Friday, October 15, 2010

Jan Verwey meets Bert Van Den Brink in Standards & Other Pieces

Jan Verwey ontmoet Bert van den Brink in Standards & Other Pieces (Nederlands) - Jan Verwey meets Bert Van Den Brink in Standards & Other Pieces ( English)

Just sit down and play ...........
Hans Koert

Jan Verwey could never have dreamed to make a record with Bert Van Den Brink, he says in the liner notes of his latest album: A couple of years ago, it would never have entered my mind to ask Bert Van Den Brink to record a session consisting mostly of duets. Now the album Standards & Other Pieces by Jan Verwey and Bert Van Den Brink has been released by Challenge Records on the het Daybreak label ( DBCHR75940)

Jan Verwey in Porgy en Bess (2010) ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

Jan Verwey or Verweij was born in Flushing in the south-west part of The Netherlands on the 24th of February, 1936. As a kid he started to play the harmonica and was, for a short time, a member of a local harmonica club, but stopped after two rehearsals. "It bored me to death; after two rehearsals, I knew all their songs inside out", he said to Jeroen De Valk who wrote the liner notes. He learned to play the chromatic harmonica which is more complex than it looks. Selection from the Zeeuws Dagblad, a local Zeeland news paper ( 4th of April, 1957)
He studied the double bass in the local symphony orchestra, but didn't decide to become a professional - he studied for interior designer and decorator. As a young adult he played the harmonica and had some local fame. In April 1957 he is one of the artists that performed during a charitable evening for the Middelburg Polio funds at a concert organized by d'Oprechte Amateur at the Schuttershofzaal in Middelburg.
Jan Verwey (1992) ( Photo from the Zierikzeese Nieuwsbode of the 21st of October 1992)
The Zeeuws Dagblad wrote: Dat er uit het land achter de Atlantische Oceaan naast bizarre rock 'n rollklanken ook nog wel goede muziek naar de oude wereld overwaait bewees Jan W. Verweij uit Middelburg, die op zijn chromatische mondorgel "Begin the Beguin" (sic) van de bekende ( en goede) Amerikaanse componist Cole Porter bracht. ( = Jan Verweij from Middelburg proved that not only weird rock and roll sounds, but also good music comes from the other side of the Atlantic to the Old World. Jan Verweij played the tune "Begin the Beguin"(sic), composed by the known ( and great) composer Cole Porter on his chromatic harmonica.) ( source: Zeeuwse amateurs bedachten in Middelburg poliofonds - Zeeuws Dagblad 4th of April, 1957). A year later, in May 1959 he was praised because of his exceptional musicality on his chromatic harmonica. ( = Voor de bijzondere muzikaliteit in Hengelo of the d'Oprechte Amateur.)
( source: Middelburgs Kamerkoor gaat te Hengelo Zeeuwse kleuren verdedigen - Zeeuws Dagblad ( 9th of May, 1958))
Bert Van Den Brink ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

Jan didn't become a professional bass player or harmonica player like his Belgian colleague Jean Toots Thielemans. Toots seems to have said to Jan: Ik hou van je spel, omdat je niet als mij wilt klinken. ( = I like your playing, because you don't try to sound like me.) Jan Verwey left his native region of Zeeland and moved to the centre of The Netherlands and became an interior designer. Toots Thielemans moved in the 1950s to the States and started his career in the George Shearing Quintet, where he played the guitar. Jan Verwey had to wait until 1990 before he got some international recognition. He got an invitation to go to the States in 1990 and this tour happened to be a great success - he recorded his first album in the fall of 1990 entitled The Dutch Connection and was invited to play at the North Sea Jazz Festival and at the Celebrations of the Art festival where he played with the bands of guitarist Sal Soghoian and Mo Rolland. He played with pianist Hod O'Brien, who performed with Chet Baker, which was recorded in Monster (Holland) with the Chet Baker - Warne Marsh Quintet (September-October 1984) for Criss Cross Jazz. Jan recorded several records under his own name and in this case the CD You Must Believe In Spring should be mentioned as both Jack Van Poll as Hein Van de Geyn were present during this January 1992 recording ( + John Engels and Angelo Verploegen).
Daybreak DBCHR75940
A few weeks ago Hein Van de Geyn gave his farewell concert at the Porgy en Bess Jazz club in Terneuzen in the south west part of The Netherlands. A hundred dedicated fans of this popular bass player got what they wanted ........ a great concert. During the second set Jack Van Poll, leader of the Jack Van Poll Trio ( featuring himself on the piano, Hein Van de Geyn on bass and Hans Van Oosterhout at the drums) invited musicians in the audience to join the trio for one tune. Two people reported; Jan Verwey and a young boy who loved to have played the drums, but was fully neglected. Jan Verwey joined the trio and played one standard. Later I got into contact with Jan and he pointed me to his latest album: Jan Verwey meets Bert van den Brink ( special guest: Fay Claassen): Standards & Other Pieces.
Hod O'Brien with Jan Verwey (1991)

Two albums Jan recorded make me anxious to hear: The Miles Davis Project ( 1996) and Jan Verwey plays Thelonious Monk ( 2004). Jan's music still seems to develope with the years. Three years ago he made a successful tour along Canada with Jilian Lebeck and Paul Rushka and learned that the audiences enjoyed his harmonica, which sound is much different that the sound of Toots. Toots Thielemans is a lyrical, emotional, inpulsive improviser; Jan has a quiet. thoughtful approach and plays more bebop-oriented lines, Jeroen writes in the liner notes. Mind that now-a-days but few harmonica players are still active in jazz. Toots Thielemans, the nestor of all modern jazz harmonica players ( and still going strong .... ), Hendrik Meurkens, Howard Levy, Jan Verwey and, since a few years, Ronie Verbiest. (Porgy en Bess January 2010)
Bert van den Brink at the keys in Porgy en Bess (photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

Bert van den Brink, as I wrote in a previous blog, was born in July 1958 started his career in the 1980s, first as a classical piano player, later as a jazz pianist. Bert was born blind. His first record was mid 1980s with the Amstel Octet and Chet Baker, but soon he made his own (solo) albums. He performed with some greats in Jazz like Lee Konitz, Toots Thielemans, Nat Adderley, Gino Vanelli and toured with Dee Dee Bridgewater to list some. In 2007 he received the VPRO Boy Edgar Award, the most prestigious Dutch Jazz award.

Jan Verwey with (an up-to-now unknown) pianist.

Jan Verwey invited Bert Van Den Brink, one of those musicians he admires because of the way Bert listens to his fellow musicians and leaps on what he hears. Bert has to, as he is visual disabled. Jan and Bert recorded their album within two days at the Abma Studio in Amsterdam in a small setting. The two days in the studio were pretty relaxed. Jan told Jeroen, Bert and I don't need a rhythm section; we keep time in our heads. They played several tunes, most standards, like Stella By Starlight and How Deep Is The Ocean. On the latter they invited Fay Claassen, one of our most talented Dutch jazz vocalist of the moment. Remarkable is her vocal of Parker's composition Perhaps, which he recorded with his All-Stars in September 1948; Suzie Scraggs-Van de Geyn wrote the lyrics. Fay Claassen, remember her Two Portraits of Chet Baker release, has a great voice and it fits very well to the sound of the two. She also sings We Love Paris, a composition by Jan and Bert and I'm Glad There's You, a song recorded by Jimmy Dorsey in the early 1940s. Personally I like tunes like Dizzy's Groovin' High with its be-bop entry by Jan and the weird, typically bebop solo by Bert which illustrates that Jan and Bert speak the same language. The last tracks are all studio fantasies. It was Bert who suggested to use these extras, free improvisations, labelled in the title as Other Pieces. Just sit down and play ..... These free improvisations can be seen as an extra, and learn, to quote Jan, what kind of session it was.
This album surprised me and it was my first experience with the music of Jan Verwey. A great album for all admirers of the jazz chromatic harmonica played by a skilled improvisator on the harmonica and the unsurpassed soloist at the keys: Bert Van Den Brink. Jan Verwey meets Bert Van Den Brink: Standards & Other Pieces. This record is available at Jan Verwey's website, the site of Challenge records and, of course, at your local jazz record stores.

Hans Koert

Don't think you can learn to play jazz from a manual like How To Improvise For Dummies or something like that. If you want to learn how to improvise you'll have to use your ears to listen to each other and to react on what you hear. Jan Verwey and Bert Van Den Brink know how to do it and proved that on their latest album Jan Verwey meets Bert van den Brink: Standards & Other Pieces. The Keep Swinging blog loves to point you to this kind of records. If you don't want to mis any contribution, ask for its newsletter. It's free !!

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