Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Piet Kuiters - A True Amsterdammer - 1

( Naar de Nederlandse vertaling.)
Six weeks ago I made a contribution about Piet Kuiters, the rather unknown Dutch jazzmusician, who passed away three years ago. In the NJA-Jazz Bulletin ( Number 57 - October 2005), the magazine of the Dutch Jazz Archive Hans Dulfer remembered him in a contribution simply titled Piet. After I published the contribution Piet Kuiters , Django Kuiters, his son, now living in Oslo - Norway, contacted me and told me that he loved to share his remembrances to his father with the readers of this blog. His contribution was rather extensive and has to be published in two parts: Piet Kuiters - A True Amsterdammer - 1 and Piet Kuiters - A True Amsterdammer - 2. A Dutch translation has been published as Piet Kuiters - Een Echte Amsterdammer - 1 and Piet Kuiters - Een Echte Amsterdammer - 2. Thanks Django for this great homage to your father. Hans Koert -

PIET KUITERS - A True Amsterdammer ( = a true citizen of Amsterdam) by Django Kuiters.

Not forgetting to mention his boogie-woogie playing at the age of seven, growing up between the tables at his grandparents Ice bar in the 30s and 40s in the center of Amsterdam, bebop became Piet's signature style. His playing evolved from jazz/bebop to free jazz, pop and back full circle with bebop again. When contemporary new jazz hit the scene in the 80s, Piet felt it wasn't new at all. He did it all before in the early 60s, being one of the pioneers of The Free Jazz movement in Europe. So to go back to the source became an obvious move for him - always comparing bebop to the greatest of classical music and never growing tired of it. I remember, living as a kid in Prinseneiland in Amsterdam in the 70s, a period where he would soundtrack my childhood scenery, playing on his grand piano. It was truly magical. Although I never learned to play bebop it's in my blood and in my spirit. In the eighties, after the experimentation's and vitality of the 60s and 70s, bebop and Piet Kuiters was a bit lost to the contemporary jazz scene. Piet however, parallel to playing bebop, was always looking for new expressions and found himself behind keyboards in a funk band with singer, front man and guitarist Justin, who was an American / Dutch young super talent living in Amsterdam.
Cover of Piet Kuiters and Free Jazz Inc. ( 45 rpm recording)(1966)

Piet found his way back to the classic bebop and made the record "Roll'm High" with a young Benjamin Herman in 1993. To my disappointment, it didn't capture the essence of Piet's playing, to the fullest. The record has poor sound and a somewhat slobbish character (intending to make it "on the spot", "live", "old time" - to me, just excuses for lack of focus and poor workmanship production wise - in retrospect I wish I had something to say in the process.). It's not all that bad, but I know it could be better. The CD however, put Piet back on the Dutch jazz scene and his "comeback" gave him a spot at the North Sea Jazz festival and also gigs at the Bimhuis etc., with his band. I first heard about the "scandal" at the Bimhuis after his death, where he in the late 90s (I'm not sure of the exact date) in-between sets - drank to much whiskey, ending in falling off the stage on the second set. He continued playing, but from what I heard something vital was all of a sudden taken away from him in that moment. Maybe this was the beginning of the end. I don't know. I've always been loyal to him and although we did not see each other that much, we had continuous contact through phone and email. I had a concert in Norway the day I got the phone call about his illness. I went down to Amsterdam to be with him together with my mother and sister, understanding the seriousness of the situation. Few weeks before, we had talked about how nice it would be with him and me playing together - for the first time!
Piet with Taisen Deshimaru (photo Django Kuiters archive)
In his hospital bed, Piet played his humor act saying theatrically What a wonderful theatre! (refering to life and with his typical "Amsterdam" accent). Three weeks later it was all over. The process and the surroundings: cold hospital walls, the smell of chemistry and death - and the extreme agony and pain Piet had before he died, was unbearable to witness. One day there was some hope and the other day there was just hopelessness - and so it continued for three weeks. The closure of his legacy the days after his death, made me realize how much more I wanted to know him, help him, work with him and be with him. He had had a minor stroke a year before, something they found out at the hospital. We didn't know. Still, his last year was full of hope and flourishing ideas. He had bought himself a new keyboard, he was online with web camera on the internet, had a wonderful apartment located in Reguliersgracht with a balcony overlooking the beautiful canals. He also traveled to Brazil and Portugal and he really was coming on strong with newfound energy. He sounded very optimistic after he had gone through a longer time of depression - due to news of his hepatitis C diagnose. He didn't drink and did a lot of right things for his health for a long time - neutralizing the hepatitis C values. Because of this good news, he decided to celebrate I guess, by drinking again – a lethal move which became his downfall. His immune system collapsed. We also found some hallucinogenic mushrooms in his apartment, so he wasn't as healthy as he should have been the last period (I suspect he thought he was invincible – or could be he was just in denial - still, looking through his drawers - I have never seen so many Chinese herbs and homeopathic drugs ever!). ( to be continued)

Django Kuiters (Oslo - Norway) -

Fragment of a concert registered at the Molde Jazz Festival in Molde (Norway) 1967 featuring Piet Kuiters with John Tchicai and Candentia Nova Danica.

Keep swinging

Hans Koert

Nederlands ( To the English translation )
Zes weken geleden publiceerde ik een bijdrage over Piet Kuiters, de tamelijk onbekend gebleven Nederlandse jazzmuzikant, die drie jaar geleden overleed. In het NJA-Bulletin (nummer 57 - oktober 2005), het blad van het Nederlands Jazzarchief, deelde Hans Dulfer zijn herinneringen in een artikel kortweg Piet getiteld. Nadat ik de bijdrage over Piet Kuiters had gepubliceerd, nam Django Kuiters, zijn zoon, contact met me op. Django woont nu in Oslo - Noorwegen en wilde graag zijn herinneringen aan zijn vader met de lezer van deze blog delen. Zijn bijdrage was van een dergelijke omvang dat ik het in twee delen zal publiceren. De Nederlandse vertaling is getiteld Piet Kuiters - Een Echte Amsterdammer - 1 en het vervolg in Piet Kuiters - Een Echte Amsterdammer - 2.
Hierboven vind je de Engelse vertaling als Piet Kuiters - A True Amsterdammer - 1 en het vervolg Piet Kuiters - A True Amsterdammer - 2.

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