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Kika Sprangers: Musical Adventurer In Holland

R.J. DeLuke By

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Because of this improvisation and this freedom, sometimes its magic. —Kika Sprangers
For a 23-year-old, saxophonist/composer Kika Sprangers is showing strong growth and maturity as a musician in her native land of Holland, busy all year with gigs with both a small group and a large ensemble. Busy both blowing alto and soprano sax, but also busy writing material inspired by a variety of sources.

She's only been playing for 15 years, but this year was selected Young VIP of 2018 by jazz programmers in the Netherlands. There are only two selected each year. As a result, she was booked at numerous clubs throughout her country earlier this year. and in July her band played at the prestigious North Sea Jazz Festival at the Ahoy venue in Rotterdam. She also recorded her first CD, Leaves of Lily and is already preparing for a second recording.

Sprangers was enveloped by jazz at an early age.

"The improvisation has always been an important aspect of my music," she says via Skype. "I think it's beautiful what can happen on stage during a jazz performance, which is different than classical or other music. Because in jazz, because of this improvisation and this freedom, sometimes its magic."

She marvels at what can take place among the audience, the musician's on stage, and herself in particular. "The chemistry between the musicians on stage is maybe the most important thing, because we're creating in the moment. That's the really beautiful thing about jazz. There are many types of jazz, but in all of those types, the important thing is the chemistry among the musicians and how they create together. That's exciting," she says.

That knowledge, still growing, was bestowed on Sprangers at a young age. As a young girl, she took an orientation course in school where students were allowed to try out different instruments. She leaned toward piano and saxophone, but settled in on the latter.

"We already had a saxophone at home because my sister had played for about one year. So I said, 'Why not.' She taught me my first song. I had already an interest for it. I started at age 9 with lessons. At first the basics. At first, it was a weekly thing. I went to my lesson and practiced a bit. After three years, I became very serious."

As she got older and had been playing for a few years, Sprangers discovered a jazz scene. It wasn't part of her school training. It is something she sought out. "I found other young people who were also interested in playing jazz. We started our own band and checked out some music. We played the music we liked and shared it. That made it, really for me, that I could share my musical interests with other young people. That's where it started for me.

Her education and growth during this time naturally included checking out the classic American jazz musicians. Her father gave her a compilation CD that featured various saxophonists, including Julian "Cannonball" Adderley and John Coltrane. "That's where my interest in jazz started. Also, my saxophone teacher started with Charlie Parker songs. I couldn't play it, but...," she says. "My father also took me to the North Sea Jazz Festival. It's how I was raised as a child musically. My parents also liked listening to music a lot. Even funk, James Brown, soul. Prince. So I was influenced by that."

The biggest spark came from Adderley. "I'm still listening to that a lot and trying to transcribe a lot of his solos. The way that it sounds easy and light really got to me. For me, that was why I was into it. Later I got the Coltrane experience and Wayne Shorter and of course Charlie Parker. It started with Cannonball, with his easy way and lightness. I could connect with that. Nowadays, I'm into other kinds of jazz. But when I started it was "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" on the live album. In the beginning, it was cool."

Even in high school, Sprangers would find gigs. "I started leading my first group when I was 16, which was like an amateur thing. But I already felt that leading a group was something I liked," she explains.

"Somehow we played gigs," she recalls. "We had this jazz quartet. It's funny, the members of this jazz quartet, three out of four are now professional musicians, so apparently it was a good start. We played venues in our home town. We did a jazz competition and we won this little competition. There were some nice gigs going on and we could play a little. Also, there were some jam sessions. When I look back at it, it's very nice to see the vibe you have when you're young and you don't know everything yet. You don't think, but you just go on stage and play in this jam session. Whereas when you have studied it and you're a professional musician, you're maybe like, 'I'll wait a little,' or first look at what's happening and who's playing. But it was a really nice vibe when we were just doing it and we didn't think about it. Just enjoyed it. It was a really nice time for me."

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