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New Dutch Swing Hardcover – March 1, 1998
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The jazz scene in Amsterdam is like no other. And reading Kevin Whitehead's gripping glimpse of the country's improvisational music scene, New Dutch Swing, it's impossible not to feel caught up in the author's excitement. Dating from the dawn of European free jazz in the '60s, Amsterdam has fostered jazz filled with humor, virtuosity, and creativity. It helps when the scene's elder statesmen--the motley but venerable triumvirate of pianist Misha Mengelberg, drumming powerhouse Han Bennink, and saxophonist Willem Breuker--are loaded with personality. These three musicians have collaborated with anarchist punks, prepared skits that unravel as they improvise, and--in the extreme case of Mengelberg (the scene's godfather)--performed the occasional duet album with his daughter's parrot.
Of course, there's real music behind the novelty here, a fact that Whitehead--a jazz critic for NPR's Fresh Air and numerous music rags--never forgets. Mengelberg and Bennink performed on Yankee jazz great Eric Dolphy's seminal Last Date recording, cellist Ernst Reijseger is praised by Yo-Yo Ma, and new musical mavericks keep coming forth to play at the BIMhuis, the epicenter venue of all this madness.
Whitehead's prose is highly accessible, filled with jazz rhythms and an unmistakable beat: "Stooped potbellied buttless bald on top wearing a moth-eaten sweater and old droopy jeans, with his three props, cigarette dangling from his mouth giving him that smoker's light squint, snifter of cognac cradled in the left hand, coffee cup rattling atop saucer clutched in the right, Misha Mengelberg shambles on stage to a mostly empty BIMhuis, far too early." The book swings from musician to musician, through interviews with the numerous generations of performers, and by the time you reach the appendix of recommended recordings you'll feel you know Dutch jazz intimately, even if you had never heard of the ICP or the Clusone Trio before. Exhaustive but never exhausting, Whitehead has written a classic tome of music journalism, one that jazz lovers--make that music lovers--owe it to themselves to check out. The Dutch jazz scene has never really had its due props; now it suddenly does (and then some). --Jason Verlinde
About the Author
Kevin Whitehead, whose music articles appear in Down Beat, Musician, Coda, and other publications, is a jazz critic for National Public Radio's "Fresh Air." He now lives in Amsterdam. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Kevin Whitehead created a first in what I hope will be future sequels by him and other authors.