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How I Got Started….

My  earliest memory of music I can’t really recall. It may have been the South African songs we had to learn in school like “Sarie Marais” – I am that old yes- but I remember that I heard a song blasting out of our old radio while I was playing with my Dinky Toy cars. radioI recall the sound which was very thick and heavy. Different and raw. In my memory it was Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water” but of course I couldn’t really tell. The time frame is way too blurred. However I do remember the TV showing us the first man on the moon and the relentless B 52s bombing of Vietnam, Watergate -which took forever- and of course the World Championships in Mexico in 1970 with Pele and Rivellino. My dad was a huge soccer fan and sports famila-ratwas one of the most important elements growing up. I would often play soccer with my brothers and many kids from the neighborhood at a small abandoned square in front of our house which used to be part of a temporary wooden school when the quarter was build in the early 60’s.
autoMy dad had bought his first car, a Vauxhall Viva- the English version of the infamous Opel Kadett- which allowed us to go to soccer games in Rotterdam to see Feyenoord, one of the best teams in the world at that time. I recall seeing Ajax with Cruijff & Neeskens and Feyenoord with van Hanegem and Franz Hasil play each other in the most beautiful soccer stadium ever “De Kuip” in Rotterdam. I knew all the players by heart. Us kids collected small soccer player pictures and glued them in special books. Same stuff that’s still going on nowadays. To this day I can recall some of the names of players that played with  small long gone soccer clubs like DWS, GVAV en Holland Sport.
My parents didn’t really have a musical taste or interest. Nobody played an instrument although the neighbors had a piano. My neighbor friend Paul always hated his piano lessons  so there was not much enthusiasm for a sport like that… We had a record player with a build in speaker, on which they’d play a few comedian and operetta albums like “Stimmung, Stimmung” or Toon Hermans – a dutch stand up comedian avant la lettre – every now and then. Music lessons at the local Music School, which was in the city centre, were for the rich people and we were not part of them. It just didn’t even cross our minds to go there; it was in another, strange world; just not part of our upbringing.

Itilburg-485 loved to be outside playing and roaming the streets and woods around the town I grew up in; Tilburg, the Netherlands. I lived in a typical Dutch 60’s quarter -square and straight- on the western edge of a deteriorating industrial town where the textile industry had left. Just a couple of hundred yards from our house you’d find woods and farm land. The next village was about 10 miles away westward. I never had the idea I lived in a city because it felt really like a small village with plenty of space around.
In the 60’s and 70’s the whole inner city of Tilburg  was littered with broken down ruines of once flourishing factories. The was no real heart in the city: we don’t have an old centre like neighboring cities ’s Hertogenbosch & Breda. Tilburg was quite a desolate and grim working man’s town in which relative poverty was common. Fortunately for me there was a great music scene that, in due time, would be a big part of the growing self esteem of the expanding town. However, all of that took place quite far away from where I grew up though. When you’re a child, your world is limited to the school, your house, the soccer club  and the small woods around that. It only changes in time when you start to leave the nest….

 

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I liked to watch our national TV pop music show Toppop which imported pop culture in every household with a TV which started in 1970. It gave me my first music heroes like Demis Roussos, Slade and The Sweet. rousos slade_-_toppop_1973_19 My mother keeps telling me – to this day- that I was a very busy kid -now they’d probably diagnose me with ADHD- and that I would use my cutlery as drumsticks and would be drumming on everything that was available on the table when we had dinner. I played drums on the empty wash powder boxes my my mother saved for me while play backing our favorite popsongs using pvc pipes you use for electric wire as my drumsticks. My friends would imitate playing guitar on old tennis or badminton rackets.
cassette-recorderI recorded as much music as I could on my first cassette recorder with a build in speaker(!). I would check the national hitlist which was available at the Tobacco store in a small mall nearby and wait for the songs I wanted to be broadcasted. Then I hoped the DJ would shut up so I’d have the whole song and not some stupid introduction. I do recall recording “Jet” by Paul McCartney and Wings and many other different popsongs. We would be searching for all great new songs and especially new clips that were extremely fascinating in those days. It was long before MTV hit the screens and videos were very rare. Colour TV was just coming into range for average, moderate income families like mine. It also took some time before our dad bought a decent Philips stereo amplifier with good -loud- speakers and a real -stand alone- pick up to play LP’s and singles…. Me and my brother were in heaven. We always played music when we were at home. Our thirst for new music was endless and that would last for decades.  pick-up

It was also the time that my older brother started to bring in LP’s he’d bought. After a few samplers with super hits of the 70’s he came home with an album from Mike Oldfield “Tubular Bells”. But it was another album he brought home that really turned me on to wanting to play music.  I was struck by the high energy and power of a band that would make an everlasting imprint on me and how I ‘d deal with music through my teens. I do remember hearing the music in my head going on and on and on and on.  I remember walking to school, I must have been in 5th or 6th grade, passing a small park and watching the trees shake in the wind while I heard that great organ sound of Jon Lord in my head. The vocals which were gentle but turned into screams and of course the heaviest guitar I’d ever heard. dp-in-rock The fast solo’s and agility of the rhythm section was just mythical.deep-purple It was the right album at the right time: a teenage kid in a small town suburb in the early 70’s hearing music that you couldn’t listen to  on any radio station. It was of course also very important that my parents didn’t like it at all. Way to rough. This was my music.  This was what I wanted to do: make records, albums and play all over the world. I had one problem: I had no instrument but some of my older brother’s friends played guitar and they, being about 3 years my senior, were the real cool guys. They had long hair and upcoming beards, wore old soldier’s coats and cowboy boots with square noses- not pointed- square!  I was fascinated by them learning to play guitar – I thought they were amazing: they played barre chords (!) – and I kept asking my dad for one like theirs. My dad was a generous and loving man and he realized I wasn’t going to back down -something which is not in my nature- so he went with me to the town’s legendary guitar shop Bill Coolen where he bought me my first guitar. It was the cheapest acoustic steel stringed guitar we could get and it was a tour the force playing that instrument but it didn’t take long before I could play a few chords. The teacher I had found in our neighborhood, and where everybody went if you wanted to learn to play guitar, was a real gentle, nice,  jazz musician who loved Les Paul and Chet Atkins. I really liked him a lot. I admired his chords and way of playing but I really liked it when he started to play old school Rock ’n Roll. I hadn’t come for the smooth jazz stuff he played – which in later years I truly regretted-, I had come to learn the rough stuff and just enough to start my own band.  I wanted to have my own hardrock band. I had found my mission.

Me and my brother would borrow each other’s cassettes with more and more pre-recorded music. We would borrow  LPs  from anybody around and record it on the cassettes. You would record over the tape when you didn’t like what was previously on there. The problem was that you could only write a name on the tape once. You couldn’t overwrite the written text. So it happened that my brother had a tape with written on it: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young “Deja Vu”. When I played it , it hit me but so differently then other music. It opened another door for me. It made me travel through the landscapes in the Southern US, which I had seen in westerns on TV. It sparked my imagination but in a completely different way.   It became a turning point in my music appreciation. It was so cool, relaxed, groovy and different. naturallyFor a short while I thought CSN&Y  were the best that ever happened to me. That was until I played it while hanging out the window in the evening some summer night and one of the girls next door asked me what I was playing.  As I replied CSN & Y she said: “no way this is not Deja Vu because I know that music well”, so I went to my brother and asked what he had recorded over the now classic album. He said it was “Naturally” by J.J. Cale. J.J. is my main inspiration since then. All my life I’ve kept listening and playing his music. In my darkest hours he gave me comfort and in the best of times he made the happiest man on the planet.  In the end he’s been on my shoulder ever since.

AMSTERDAM, HOLLAND: JJ Cale performs live at the Carre Theatre, Amsterdam in 1973 (Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns)

Through him I really encountered the Americana, Blues and Folk. The complete opposite of the mega rock stars from Deep Purple with all the line up changes and bursting egos. This guy just kept on going writing great songs in modesty. Revered by men like Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler but unknown to the main public. When he passed away recently I really felt as if I’d lost a friend, a comrade. He’s on my playlist for over 40 years and will never leave. If I had to pick five albums to take with me to a deserted island “Naturally” is one of them…..

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My Sezen Aksu Story: Bilfen and The Circus In Stockholm

 

The taxi brought us to the Bilfen School Theatre in Istanbul. As always the driver was comparing his racing skills to those of a Formula 1 racer. There are no crazier people than Istanbul cab drivers. It’s a city so large it’s very easy to lose your sense of direction and since I had no clue where we going, we hoped the taxi driver did but we weren’t sure. You’re never sure in Istanbul. sezen-aksu4 I just was impressed by the endless line of apartment blocks with restaurants and small shops at the ground floor. In the nineties I had been a frequent visitor of Johannesburg, another huge city but Istanbul is a different ball game. It’s like an overflowing beehive 24/7.
The school is located on top of one of the many hills on which Istanbul is built so the view over the metropole was great: the Blue Mosque, the Bosporus, Aya Sophia and the Sea of Marmara just within reach.
Inside the private school there’s a nice theatre where the Sezen Aksu Acoustic Band would rehearse this week in Februari in 2010. They supplied me with a wreck of an acoustic bass but I was anxious to do the  thing right so I complained only to myself….not to Cem, the huge guy who handled all the gear for years. The whole crew, whom  I was to get really good friends with, was at hand even during rehearsals. Something which I of course, was not used to: we jazz guys are highly DIY oriented. Food and drink were plentiful and we worked in a quiet, but reasonably organised way. Listening to the songs and then searching for the right groove and feel for the new band. We reworked some of the most popular tunes Sezen and booker/ producer Riza Okcu had selected.sezen 3
Recomposing the material is a real nice way of getting deep into the songs. It helps you to put a layer of your own creativity into the song that wasn’t there before. Since Sezen’s songs are real pop songs, almost like French chansons with a middle eastern flavor, we managed to make it work quite well. It was kind of a struggle to deal with the language, and it would remain so for years due to my lacking progress in Turkish, but since a few colleagues spoke English, French and German I managed to follow the gang. I got to know all the guys that became such very good friends in the progressing years.

Jarrod

Jarrod Cagwin is the drummer of the Acoustic band. Since we were the only foreigners in the band we had a natural flow of growing partnership in running the rhythm section. We lay down thick fat grooves and played Turkish music in a different way than in Sezen’s previous bands.  We both come from the heavy rock like Led Zeppelin, Rushrush4_660, AC/DC and Deep Purple 2603549-ritchie-blackmore-deep-purple-617-409which was all around us in our youths, learned to play jazz well afterwards and often had a trip down memory lane when we looked for ways to describe and play grooves or when just making fun. And fun it was.
mustafa & jarrod

Mustafa Boztuy was the percussionist from Hannover Germany so communicating with him was easy. He was not from the inner circle around Sezen either but added great value to the percussive power of the group. Mustafa lived in Germany since he was 19 and he takes benefit of the best of both worlds. A very spiritual man, who hates religion as poison of the mind-like me-, but looking for depth and sensible social intelligence in life.  Often we arrived at Ataturk Airport together and then headed into the heart of Istanbul. Talked and discussed many things that really concerned us in our daily life but also more in a philosophical manner.article-0-1D1ED54A00000578-626_634x413

We rehearsed all week but there was no sight of Sezen during the first few days. But the last day we would have a whole rehearsal with her. When she eventually arrived the air became electric and many of her personal crew were running around as if the Queen of Turkey came down from the palace. She was, and is however, a very gentle and sweet, loving woman. A party animal is an understatement I reckon and she immediately started to hand out glasses of Jack Daniëls which I like but both Jarrod and Mustafa politely declined. jdMustafa stuck to his langtime decision never to drink a drop of alcohol anymore but Jarrod couldn’t escape the lady right in front! It was hilarious. He had no idea how not to embarrass Sezen but the point is that Jarrod just can’t stand and handle strong liquor. He just gets very sick….it wasn’t the last time I saved his ass as he would save mine at least as many times. I like JD every now and then and then was as good as any…..

Cirkus,_Stockholm,_Sweden

We split up and would get together in Stockholm Sweden to start the European tour in The Circus; a beautiful old wooden theatre. It was still very icy  and cold early March when we arrived. We stayed in one of those hip Scandinavian design style hotels where luxury is as common as a lightbulb. Flying with my double own Pillement bass from the early 1800’s in a huge flight case costed €750 extra so I was kind of scared they’d make a fuzz about the excess travelling costs but there was not even a blink in his eye when I mentioned the amount to the tour manager Cagdas before he reimbursed me the money. Wow; this is really a different ballgame, I thought. Little did I know they normally travel with a truckload of luggage just for Sezen herself and then there’s the group of over 25 people that come along….
sezen
We did the sound check in the theatre and we just got back to the dressing rooms and about to have dinner in our “Green Room” when the fire alarm went off. It was like someone drilled a hole in your eardrum. Out! Out! Out! Out! Came the security screaming into the room. It wasn’t me! It wasn’t me! Shouted Sezen as we went outside in the freezing cold of pre spring Stockholm. I wonder why she shouted that so vigorously. Of course the Circus did not burn down that night. And we got back inside anxiously awaiting the first gig of the tour. As a musician you practise your instrument ‘till you’re a master. But when you’re touring, mastering the waiting is a different hard nu to crack. You wait at the airport, at the customs, at the hotel, before roll call, before sound check, before the gig, before going back to the hotel, before the adrenaline level has waived….being a musician is often a waiting game.

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We entered stage and started to play our newly arranged intro put together of Fatih Ahiskali’s and Özer Arkun’s tune. As soon as we started to play the Turkish 9/8 rhythm, which is an odd one for someone who considers jazz timing hard, the thousands of people started to clap along…. I couldn’t hear anything anymore, let alone, the direction of the tune! In 9/8! Every Turkish person grows up clapping and dancing to the rhythm and Jarrod and I looked at each other in horror. The noise kept on and on and by the time we were at the end the whole band had lost it. It was nerve wrecking. Then I started the intro of Gülümse by arcing a long low G note. Lights dimmed and spotlight came on. sezen 2As Sezen entered the stage the audience couldn’t hold back anymore. They screamed and shouted, whistled and were in awe. That night it sounded as if the whole world shouted for Sezen Aksu. It was louder than the loudest concert I had played or listened to. It was heart-warming to see so many people longing for the person who’d been a part of their lives for so long. Someone who comforted them in harsh times and who celebrated their feasts and parties with them. The Grand dame of Turkish music was getting steamed up, was picking up speed and we were right there, following every move, every musical curve she took, skipping parts and continuing longer or stopping short before the ending. We were on the move….

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My Sezen Aksu Story. Istanbul

My Sezen Aksu story

Istanbul 9-5-2015

Sezen Aksu Acoustic Band

Sezen Aksu; The Grand Dame Of Turkish Pop

It’s after another corporate concert in Izmir that percussionists Jarrod Cagwin, Mustafa Boztuy and myself hang out in Zebik, a small but good local restaurant in Beyoglu Istanbul after the 2nd public concert was cancelled due to reasons you can only expect to happen in Turkye. Things in Turkye don’t always happen along understandable lines…. We’re tired because of the lack of sleep which always hunts us in circumstances like these. But in Beyoglu sleeping is not possible before 4 a.m. So we surrender to the flow of this eye of the hurricane.

Beyoglu is an extremely busy and noisy old neighborhood in the European Part of Istanbul. The city quarter is filled with restaurants and all sorts of hotels and is everything you’d imagine a busy oriental metropolis would be: it’s dirty, smelly, joyful, loud, beautiful and very vibrant all at the same time. It’s most famous avenue is called Istiklal on which an old tram rides up and down the slope to either Tunel or Taksim Square. The area used to be a mix of cultures and resembles the time when the Ottoman Empire had more cultural diversity in its capital than it does now. It must have been a vibrant area when Jews, Greeks, Armenians, Western Europeans, Americans, Arabs and many more from all different places, tried to make it their home. Traces of eviction are still apparent in the old 20th century buildings that have deteriorated since they were abandoned. Nobody knows who’s the owner and nobody cares; leaving the once aesthetic buildings turn to ruins.

 

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Percussionist Jarrod Cagwin

 

Jarrod, Mustafa and myself are part of the rhythm section of Sezen Aksu’s Acoustic Band and have become good friends which happens if you share so many ups and downs while working as a team with one of the most exceptional stars of Turkish music. Having said that it’s obvious that many of you may never have heard of her just  as I did when I was invited to come to Istanbul for the 1st time . How did I get to play with this Turkish phenomena? As a musician I always had a big taste for African music. Especially South Africa was a country that since I was a kid had been of great interest to me. I think it started when I was in primary school where I learned old “boere” songs like “Sarie Marais” which  sound I embraced. Little did I know about the despicable political system in which the majority of the SA people suffered until I was about 13. The  Soweto uprising in 1976 showed the disgraceful character of the Apartheid regime and my political awareness arose with me witnessing that on TV. There was no excuse for shooting children my age who wanted to learn English instead of Afrikaans. I became a supporter of the anti-apartheid movement in Holland. And since I sincerely believe that music is a great tool in spreading political awareness, South Africa became even more a focus. And by the time I started to study jazz I got to know Abdullah Ibrahim or Dollar Brand as he was called earlier. What a treat his music was and is: blues, jazz, larded with happiness and joy of life. Of course he became one of my heroes and the seeds planted by my early attempts to sing a song in school were transformed into a music style that I can truly call my own. I loved the melancholy of the African melodies and the chord structures which accompanied them: I used them and transformed them and became a bit of an expert on African music. At least that was the way the critics and audience conceived it. For myself I quickly realized that my roots were so different that I could only comprehend parts of it. In all collaborations with African musicians I’ve tried to do what I do best: make my own brand of music. Like the answer my ultimate jazz hero Charles Mingus replied to the question:” what kind of music are you making? Mingus Music! What else? That became a thought for me to hold on to. And so I kept taking influences I liked into my music. Being eclectic handed me the right tools to find my own voice – the most important element in music- and become more and more interested in different cultures and use whatever I liked. I bought many records from Peter Gabriel Real World label that opened my ears to new things time and time again. Remy Ongala, Ayub Ogada, the drummers of Burundi, Cecile Keyirebwa, Ali Fatih Kahn, a.m.

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Sezen Aksu Acoustic Band Royal Albert Hall London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So slowly word got around that this bass player who grew up in Tilburg West had a liking for many different tastes and after having spent the latter of the 90’s playing and touring Africa and Europe was a force that was reliable and professional.

Then the call came that changed my life. It really did…. Are you interested in a project concerning traditional Ottoman music? Being opportunistic as any professional musician must be, I answered: sure? OK, what do you charge per concert? I was taken by surprise since it was not the usual way to immediately talk money. I named my price and the other voice said ” fine” which meant that I could have asked much more…. Cursing myself we agreed to do it and they would get me all the music and notes and shit in time. Click and silence…..Jeezz! I said to myself: get a grip man! Next time negotiate properly and be prepared! Then time passed and I heard….nothing. It took time and I was about to accept other gigs for the dates reserved when I received a package with audio material and notes. As I opened it, I realized I was getting into something that was way beyond anything I had ever done. First of all: the notes were wrong: the sharps and flats were turned around sometimes as if someone had never ever written proper signs in music. But other were correct! Hmmmm. I put on the music and started to look at the music charts with the audio material. And then it occurred to me what it was. This was micro tonal music. I had ( and have – as every double bass player-) a problem playing in tune on a Double Bass and worked hard to find the right notes on the fingerboard. You may know that a Double Bass has no frets like a guitar or bass guitar. And now they want me to play music that is actually in tune when it’s out of tune! This was something else! For the first time in my musical life I really doubted whether I could do this. But time was short and rehearsals and concerts were in two weeks. So I did what I always do when it comes to it: I put in all my effort to play up to the level I expect for myself. In saying that, I can truly say that there is no greater critic about myself than me. I have burned myself down more often than people have lit a cigarette. So I studied and studied frantically. And I mastered the material. It had a connection to the East African music I was into lately. The old Anatolian music was hard and very difficult to play but I managed.

I met cellist Ugur Isik and the Farkin brothers, who are percussionists, in Amsterdam for the rehearsals and first concert in the Tropen theater which unfortunately has vanished from budget cuts of our dear highly overrated government. We played the concert and I was relieved I didn’t fuck up too much. The micro tonality was everywhere and I followed Ugur in every step he took. I was like an eagle spotting his prey.  They were the gentlest of people and after a week said they music wouldn’t sound right when I wouldn’t be there anymore back in Turkye. It was a complement of a lifetime. Luckily I had received a few more in the passing of time, but this one was really special.

After the concert in the Zuiderpershuis in Antwerp we split up and wished all of us goodbye. That was it. I thought…….

Derya

Kemence Master Derya Türkan

Then a year later I got a call from the same guy that had offered me the Ugur job. And now I was prepared. He said can you please do concerts with Derya Türkan and Ugur Isik. Yes, I replied again and after we’d cut the deal I was happy. Riza Okcu and his brother Alp who started the agency StageArt have become the dearest of friends since that first collaboration. Then the music charts came again…..all Arco ( bowed) bass parts but no micro tonality this time. Peshrevas and other music from the rich Turkish Medieval music history. Our first concert was in the Concertgebouw Amsterdam. I met Derya and immediately knew I had met a very special person. The gentle but strong man mastered the music like I’ve never seen anyone do before. He played seemingly effortless and enjoyed every second of it. It was utterly beautiful music and it was one of the most special moments of my musical career. I was more courageous, feeling more at home with the type of music and confident enough because I had mastered the prior Turkish music task. So I took solo space when possible and played introductions to pieces and we all had a great time. Had I known I had to replace Renaud Garcia Fons in a trio in advance I’d probably wet my pants!!! They hadn’t said that!!!!! Very few bass players are so intimidating as him. Without a doubt one of the most virtuosos on the instrument and simply a great master. He’s the Messi of double bassists so to speak-though a bit older. But luckily I didn’t know…..so I embedded in the music and even now remember many details of what we’ve played that evening.

The next thing is that I got a call from Riza asking would you want to play with Sezen Aksu? With my previous experiences and new self-confidence I naturally answered positive again and then there was the silence for about half a year. Nothing. No email, no call. I even didn’t know who she was as I hadn’t really gotten her name properly. As Riza had called me, I misheard and thought it was Sezen Okcu, probably his wife- I thought. I didn’t check anything because as usual I was running around playing and working as hard and much as I could. As jazz musicians do I’d do it on the spot when it would come down to it.

Then I got the call. Could you be in Istanbul in February? Sure? And are you available in March to tour Europe and the US? Surprised as I was I got on the plain- no we’ll supply a double bass for you here: you don’t have to bring your own! I went to Istanbul for the first time and got picked up by Riza at the airport and drove me to the Asian side of Istanbul which to me looked like the equivalent of a beehive. He treated me, knowing I like good food, on a delicious meal and brought me to the hotel. It was nothing what I ever had expected. With Jasper van ’t Hof I had had nice, mostly good middleclass hotels but this was a different ballgame. A wellness and medical five star hotel residence with a room that was as large as my whole house in Holland. What time is the rehearsal, I said. Are there charts available for me to practice? Relax! This is Turkye! Riza replied: tomorrow we’ll start at 18.00 and the music is not complicated. You’ll get everything there.  Your transport will be here at 17.00 so now relax and enjoy the Turkish hospitality. He didn’t need to tell me twice of course….I embraced the luxurious surroundings.

So I headed of to the rehearsal with Mustafa and Jarrod who were in the same hotel and to whom I got introduced to. We got into rehearsals and there I got to meet the other members of the Acoustic Band: Fahir Atakoglu, Özer Arkun, Fatih Ahiskali, Göksun Cavdar and Nurcan Eren whose names I couldn’t remember in the first place, which is a whole different story. I didn’t speak a word of Turkish yet. But that’s how I got to play in Sezen’s band though I wouldn’t see Sezen for a couple of days yet. It was as if I had landed on a different planet.

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Bremen Jazz Ahead 2015

EW @ Coburg

This is my first blog about the things I’m encountering while working as a musician, head of Muzieklab ’s staff and entrepreneur with Greenbag and a few things more. Many times I wonder if what I think and want to say would be of interest to anybody. Well, today my companion in Greenbag Jules Kersten convinced me it is worth telling my story. There is no deeper thought behind my decision to start writing besides the fact that I like to share ideas and thoughts with people. I realise however, that by publishing it’ll be easy to get reactions that I might not immediately like or expect. But as I mentioned : Jules convinced me. So I’ll just fire away. I start on April 24 2015 in my hotel after the first day of the Jazz Ahead.

To share my thoughts with anybody I feel I first have to explain a bit about what I am and do in my working hours and what makes me “tick”.

My prime profession is being a musician. A double bass player that is. Music is my prime love. It has never let me down and it keeps amazing and inspiring me. There’s no greater urge than to practise and play with the greatest musicians the best music that I can imagine. I was a late starter because I didn’t believe that I would ever be able to go a Conservatory of Music at the time. I had started out as a rock bass guitarist after my initial efforts to become the next Ritchie Blackmore on guitar had obviously failed. I started on a Hondo Precision Bass copy playing along with J.J. Cale’s album Naturally to find my way on the fingerboard in the mid 70’s. Nobody in my family played an instrument and no one attended anything else but either a soccer club or a basketball club. Sports was the thing especially soccer, and music was just pleasure, though my parents and me and my brothers had different definitions of pleasure I must add.

Soon after I started playing guitar and bass guitar, I started my first rock band. I knew exactly what we were going to be: the next sublime ultimate hard rock band that would leave Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin just a faint memory in music history. History however, had different plans so after several attempts and a flunked start at studying Psychology at the university my dad said:” if music is the only thing that you want to do you better get some education and study seriously”. I still don’t know if I have to thank or curse him for that.

My first important teacher in music school was drummer Steve Clover. I started his classes when I was 19 years old. He was from Elkhart Indiana and was an absolute magnificent teacher –though he looked a bit like “Catweazle meets Bonanza” (Two TV series from the 70’s). He gave me the first insights in what jazz was, what it meant to be a musician and what the art in music stands for. He made me listen to so many superb musicians and was a mentor for life. I still, to this day, use his wisdom to deal with issues in music. His teachings have given me more than anything else I studied. He would put a lot of pressure on us in ensemble classes, heavy bebop themes to be played and mastered in one week which you would have never expected yourself to be able to after which Steve just wrote down on the black board: You Did It! So You Can Do It! So You Will Do It! Steve was the first one to give me a little bit of confidence which I desperately needed.

I finished my conservatory study in May 1990 –yes that’s ages ago! I have been working ever since. Played everywhere, with anybody to the best of my ability and I still do. In fact I believe that my best is still to come but I reckon every musician thinks that (otherwise you expect everything to become worse and worse which would be quite a sliding scale…..) I feel I do have grown as a musician and ripened developing my own musical language though. It’s a voyage that will never end until I die I hope. I love the deep rich sound of my double bass, bass in general and the music that it functions in.

Besides the musician I’m also a sort of entrepreneur. At least I do things that look like that. I’m the head of Muzieklab Brabant, an organisation that develops musical concepts, guides and coaches outstanding, post academic musicians to enhance their chances on a successful creative career. It does sound like an elevator speech but I worked hard getting to that point with this… Many of the things that I will share will have to do with this part of my life too. I clash many times with myself over issues that should be different than they are.

Last but not least I’m part of a start-up business Greenbag which delivers services to top musicians. An idea that has been in my mind for years and which has started to see the light of day since last year. I feel a responsibility towards the new musicians on the scene that have to establish themselves in a fast changing musical environment in which I have had so many splendid moments. I admire the great musicians who lead the way for me when I was searching and I hope I can, even for a little bit, do the same.
Of course there’s the private part of my life with my wife Femke, daughters Suze and Dora. But I’ll leave that to the paparazzi to cover….
So we’re in Bremen now and it’s in the morning of the 2nd day. A nice city where many people from the jazz world come together for a fair. You meet many fellow musicians and organisations, bookers and others. I’m not very good at mingling. I tend to feel uncertain and of no interest to anyone so I’m always happy to see people I know. And many times there are my colleagues from MLB or Greenbag in this case, to accompany me. It helps.
The main reason to come to Bremen this year was to introduce Jules to my jazz network. Jules is a young guy full of humour and wit, which comes in great when you start a business. He was an apprentice at MLB and clearly showed he cared for the things he needed to do. He’s a slim, tall, long haired guy and, if I may believe him, he does well with the ladies too. He likes women, but so do I so we have a common interest in some way.
We’ve just had breakfast and while I went back to the hotel and started writing he hung out with all the musicians and agents at the Maritime Hotel and got pretty drunk, like many of the others. It’s a recurring event: first the fair; then the gigs at The Slachthof (Slaughterhouse) and then the bar at the Maritime. Drop a bomb there at the Jazz Ahead fair and 90% of the European jazz scene is gone. But don’t worry: nobody will notice.

Today I have a meeting with a group of people who run a European jazz talent program called Criss Cross Europe, the other reason to come here. From a number of countries top talents were selected to enrol this program which will be hosted by Ernst Reijsiger this year. I worked with Ernst in Martin Fondse’s band a couple of years ago and he‘s a fabulous musician. It’ll be great for youngsters to work with him and play all over Europe. I wish I had had the chance when I was their age. I’m sure there’s more to come about this in a short while. Now it’s time to get my bag, go to the fair and meet all participating organisations.

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