a levelheaded woman who sells a minimum of poker-faced funny asides for maximum effect, a balanced and expressive trumpeter and flugelhorn player who emotes with warmth and the profound sound of apricot, peach, tangerine, thoughtfully reflects on NOLA’s list of songs that she picked and arranged in cooperation with Wijnen. “No New Orleans album would be complete without Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, The Meters. We wanted to alternate between straightforward interpretations and more transformative stuff. For me, playing along the structure of the fanfare, this good old-fashioned route of theme, middle-section, modulation, theme and coda paradoxically was very liberating. On the other hand, we re-imagined traditionals like Just A Closer Walk With Me. Our altered chords move along that song’s unique ascending bass line. We were worried if it might be too far-fetched. It turned out alright? Thanks. Then there’s Blues My Naughtie Sweetie Gives To Me, with the literal chord sequence but a change of rhythm. We were not familiar with It Ain’t My Fault. Everybody was playing it, night after night. Apparently, this tune of drummer Smokey Johnson, one of the legendary local heroes, is a Mardi Gras hit. This kind of summed up the trip for me.”

“You’ll notice, at the end of the booklet, there’s a drawing of a cab driver. That is a reflection of my original composition Ahooo! – which is sort of my own way of saying ‘see you later!’ – and our homebound trip to the airport. We were just chatting with the taxi driver and asked if he played music as well. ‘Yeah’, he said, ‘I rap.’ So we said, ‘Won’t you please let us hear something?!’ Off he went into a supple free style flow on a beat from his deck. I really love the image Quirine made from our personal photo album. The concept of the rear-view mirror especially. It does not only reflect the end of the trip but is a metaphor for our band RED as well. We started this thing with Ahooo! three years ago. It has been a great journey but I feel that nowadays we play better than ever. The juices flow, we’re comfortable with one another. It’s a great feeling.”

Ellister van der Molen

The Hague-based Ellister van der Molen is one of the country’s outstanding trumpet and flugelhorn players. She plays in a variety of settings, from soul-jazz outfit RED to her modern jazz groups of Ellister van der Molen Trio/Quartet/Quintet to the Latin/West African-tinged Modji. She is trumpeter in the Jazz Orchestra Of The Concertgebouw, Glenn Miller Orchestra and Dublin Jazz Orchestra. Van der Molen played with Rein de Graaff, Eric Ineke, Ack van Rooyen, Benjamin Herman, Sam Most, Tiny Thompson, Suzan Veneman and Peter Beets, among others.

Selected discography:

Triplicate, Three And One (Self-released 2012)
Ellister van der Molen, Smalls NYC (2014)
New York Round Midnight, New York Round Midnight (Maxanter 2015)
RED, Ahooo!!! (2018)
RED, NOLA (2020)

Bob Wijnen is a mainstay on the Hague scene and sought-after pianist and organist in various modern jazz settings. Check out his record as a leader NY Unforseen with guitarist Peter Bernstein, bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Billy Drummond here.

Go to RED here.

Find NOLA on Sound Liaison here.

RED NOLA (Sound Liaison 2020)

NEW RELEASE – RED

NOLA is one step further in the remarkable development of soul jazz outfit RED.

RED-NOLA-cover © De Zagerij ontwerpbureau

 

Personnel

Ellister van der Molen (trumpet), Gideon Tazelaar (tenor saxophone), Bob Wijnen (organ), Wouter Kühne (drums)

Recorded

in 2020 at Muziekcentrum van de Omroep in Hilversum

Released

as Sound Liaison download in 2020

Track listing

Art
It Ain’t My Fault
St. James Infirmary
Blues My Naughtie Sweetie Gives To Me
Sola
Just A Closer Walk With Thee
Tom Cat Blues
Monkey Puzzle
That’s A Plenty
Ahooo!


Black is the color of my true love’s hair… but red is the color of passion, wild roses, wine wine wine spo-dee-o-dee and the glow of the red-light district… RED, the band of trumpeter Ellister van der Molen, organist Bob Wijnen, tenor saxophonist Gideon Tazelaar and drummer Wouter Kühne, buoyantly evokes the spirit of New Orleans, cradle of jazz, art form born out of sleaze, resilience and the blues on NOLA, RED’s follow-up to 2018’s debut album Ahooo!. It delivers on the promise of RED’s promotional motto of ‘vibrant, uplifting’ jazz.

Van der Molen and Wijnen spent one week in The Big Easy in November 2019 and have turned their experience into song. The album, which comes in a stylish EP-sized package of drawings by Quirine Reijman with enclosed hi-res download by audiophile label Sound Liaison, was recorded in front of a live audience at Muziekcentrum van de Omroep in Hilversum. Killer vintage sound and atmosphere that makes momma Van Gelder proud.

RED feeds off legends Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, James Black and The Meters with various interesting approaches, turning in the restrained march of St. James Infirmary that features joyful muted trumpet, a modernized Blues My Naughtie Sweetie Gives To Me reminding us of the minor-keyed Jazz Messengers gems and the party-hardy Tom Cat Blues. Furthermore, the traditional Just A Closer Walk With Thee has an intriguing modal feel and a maximum of ‘ton-sûr-ton’ coloring.

The band delights in funk jazz, Latin tinges and the original Van der Molen ballad, Sola, which translates as ‘lonely’. Van der Molen’s attempt, through lyrical blue-isms and crystalline, outgoing high notes, as a contemplation on both the melancholic and purifying aspects of loneliness, is highly engaging and successful. In her own words, ‘a real tearjerker’. Ain’t that the truth!

Good vibrations have been at the core of RED’s personality from its inception in 2017 but NOLA signifies a maturity arguably heretofore absent. Tazelaar’s pleasantly languid beat is reminiscent of the old tenor masters and his contributions are playful and marked by surprising tranquility. His full and warm tone matches well with Van der Molen’s sweet-sour sound and both revel in the company of the spirited Kühne and Wijnen, who slaughters a couple of turkeys with spirited and well-developed single Hammond organ lines. Wijnen’s concise solo intermezzo’s between songs heighten the tension of the main course.

Strong effort reminding us of the miraculous melting pot legacy of New’Awlins.

Check out the website of RED and find NOLA here.

George Coleman - Amsterdam After Dark

George Coleman Amsterdam After Dark (Timeless 1979)

Leadership came late to George Coleman but he seized the opportunity with both hands.

George Coleman - Amsterdam After Dark

Personnel

George Coleman (tenor saxophone), Hilton Ruiz (piano), Sam Jones (bas), Billy Higgins (drums)

Recorded

on December 11 1978 at Sound Ideas Studio, New York City

Released

as SJP 129 in 1979

Track listing

Side A:
Amsterdam After Dark
New Arrival
Lo-Joe
Side B:
Autumn In New York
Apache Dance
Blondie’s Waltz


Amsterdam after dark, like many virus-ridden cities around the globe, has been looking pretty deserted these months. But it’s looking up these days as well, certainly by day, as life resumes a bit of its ‘normal’ course, at least for now, and people start roaming the streets again under the Spring sun. Well-deserved but our capital city looked stunningly beautiful without the crowd. One of the personal advantages in this general situation of misfortune has been that my fate – more precisely part of my work – has send me on the road, or better said, on the canals, which unfolded themselves in front of me like a painting of Jacob van Campen or the meandering miracle lines of Parker’s Ornitology. Even better still, Amsterdam seems to feel pretty swell. A short while ago it resembled a tiger in the zoo sauntering psychotically from one end to the other end of the cage, being gazed at enthusiastically by passersby but forgotten shortly after. Now it’s a sloth, idly hanging in a tree, scratching his armpits and taking a deep sigh of relief.

The beauty of nocturnal life in Holland’s capital city presumably was on the mind of tenor saxophonist George Coleman, who recorded his second LP as a leader, Amsterdam After Dark, in New York City – born New Amsterdam – but had been a respected guest of the Dutch scene in the late seventies. Like many of the great American modern jazz musicians such as Don Byas, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Benny Bailey, you name ‘m, Coleman was enamored of The Netherlands, which at the time had a very extensive infrastructure of little towns and clubs and an appreciative jazz audience.

Amsterdam After Dark was recorded in 1978, your a-typical Flophouse review year, in fact a ‘first’ and most likely a ‘last’, but the exception had to be made for George Coleman, who should’ve recorded as a leader much earlier in his career, but rather inexplicably, considering his talent and reputation, enjoyed a belated debut release in 1977. The Timeless label from The Netherlands, responsible for Amsterdam After Dark, released ’77’s Meditation, a daring duet with the Spanish pianist Tete Montoliu, recorded while on tour in Europe.

Obviously, Coleman is best known for his association with Miles Davis, who recruited the tenor saxophonist in 1963 as part of his stellar band of young lions – Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. Coleman appeared on Seven Steps To Heaven and a series of stellar live albums, notably Four & More. Allegedly, Coleman was driven away by Tony Williams, who expressed the opinion that Coleman’s style lacked edge. I wonder then why did Williams agree with the inclusion of Coleman in the first place? By the way, Coleman later said that he wasn’t aware of Williams’ grudge and that it was the meager salary of the Miles Davis band that accounted for his notice. Fact is Coleman certainly was able to rip and roar around the Ring of Saturn but more than anything is a player of balance, substance and controlled fury and evidently couldn’t be bothered with the frenzied revolutionary musical spark of the late sixties, which probably accounts for his lack of exposure.

He’s one of those supreme musician’s musicians like Hank Mobley or Warne Marsh, which perhaps for the musicians concerned is more a curse than a blessing. He’s “Big G”, a passionate weight lifter, 85 years old and a staple of the New York City scene, a big influence on contemporary top guns like Eric Alexander and our own Ben van den Dungen. The Memphis-born saxophonist, childhood friend of the late Harold Mabern, Booker Little, Frank Strozier, Charles Lloyd and Hank Crawford, quite a bunch, recorded as recently as 2019, The Quartet, with Mabern, bassist Jon Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth.

Coleman, who apprenticed with Ray Charles and B.B. King, came into prominence with Slide Hampton and Max Roach in the late 50’s. Apart from his work with Miles Davis, Coleman is admired for his contribution to Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage, which was recorded, by the way, with Miles Davis staples Ron Carter and, hmmm… Tony Williams. Coleman furthermore divided his time between cutting edge and roots music, appearing on records by organists Jimmy Smith, Reuben Wilson, Charles Earland, Don Patterson, Brother Jack McDuff, Shirley Scott and Brian Charette. That’s a lot of groove, buster.

There’s a good groove on Amsterdam After Dark, but it’s of a different nature. It’s layered. There’s the Latin-ish rhythm of the title track, a rhythm that goes back to the classic Blue Note sessions of the early 60s, in which the drummer on this record, Billy Higgins, was predominantly involved. Of course, the Latin influence has pervaded jazz from the start. Jelly Roll Morton stated that every jazz tune needed a Spanish tinge. There’s the Coltrane Quartet-drone of New Arrival, courtesy of Higgins and bassist Sam Jones. The melodies are fantastic and the organic mingling of melody and rhythm – breaks, stop-time, straight swing – of Coleman’s Apache Dance is particularly exciting. Pianist Hilton Ruiz, in top form, warms to the challenge.

Coleman’s Amsterdam After Dark tune is a crash course in storytelling but dangerous to try at home, a precisely articulated development from a gravely introduction, sly staccato stabs against the beat and whirling sentences that sustain momentum throughout, interspersed with pungent circular breathing. The introduction is notable. The sandpaper semi-tone, reflective of the intense and secretive whispers that lovers are prone to utter, makes you highly curious of things to come. Simple but effective and definitely a masterstroke.

Dutch young lion Gideon Tazelaar, 22-year old tenor saxophonist who resides in New York most of the time and is influenced by George Coleman, told me a little story recently during an interview for another publication that is so typical of the attitude and energy of the ‘old guard’. As it happens, Tazelaar was introduced to Coleman backstage at club Smoke and since then has followed weekly lessons at ‘Big G”s place, marathon sessions of playing, talking turkey and philosophizing. One day Tazelaar was gigging at a little place with his friend Felix Moseholm and the preceding afternoon had asked Coleman to join forces. Yeah why not. Coleman had to pass as a result of a pain in his back. However, when the lights had turned low downtown, the 85-year old saxophonist finally did turn up, cain in his right hand, case in his left hand. And, as per se, played as elegantly and balanced as ever. Taking care of business.

One of the big leaders in his own right.

Serious Fun

PETER GUIDI – Flutist, saxophonist, teacher and bandleader Peter Guidi sadly passed away on April 17. Besides being a regular performer on the European circuit, Guidi has been a driving force in the Dutch landscape as head of the jazz department of the Amsterdamse Muziekschool and bandleader of numerous prizewinning youth orchestras such as Jazzmania Big Band. Many of the children that Guidi teached have gone on to become accomplished professional musicians. And, lest we forget, young talents that have opted for a civilian career instead of jazz music have experienced unforgettable life lessons from the passionate, firm but fair Scottish-Italian resident of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Strikingly, ex-pupils always speak with a lot of admiration and fondness of their former mentor.

I met with Peter for our interview last June. Guidi was a connoisseur of jazz history and a zealous fan of hard bop, which for him was a fundamental force in jazz: accessible, bluesy but clever, the one genre that possesses the capacity to capture audiences, lure beginners into the jazz realm and satisfy talented young lions. Guidi was enthusiastic, generous, energetic and only deafening church bells would’ve been able to stop the flow of uplifting jazz talk. Guidi’s motto was: jazz, like life, is fun, but serious fun. I enclosed the interview here.

The Dutch National Jazz Archive interviewed Peter Guidi for its lovely, enlightening series of interviews Jazzhelden. Dutch language speakers only. See here.

Last week it was communicated that Guidi was seriously ill. The following day, a large group of students and ex-students performed in front of Guidi’s apartment in Amsterdam’s De Pijp neighborhood. See the reportage of the touching event on AT5 here.

Peter Guidi was 68 years old.

Red Ahooo! (Red 001)

NEW RELEASE – RED

Ahooo! is the buoyant debut album of Red, a groove jazz outfit that swings the ol’American way.

Red - Ahooo!

Personnel

Ellister van der Molen (trumpet, flugelhorn), Gideon Tazelaar (tenor saxophone), Bob Wijnen (organ), Wouter Kühne (drums)

Recorded

in 2017 at Studio Smederij

Released

as Red 001 in 2017

Track listing

Mr. Feelgood
Toi Toi Moi
Delegatrix
DTR/Stardust
Just What The Doctor Ordered
The Red One
Big “P”
Ahooo!


When asked about his style, cellist Tristan Honsinger said, ‘I’m not playing me, I’m playing us.’ A very wise statement. Although she’s in a totally different musical zone, it can be readily applied to Ellister van der Molen. The Dutch trumpeter, engaged in bop, hard bop, Latin jazz, even Dixieland, has a lot working for her, not least a consuming passion for that tradition. She’s part of the group Red, collaborating with her longtime companion from The Hague, pianist/organist Bob Wijnen, tenor saxophonist Gideon Tazelaar and drummer Wouter Kühne. Red presents the kind of accessible, foot-tapping organ combo jazz that was such a prevalent entertaining force in the sixties. Its update for the 21st century is fresh, energetic, a lurid and clever hodgepodge of funky thickness and tart soul jazz uplifting enough to transform any self-respecting couch potato into Swivel Hips. Hey, it’s Mr. Swivel Hips to you.

There’s more to it than just groove. The fluently swinging Van der Molen tune Delegatrix has the trumpeter crossing the Mason-Dixie line to shake hands with the post bop boys of Blue Note in the mid-sixties. Her placing of notes is sparse and intriguing, the ending of her solo an enthusiastic question for Tazelaar to answer. Van der Molen wrote DTR to segue into Stardust. Van der Molen’s crystalline sound topped with a side of huskiness, with tinges of Farmer, Terry, Morgan, is featured in the former, Gideon Tazelaar’s smoky phrases are featured in the latter. They share a sophistication that runs through the whole down-home program, that consists of bashful flagwavers like Van der Molen’s Mr. Feelgood, Wijnen’s The Red One, nifty funk jazz as Van der Molen’s Toi Toi Moi and Wijnen’s Just What The Doctor Ordered.

Jimmy Heath’s Big “P” brings the group into the realm of classic mainstream jazz. Twenty-year old Gideon Tazelaar, dubbed ‘a young man with an old soul’ by the Dutch bop piano master Rein de Graaff, builds a sweeping solo from a sassy entrance and takes part in an upheaving section of simultaneous improvisation with Van der Molen. Wijnen’s statements are precise and audacious, a highlight in an altogether saucy and dynamic rendering of Hammond accompaniment.

Ahooo!, the title track, is an exuberant, funky showstopper. Built on a foundation of rousing figures on the snare drum, the group is rejoicing, like a bunch of old friends out on the weekend. There’s a jubilant aspect to Van der Molen’s style in general, certainly not blood-red, more the red of strawberries and the hearts that kids draw.

Buy Ahooo! here.
Check out Ellister van der Molen’s website here.

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.

Guido Tazelaar

Gideon’s Bible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gideon Tazelaar

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

Check out Gideon Tazelaar’s website here.