Tenor & Alto Madness

CHARLES MCPHERSON, GRANT STEWART, ALAN SKIDMORE – LIVE

Great weeks for fans of real jazz and sax aficionados in The Lowlands. The English tenor saxophonist Alan Skidmore has been touring the country with the trio of pianist Rein de Graaff, bassist Marius Beets and drummer Eric Ineke. Last chance to see this excellent group also including saxophonists Tineke Postma and Benjamin Herman perform is tonight at The Bimhuis, Amsterdam and tomorrow at Tivoli, Utrecht. On March 8 the 78-year old alto saxophonist Charles McPherson, who has been keeping the flame of bebop burning in a most confident, energetic and excellent way, will be playing at The Bimhuis in Amsterdam. Great gig! McPherson will be assisted by pianist Alberto Palau, bassist Daryll Hall and drummer Stephen Keogh.

And on Monday the 5th of March, tenor saxophonist Grant Stewart will be performing at Murphy’s Law in The Hague. The 46-year old, Canada-born Stewart is one of the most prolific saxophonists of mainstream jazz today. He’s a fixture on the NYC scene and has been performing all around the world. Stewart played and recorded with, among others, Jimmy Cobb, Clark Terry, Louis Hayes, Brad Meldau, Larry Goldings and Eric Alexander.

The concert at Murphy’s Law, organized by Equinox Jazz Productions, starts at 21:00. A rare opportunity to hear one of the best in the business in an intimate setting. Stewart is performing with Dan Nicholas on guitar, Kenji Rabson on bass and Wouter Kühne on drums.

Find Murphy’s Law here
Check out Grant Stewart’s website here.

Rein de Graaff 75

HURRAY – Pianist Rein de Graaff turns 75 years old today on October 24. During a career of 55 years, De Graaff has recorded more than 40 albums. Although the pianist recorded his share of outstanding avant-leaning jazz during the seventies and early eighties with the Rein de Graaff/Dick Vennik Quartet, he’s basically a champion of bebop and hardbop, playing in a style close to Barry Harris, Hampton Hawes, Horace Silver and Sonny Clark. With his Rein de Graaff Trio, the winner of the Boy Edgar Prize and Bird Award accompanied countless American legends like Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt and Johnny Griffin. Many Dutch jazz fans fondly remember De Graaff’s Stoomcursus and Vervolgcursus Bebop from 1986 till 2012. As ‘Professor Bop’, De Graaff organized performances of American legends and unsung heroes as well as contemporary musicians all over The Netherlands, lecturing about the history of bebop and hardbop along the way. Musicians included Teddy Edwards, Lee Konitz, Al Cohn, Jimmy Raney, Charles McPherson, Houston Person, Harold Land, Clifford Jordan, Webster Young, Buck Hill, James Clay, Rene Thomas, Pete Christlieb, Eric Alexander, Vincent Herring, Jarmo Hoogendijk, Benjamin Herman and many, many others.

It’s not for nothing that the American legends and unsung heroes liked the accompaniment of Rein de Graaff. His comprehension of their language is unmatched and he adds typically fluent, sax-like phrasing, laid-back timing and responsive rhythmic variation. Besides, De Graaff is a thorough professional and organizer, which stands him in good stead during cooperations with contemporary colleagues to this day. A talent that might be explained by the fact that, for a big part of his career, De Graaff was also a businessman, running an electro ware wholesale company during the day.

De Graaff holds strong views about his beloved art form, dubbed ‘real’ jazz as opposed to ‘impro’, which may bear beautiful fruit but has nothing to do with the blues-drenched, swinging music that was created by black artists for black audiences, under dubious circumstances that somehow ring through. Circumstances De Graaff has been all too familiar with, sharing the stage of dingy NYC clubs with Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan and Elvin Jones as early as 1967 or sitting in with trumpeter Louis Smith in a rowdy all-black club in Detroit in the early eighties. In the view of the passionate torchbearer of mainstream jazz, this has become an endangered species, virtually extinct, yet the pianist remains on the look out for young lions whose playing retains a sense of the tradition and occasionally performs with the pool of talent still available in The Netherlands. Perhaps the ‘incurable romantic’, in the words of Lee Konitz, secretly hopes ‘real’ jazz will live to see the 22nd century.

Rein de Graaff: ‘Swing has become a dirty word.’ (Flophouse Magazine)

Rein de Graaff: ‘I approach the piano as if it’s a horn.’ (Jazz Journal UK)

Rein de Graaff: ‘The music I play comes from the smoke-filled clubs, where sex often was cheap, and the blues was heard…’ (Flophouse Magazine)

Rein de Graaff: ‘Oscar Peterson is the greatest pianist in the world, but he’s too bloody perfect for me. Boring.’ (Jazz Bulletin)

Rein de Graaff: ‘Evelyn Blakey asked me to open the door. My heart burst out of my chest. There was Hank Mobley. ‘Hi, I’m Hank,’ he said.’ (Flophouse Magazine)

See YouTube footage of Rein de Graaf below:

On fire with Clark Terry in 1975 also including Rogier Vanhaverbeke and Freddie Rottier here.

Boppin’ and burnin’ with his household friend, the bop poet and songwriter Babs Gonzalez in Paris in 1979 here.

Appearing on the Dutch tv show Gedane Zaken with Teddy Edwards in 1986 including Harry Emmery and Eric Ineke here.

An unforgettable performance of Charles McPherson in 1990 also including bassist Koos Serierse and drummer Eric Ineke here.

THE Dutch bop trio accompanying the great clarinet and saxophone player Eddie Daniels in Vrije Geluiden in 1995 here.

Playing Blue Bossa with David “Fathead” Newman and Houston Person in 1998 here.

Rein, Marius Beets, Eric Ineke and Grant Stewart do the wonderful ballad You Go To My Head in 2010 here.

The Rein de Graaff Trio with Gary Smulyan, John Marshall and Benjamin Herman, Charlie Parker’s Ornitology in 2017 here.

For Rein de Graaff’s interview with Flophouse Magazine, go 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.

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.

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.