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Eric Ineke: Surveying the European Jazz Scene

Victor L. Schermer By

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AAJ: Did you socialize with them?

EI: Dexter and I hung out at my house and we talked about books, He loved Somerset Maugham's novels. Dexter was always a real gentleman. Johnny Griffin was a very uplifting person and a lot of fun. Johnny and I talked a lot about Philly Joe Jones.

AAJ: Did you see the film, Round Midnight, where Dexter played the leading role?

EI: That was the best jazz movie I ever saw.

AAJ: Dexter plays a composite of Bud Powell and Lester Young. Do you think that film was true to life?

EI: In my opinion, Dexter played himself in the film, even though he was playing the part of someone else. He was just like that in real life, when he was in my house, and when we were on the road. That was just the way he was. He totally played himself.

AAJ: The movie shows the troubles some of the expatriate musicians like Dexter, Bud Powell, Ben Webster, and others had in Europe. They had problems with drugs and alcohol, money, relationships, and so on. By the way, did you know Ben Webster?

EI: Yes, I played with Ben Webster a few times. He liked what we did, and we worked well together. I loved working with him. But we didn't socialize like I did with Dexter. That was in 1972. One concert we did was taped for the archives of that club and was later released on LP: Ben Webster: in Hothouse (Vertigo, 1979). Only one tune survived on a CD compilation, Ben Webster 100 years: The Brute and The Beautiful (Storyville Records, 2009). The pianist on that track was the late great Tete Montoliou from Spain and the bassist was from Holland, the late Rob Langereis.

AAJ: Am I right that in your latest recording, Let There Be Life, Love, and Laughter (DayBreak, 2017), on the tune, "Body and Soul," Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis could have been mistaken for Ben Webster?

EI: Yes, I hear Ben Webster in that track, and I also hear a bit of Coleman Hawkins there.

AAJ: What did you take as a musician and a person from these legendary players?

EI: They gave me confidence!

AAJ: Dave Liebman says that when you play, you have to be the "king of the hill." Is that what you mean?

EI: (Laughter). Yes! Right!

AAJ: Drummer Victor Lewis told me that trumpeter Woody Shaw did that for him. When Victor was starting out and got his first gig with Woody, Shaw shook him up and made him play like his life was at stake!

EI: Yes. That's what I mean. I learned from guys like Dexter, Johnny Griffin, and George Coleman, how to play in such a way that the music starts flying! And then it's like you can go on forever!

AAJ: Did that ever happen for you? Like Coltrane could go on forever sometimes.

EI: Yes, when I played with Frank Foster, it was like Coltrane with Elvin. They'd play a tune for 45 minutes or more. For me as a drummer, I love the musical conversations they had. Top level conversations. That's one of the things that I aim for when I play.

AAJ: More recently, you've worked with Deborah Brown, the vocalist from Kansas City who lived in Holland and worked all over Europe for many years.

EI: To me Deborah is one of the greatest and most under-rated jazz singers of all time. I'm so glad to work with her and be her friend. I love her recording, For the Love of Ivy (DayBreak, 2006). And here's a little story for you. Not everyone knows that she sometimes comps herself on the piano! One time, when we were recording that album, she was sitting at the piano, and I asked her to do "Stormy Weather." She knocked the socks out if it! It was so beautiful, I felt like crying.

Jazz Musicians in European Countries

AAJ: Getting back to the current European jazz scene, which countries have the most exciting jazz scenes today?

EI: I have to say my own country, Holland, has a great jazz scene, especially in The Hague. We work hard there to keep to a very high standard of performance.

AAJ: Can you get to The Hague easily from Amsterdam?

EI: Yes, and also from Rotterdam. The Hague is about a half an hour or so by train or car from Amsterdam. So if you're staying there, you can grab a train and come out for one of the shows.

As for the rest of Europe, there is some great, swinging jazz in Italy. Spain has some really great musicians. In Valencia, they have a terrific jazz festival and jazz school. I had a chance to play with some great Spanish players recently. I worked with three great saxophonists: Perico Sambeat, Joan Benavent, and Jesus Santandreu. Santandreu is also a fine composer and arranger. He lived in the U.S. for a while. There are great trumpet players like David Pastor and trombone players like Carlos Martin. Then in Portugal you have some great players, like guitarist Ricardo Pinheiro, Mário Laginha piano, and Massimo Cavalli on bass. Great players in Greece are Dimos Dimitriadis, George Kontrafouris, and Stefanos Andreadis.

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Let There Be Life, Love and Laughter

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