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Jazz Piano Continued

wed 19 jul 2023
Theme: Jazz

Saturday July 22nd, 8:00 PM – Piano Jazz.

From now on, the programming and presentation of Piano Jazz will be in the hands of Robert Vermeulen** (photo). He succeeds Tilmar Junius, who recently passed away.His debut programme continues the familiar formula: spotlight on the piano, both solo and in larger ensembles, from 20th century to contemporary – with ample attention for Dutch pianists. Today’s ten pieces span a time arc from Duke Ellington (1953) to Guus Janssen (2019).

The cheerful, ‘playful’ opening has been attributed to Duke Ellington. The pianist Ellington is less well known than the composer and bandleader. In 1944 he composed Dancers in Love, a miniature lasting less than two minutes. Ellington played it solo, but also in duo and trio formations. He kept it in his repertoire for decades, often as an encore at concerts. The audience was then allowed to participate by snapping their fingers. In a short passage in Dancers in Love he also demonstrated that he is a skilled stride pianist, which can be found on The Duke Plays Ellington (Capitol 1953). Anyone who wants to get to know the pianist Ellington better after these two minutes should listen to the album Money Jungle from 1963. Ellington plays his own compositions in a trio, assisted by none other than bassist Charles Mingus and drummer Max Roach.

New Orleans-based pianist/singer Henry Butler (1948-2018) is a stylistic phenomenon. In his piano playing you can recognize blues, jazz, R&B, pop, gospel and even classical tropes. Take a few samples from his gigantic oeuvre, and you will be amazed. San Francisco Blues has a 16-mode blues shape, with a middle section. His piano playing is extremely ‘groomed’, as if it were the performance of a score that has been studied for a long time. He likes a solid, long-running bass line. Above that, the melody in the high register and accompaniment figures in the middle area alternate. Just past the middle, he enters the B part twice, getting softer – a nuance that you don’t often hear from blue pianists. The piece is on his album Blues & More, Vol. 1.

(Note: Butler was blind, but also worked as a photographer.)

For pianist/composer Herbie Nichols (1919-1963), appreciation only started after his death. His music was seen as ‘difficult’, not comparable to anything, not easily accessible. He only came into the picture in the 1980s. In the Netherlands he was embraced by the Instant Composers Pool, by performers like Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink. He is one of Guus Janssen’s favourites. In 2019 Janssen gave a house concert in an Arnhem living room, together with percussionist Wim Janssen. It is no coincidence that the resulting CD opens with Nichols’ House Party Starting. Nichols recorded it in 1955, with bassist Al McKibbon and drummer Max Roach. And guess what? The Janssens play Nichols’ version, including the improvisation part, practically note for note, with small variations here and there. What a tribute! The title of the CD is Home made music, released on the Geestgronden label.

Details of the programme in the Guide.

**Robert Vermeulen (1957) studied jazz piano in The Hague, and continued his studies with Kenny Werner and Barry Harris in New York. His piano trio accompanies Americans, including Chet Baker, Herb Geller and Tom Harrel. With his Amsterdam Jazz Quintet he can be heard on the CD Playground, with singer Fay Claassen. In 2003 he founded the quartet Ugly Beauty, for whom the music of Thelonious Monk is central . With saxophonist Frans Vermeerssen he started the Talking Cows quartet, a successful group that produces three CDs and tours both inside and outside Europe. Robert Vermeulen has been teaching piano since 1984 (Jazz&Pop) at the Artez Hogeschool in Arnhem.