Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Willem Breuker ( 1944-2010): Creator of Men's Music

Willem Breuker (1944-2010) - maker van mensenmuziek ( Nederlands) Willem Breuker (1944-2010): Creator of Men's Music (English)

We don't make idiot's music
Hans Koert

Friday the 23rd of July 2010: A sad day for the world jazz scene .......... Willem Breuker, composer of Mensenmuziek ( = Men's Music), reeds player and band leader has passed away aged 65 years old.

Willem Breuker ( 1944-2010)

Willem Breuker, born in Amsterdam November 1944, was one of the founders of the Instant Composers Pool, a group of musicians that loved to play improvised music. He was active in numerous cultural organizations and won numerous polls during the 1960s in the Dutch Jazz magazine De Jazzwereld. He played his part in the European free jazz movements with musicians like Gunter Hampel, Peter Brötzman and Alexander Von Schlippenbach. Mid 1970s he broke with the ICP and started his own orchestra, the Willem Breuker Kollektief. Now he could play the music he liked - a dream came true. He hated the popular three-chords-songs he heard on radio and tv: Er wordt al genoeg debielenmuziek gemaakt ( = We don't have to make that idiot's music). This orchestra, eleven men and women, made hundreds of records during the more then 35 years they played together and toured all over the world. I'm sure they must have been the best known Dutch jazz band in other parts of the world, even better known then our Dutch 20th century Jazz Ambassadors, the Dutch Swing College Band.

It's almost impossible to sum up here in a few lines his important role in the modern music - I'm sure that you can find that in a lot of other articles. The music he recorded and arranged for his Kollektief always surprised, made people smile or brought people in a state of confusion. A few years ago the continued existence of the band was discussed and Breuker and his men ( and its numerous fans) were shocked. It hurt!
The eight o'clock news informed the Dutch people about the dead of Willem Breuker last Friday. Although the spoken commends are in Dutch, the film gives some great musical fragments.

As a teenager I joined concerts by Nieuwe Muziek in Middelburg, where he was one of the regular visitors with the Instant Composers Pool featuring musicians like Han Bennink, Maarten Van Regteren Altena, Leo Cuypers and Willem Van Maanen ( to list some). For a young country boy these concerts introduced me to the world of jazz as played in the Randstad, the large cities in the west of the country, like Amsterdam: the place to be! Willem Breuker's music developed from free jazz ( Piep-Knars-Knor music as his opposites called it) into improvised music, which was labeled as the New Dutch Swing. ( Jazz + Classical Music + Absurdism = New Dutch Swing ) ( title of a book written by Kevin Whitehead).

Poster for Nieuwe Muziek ( January 1974) (collection Zeeuwse Beeldbank)

I remember that Breuker surprised us in a 1990s concert at the Doelenplein in Rotterdam with his Kollektief featuring Toby Rix as a special guest and at the Breda Jazz Festival, a dozen years ago, where he accompanied the Dutch vocalist Greetje Kauffeld. Although the Breda Jazz Festival was known as a Traditional Jazz Festival, I don't remember this concert as a provocation - Breuker knew how to play the old masters .... in his own unique style. I wrote about this before in a contribution entitled Willem Breuker: Back in Time.

Enjoy one of those typically Willem Breuker performances playing the Kurt Weill's Mandelay Song:

One of my first CDs was Metropolis, a compilation of Modern Music, and this selection shows the diversity of styles, so typically for Breuker: Music from Ferde Grofé ( Metropolis), Kurt Weill ( Dance of the Tumblers), Ennio Morricone (Chi Mai), Josef Haydn ( Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra), Vincent Youmans ( I Want To Be Happy), Hugo Wolf ( Was soll der Zorn, Mein Schatz) and, of course, some of his own compositions ( IJzing wekkend winterverhaal and Spanish Wells). Especially his arrangement of Metropolis still fascinates me. Breuker is a versatile and over keen composer for all kinds of projects. I love his film music he wrote for Johan Van Der Keuken, a famous Dutch filmmaker with documentaries like On Animal Locomotion ( 1994), Flat Jungle ( 1978), The New Ice Age ( 1974) and The Master and the Giant (1980).

Het Kollektief
Love to share with you a small interview with Willem Breuker, where he tells about the realisation of his composition Hapsap. It's a fragment of a French documenary ( subtitles in French) entitled Amsterdammed Jazz.

Willem Breuker in the 1980s.
A few years ago bad news reached us. Willem Breuker had learned that, due to a new policy on subsidies, his Willem Breuker Kollektief wasn't eligible for subsidy anymore. This could become the end of the orchestra. Willem Breuker got more sad news, that he suffered from lung cancer, and although he still performed again now and then, the cancer proved fatal to him. He passed away 65 years old.

Het Willem Breuker Kollektief
Love to finish this small homage to Willem Breuker with a small fragment of the end of a concert for a German TV-station ( ZDF), in which you can see how Breuker pokes fun at the audience set in his ways. Enjoy it .......... ( sorry, but the quality is rather moderate).

Hans Koert

Last weekend one of the leading Dutch jazzmusicians of Europe and its surroundings passed away. Maybe I should change the word jazz as this flag doesn't cover the cargo - his music couldn't be pigeon-holed that easy; he was a creator of Mensenmuziek ( = Men's Music.). He founded his Kollektief more then 35 years ago to play his own music as a counterbalance to the popular music, idiot's music, he called it, radio and tv offered mankind. His music developed from free jazz ( labeled by opponents as Piep-Knars-Knor music) into the so-called improvised music or New Dutch Swing. His concerts surprised or shocked, but the audience always left with a smile on its face. The Keep Swinging blog loves to share its fascination for jazz and jazz related subjects - if you love to follow it ask for its newsletter.

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