Take Five With Robert Vermeulen


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Meet Robert Vermeulen:
"If there is anything better than the off-the-wall humor of the video promo that preceded this Talking Cows album, it is the actual album itself. Yet much more than the humor of it all is the spectacular seriousness of the music: deadly serious, and for those familiar with the high standards of music (and humor) in The Netherlands itself, this album will surely rate as one of the finest to come out of that country, no matter what the category.

How can a mere quartet from a largely agricultural country make such music; have such a larger than life sound; and, so-called jazz and not-so-called BAM notwithstanding, give it back to America in the most contemporary manner of music that ultimately has to do with that very agricultural country itself? Supporting live music and hosting one of the world's best jazz festivals (The Hague's North Sea Jazz Festival), and learning from the masters of African-American music about their history and the history of this global music are but two reasons for the magnificent and memorable music on Almost Human. Almost Human is one of the finest of any idiom, from any place that this music is both played and enjoyed."
class="f-right">—Raul D'Gama Rose / AllAboutJazz.com


Teachers and/or influences?
Thelonious Monk, Misha Mengelberg, Anto Pett (a great teacher on free improvisation, from Tallin, Estonia).

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
Yesterday, when playing a little gem by Stravinsky.

Your sound and approach to music:
I want to play with a 'fysical' flair, I need music to be a bit rough every now and then. I like contrasts and surprises in material.

Your dream band:
...is my own band, Talking Cows, really.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:
Talking Cows did a project with a large brass band last year (Cows In Space!); we did a concert in the Bimhuis in Amsterdam together. First set was with the large brass orchestra together with our quartet, it was very nice and people liked it. I was a bit scared to play only with the quartet in the second set after all this noise, but the group was so well-integrated from all the concerts that we had done together. The second set was even better. We felt so good together onstage.

Favorite venue:
We once played in the Tchaikovsky Hall of the Conservatory In St. Petersburg, in Russia. I had a choice between two great pianos; a Steinway D and a big Bösendorfer. This place had very good acoustics and we had a great time there; I remember some old men in the back shouting "bravo" and jumping up from their chairs. Russians really love music.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
Misha Mengelberg Trio, Who's Bridge.

Misha plays his own music with such crazy creativity, it all comes together for him. His songs are great, his improvisations are really good-and very funny sometimes: high level entertainment! His timing is also great-very loose.

The first Jazz album I bought was:
Bill Evans Trio, Live at the Village Vanguard.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
Versatility, good time.

Did you know...
I really like the New Orleans pianists like Henry Butler and James Booker. Henry Butler can play these funky breaks that are so amazing; I keep trying....

CDs you are listening to now:
Hermeto Pascoal, Ao Vivo (Montreux Jazz);

Ben Folds Five, The Sound of the Live of the Mind (Sony Music);

Henry Butler, Blues After Sunset (Black Top);

Randy Weston, The Spirits of our Ancestors (label unknown)-I love his left hand, banging in the bass register, that's right!

How would you describe the state of jazz today?
In the Netherlands, jazz is having a hard time, many clubs are closing down or suffering. In Germany it seems to be more difficult as well. Meanwhile there are many interesting musicians for not so many opportunities to play. Challenging!

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
Concerts should be entertaining but also bring moments of true playing/improvising by the artists.

What is in the near future?
We just did a nice tour in Turkey, with a concert at the Akbank Jazz Festival in Istanbul. We got some good reactions so we we hope to come back to Turkey.

From February, 2013 we are doing concerts again in The Netherlands, Germany and other European countries. We are ready for some nice festivals next summer! We will also be present at Jazzahead! in Bremen, Germany.

What song would you like played at your funeral?
I will worry about that later.

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