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Eric Ineke: Surveying the European Jazz Scene

Victor L. Schermer By

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AAJ: In the U.S. there's more diversity of players than there used to be: more women more different ethnic groups and nationalities. Is that also true in Europe?

EI: Yes. We have many more women coming up.

AAJ: In Philadelphia, we have some young players from South Korea, where there is a significant jazz scene.

EI: Yes, we have some students from there.

AAJ: Do you ever teach elsewhere than Holland?

EI: Since 2013 I have been involved in the Erasmus exchange program for students and faculty in different European countries. So far, I have been doing regular master classes about bebop and hard bop in Finland, Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Ireland.

AAJ: Have you worked in England?

EI: In April, I did the late night show at Ronnie Scott's with Ofer Landsberg, an Israeli guitarist who lives in London. He reminds me of Barney Kessel and Rene Thomas. The pianist was Alex Bryson, a young guy who plays great bebop, a great young bassist from Italy, Dario Di Lecce who lives in London, and a great tenor player by the name of Alex Garnett. There are some great trumpet players like Nick Smart and Gerard Presencser. And of course from the older generation, there's Alan Skidmore, tenor sax, and the great alto player, Peter King. And let's not forget the incredible legendary tenor player Tubby Hayes who passed away in 1973 and was without doubt one of British greatest talents. The same can be said of the great trumpeter Kenny Wheeler who died in 2014.

AAJ: I'm surprised that you haven't mentioned Germany, Norway, or Sweden at all.

EI: I don't know a lot about Norway, except that there's the ECM scene. The ECM record label is stimulating the avant-garde all around Europe. People like Jan Garbarek, tenor sax, Bobo Stenson, piano, Jon Christensen, drums, and bassist Arild Andersen were more or less the founding fathers of the Nordic ECM sound with its producer Manfred Eicher. There are some great players in Germany: drummer Joachim Ruckert, trumpeter Till Bronner and Paul Heller, a great tenor player.

AAJ: I understand they have some terrific jazz radio stations in Germany.

EI: Yes, WDR [Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln -Eds.] in Cologne. They are one of the stations that still have their own house band.

AAJ: What about jazz festivals?

EI: The North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam has been wonderful over the years, but unfortunately, like many of the festivals, the program has less jazz and more pop music now. It's all about the money! The producers want 30,000 people to attend! A few years ago, Barry Harris performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival, and he said they should take word "jazz" off the name and call it a music festival! For me, I would love to see some smaller real jazz festivals, with guys from the New York scene, like at Smalls Club, cats like Grant Stewart and Eric Alexander. In Los Angeles, there's a great saxophonist named Doug Webb. There's drummer Joe La Barbera. Let's bring them here. We could have a great jazz festival with all the great players from Europe, America, Japan, and so on.

AAJ: Everything is money-driven these days.

EI: That's right! I played thrity-four times at the North Sea Jazz Festival. When it started in the 1970s, the whole jazz scene was there! But when the organizer, Paul Acket died, the jazz spirit left, and it's totally different now. Ever since the 1990s, the jazz focus has been gone.

Jazz Education and the New Generation

AAJ: Let's talk about jazz education. You teach jazz at the Royal Conservatory. The more experienced jazz musicians in the U.S. feel that the conservatory students are getting too much into formal knowledge. They come out of school with a huge skills and information, but they have very little hands on experience jamming and playing gigs. And they have very little life experience that they can bring into the music in the way that Charlie Parker said, "If you haven't been through it, it won't come out of your horn."

EI: I agree. We have to do something about the fact that although the overall technical level in Europe is very high, jazz education is getting too academic,. Young students get their degree, and then they become teachers very fast, which I can understand because you have to make a living, but on the other hand they have very little experience performing and working with other musicians. There are exceptions of course.

AAJ: For me, the truly great musicians in the U.S. started early on doing gigs and hanging out with peers and mentors, so they got the music in their gut. But apparently it's harder for the younger ones to get gigs now. So what you're telling me is that this problem exists in Europe as well.

EI: Yes, absolutely. There are rare opportunities for a very few of them to be successful. And in my opinion, it will always be only a few who make it in the jazz business. It's always been true that only a few of the many who pursue jazz will get to the top.

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