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Eric Ineke: Surveying the European Jazz Scene

Victor L. Schermer By

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AAJ: But there's a difference between past and present. Every city has terrific local musicians who play the clubs and festivals in the region. They just love the music. But many of the younger ones just out of school seem to have other ambitions. The art of playing gigs just because you love to do it is not the same now.

EI: Yes, that's true. It's partly because there are fewer places to perform than in the past. In the 1970s-80s, there were more than sixty jazz clubs in Holland! Now, in the whole country, there are only nine or ten clubs where you can play and get paid decently. But one positive thing I have to mention is the fact that our school is connected to the International Association of Schools of Jazz (IASJ) which creates a network for students and teachers between more then 40 Jazz schools around the world. They have a big meeting every year in different countries. Dave Liebman and Wouter Turkenburg, the head of our Jazz department, founded IASJ in 1989.

AAJ: So, even though there are more schools of jazz, and more musicians coming from them, they have fewer places to perform. It sounds like the attrition of jazz clubs is happening in Europe as it is in the U.S. That's a sad commentary. Jazz no longer seems to attract as many new audiences as it used to. In some ways, it was the popular music of past generations. The current generation of listeners finds jazz unfamiliar. They don't hear it in their homes when they're growing up anymore.

EI: Yes, that's right. Here in Holland, there's almost no jazz on radio or TV now. When I grew up, I heard the standards, the big bands every day on the radio. And it's harder to get records anymore. For example, if a student at our Conservatory wants to buy a jazz CD, we do have two big jazz record stores in Holland, but when the young musicians come into the shop, there is so much available that they buy they can't figure out what to buy. We teachers at the Conservatory have to tell the students what albums to buy! And we tell them to listen to them over and over again, and transcribe them, until they get it inside them. That's the way to really learn what's happening and know the line-up of players.

Generating New Audiences

AAJ: So it seems that the problem in both Europe and the U.S. is how to get the younger generations -the Millennials and so on -to immerse themselves in jazz. What are your thoughts about how countries in Europe can generate young audiences who are enthusiastic about jazz?

EI: Radio and television have a lot to do with people's interest in music. In the past there was lots of jazz on radio and TV. Now, there's almost nothing. The producers should start programming more jazz. But we are lucky to have the Dutch Jazz Archives in Amsterdam which is a non profit organization. If you are a member, you can have access to their collection. There are also filmed portraits of hundreds of Dutch Jazz musicians from different generations, and you can always watch them through the internet.

AAJ: In America, years ago, there was the detective show Peter Gunn, where the main character was a big jazz fan. Henry Mancini wrote the theme song. Also, I can remember shows featuring Nat "King" Cole, Frank Sinatra, and The Ed Sullivan Show, that featured jazz artists. You don't see jazz performances on TV anymore, except occasionally on public television.

EI: Also, it would also be great to revive the school concerts we used to have in Holland. We got a lot of kids interested in jazz that way.

AAJ: To wrap up, let me ask you as an experienced musician and professor who has been immersed in the profession and observed the scene for several decades, what recommendations you would have for young musicians in Europe and elsewhere who would like to pursue a career in jazz?

EI: First, they have to get their shit completely together! (Laughter) Get the music of the great ones like Parker and Coltrane down completely in your pocket! Play as often as you can. It's also important to be a good socializer. Be friendly and courteous to everyone. Show up on time for gigs and rehearsals, and learn the business side of the music.

Believe in what you do! Have faith in yourself during the bad times, even if you have to take commercial work for a while. You will learn something from whatever you have to play and that will make you a complete musician. No matter what happens, believe in yourself, and just persist. I still believe in my heart that if you have faith and persist at it, one day you're going to make it! And then you'll be working regularly, people will know you, and you'll have a great career. The young players who really get into jazz and are totally dedicated to it are going to succeed.

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