Friday, July 23, 2010

Johan Bijkerk: Dutch Composer of Suites

Johan Bijkerk: Componist Almelo- en Nice Suite ( Nederlands) Johan Bijkerk: Dutch Composer of Suites (English)

His Almelo Suite and his Nice Suite can hardly fail to impress the listener.
Hans Koert

The Keep Swinging blog loves to point you to neglected jazz musicians or long forgotten records. Today one of the latter: a great album by a Dutch traditional jazz band, The Hot Dogs, featuring Johan Bijkerk at the piano, released by Cat Jazz Records in 1981 as Almelo Suite and Nice Suite (CAT LP-41).

Label of the CAT LP-41. The stamp on the label PBC (Provinciale Bibliotheek Centrale) indicates that this album is a former library copy.

This album seems to be forgotten now, but I remember when it was released in 1981 - the music was "new" and fresh in my ears and, as the liner notes read, both the Almelo Suite and the Nice Suite can hardly fail to impress the listener.
Johan Bijkerk with his inseparable (Earl Hines) sigar. (1980s)

Johan Bijkerk, born in Wolvega, in the northern part of The Netherlands, March 1942, started piano lessons at the age of ten; he became a member of the new-founded Hot Dogs in the 1970s, after some years behind the piano with The Rising Stars ( 1956-1959), The Woodpeckers ( 1959-1962) and the band of Ger Van Son (1963-1966). His first recordings were with The Hot Dogs, like Pig's Feet and Slaw and What's The Matter Now with George Probert on soprano saxophone.
The two suites ( cover LP )( in negative)
In December 1976 a record was made with Jabbo Smith, then 70 years old, during the late 1920s the cornet player of Charlie Johnson, Duke Ellington
and James P. Johnson. On the 24th and 25th of January, 1981 The Hot Dogs visited the studio to record the Almelo Suite and Nice Suite. The band featured: Marc Van Nus on trumpet - Cees Tanger on trombone - Gerrit Molenveld on reeds - Johan Bijkerk at the piano - Johan Molenveld banjo and guitar ( and occasionally drums) - Daan Bouwmeester bass and tuba and trumpet and, last but not least, Jacques Underberg drums. A suite is, as Wim Van Eyle says in the liner notes, a series of character-pieces, impressions if you like. Both Duke Ellington as James P. Johnson were famous composers of jazz suites. I wrote about the latter in Yamekraw - a rhapsody in black and white. A well known Dutch suite is the Zeeland Suite by Leo Cuypers, an original composition, recorded on location, but since the early 1980s new "Dutch" suites were composed and recorded like the Killer Joe Suite by Jan Kuiper ( recorded by the Leo Cuypers Brull Band ( 1984) - the Old Country Suite ( = it âlde lân) by Allard Buwalda, a tribute to Friesland, the region where he was born and the Danzon- and Garnwerd Suite by Joost Swart (dedicated to the Muzikale Zomer Festival in Garnwerd ( Groningen). Johan Bijkerk's Almelo Suite is dedicated to Almelo, a small city in the north-east. Isn't it remarkable that three of the four selected regions are in the north of the Netherlands? - Zeeland seems to be the exception that proves the rule.
Johan Bijkerk ( photo: )

The Almelo suite was inspired by a walk from Johan's house to the centre of the city of Almelo: The Apple Blossom Lane was inspired by an apple tree in the street where Johan lived, De Moskee ( = the Mosque), De Gravenallee - Het Kasteel ( = The castle), Het Kerkplein, De Citypromenade and Het Kolkje; most citizens of Almelo will recognize these spots. The track Mr. Chairman was dedicated to Puck Van Dael, one of the founders of the Almelo Jazz Club who passed away in 1976. The final track of the suite, Deern, ik mag oe so geern ( = Girl, I Love You Madly) is a waltz featuring the Molenveld brothers in a banjo and clarinet solo. Johan Bijkerk shows that he was inspired by pianists like Earl Hines, especially in tracks like Apple Blossom Lane, but also in Les Jardins de Cimiez, one of the tracks of the Nice Suite. He visited Nice in 1977 to join its annual jazz festival and in Les Jardins de Cimiez he heard the 75-years old Earl Hines in concert. Eubie Blake and Doc Cheatman performed in Les Arènes de Cimiez, which inspired Bijkerk to write the tune entitled like this venue with Marc Van Nus on trumpet. Other tracks of the suite are Le Boulevard, La Plage et la Mer ( = the beach and the sea), Jitterbug ( dedicated to a dance group at the festival) - Hotel Négresco, Charmantes et revissantes ( This time dedicated to the French women) and Au Marché de Nice.

This album is one of those records that sound fresh and transparent to me, thanks to the arangements using very diverge instruments like sousaphone and banjo or trombone and recorder. Johan Bijkerk is a creative composers who is fascinated by the great stride piano players like Fats Waller ( His Fats Waller memorials in Almelo during the 1970s were memorial events) and Earl Hines, but also loves to touch the more modern jazz styles. This album is still available, Johan Molenveld told me, and he can tell you how to order a copy. Johan Bijkerk is still active in muisc and made some more suites, like the Portugal Suite and the Breda Suite: He did record the Twente Suite (1996) and the Jazz Suite Foar Fryslân (2000) with his Twents Connection, but the Surinam Suite, announced in the liner notes of the Cat album seems to be never released. Bijkerk made one more album, with The Hot Dogs entitled Hot Stomping Jazz From Holland released on the Stomp Off label with Red Hot Mama Victoria Varekamp ( 1982)) and in the 1990s he released a record with cornet player Bob Barnard recorded in Stockholm ( Sweden). In 2006 a 2CD set with private recordings from the 1971-2006 period was released, featuring historical recordings with Jabbo Smith, Albert Nicholas and the Fats Waller memorials. Hope to have this 2CD set once in my collection.
Hans Koert

It must have been one of the last LPs I bought in the post-LP period. During the 1980s I sold all my 33rpm recordings as new modern techniques like digital records promised better sounds ..... and all analog albums would be digitalized once. Well, it seems that each person has his weak moments during lifetime, so I have to live with that. Now, thirthy years later, I've learned that not all valuable records are reissued, so, my collection of LPs is growing again..... I played the Almelo- en Nice Suite composed by the piano player of The Almelo Hot Dogs: Johan Bijkerk. I remember how it surprised me ( and the Dutch Traditional Jazz scene) thirty years ago and felt the same excitement playing it last month .... Keep Swinging loves to share this feeling, and if you won't miss it, feel free to ask for its news letter or write me a personal message.

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