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Benjamin Herman


09-05-1968 - current


altsaxofoon, baritonsaxofoon, Boy Edgar Prijs, C melody saxofoon, componist, dirigent, Edison, jazz, pop/rock, saxofoon


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Benjamin Herman

Benjamin Herman (London, 9 May 1968) is one of the best known and most popular Dutch jazz musicians. His zeal and versatility make him a linking pin in the Dutch music scene. With his energetic playing and his boisterous sound he is a source of inspiration to many saxophonists of ...
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altsaxofoon, baritonsaxofoon, C melody saxofoon, componist, dirigent, saxofoon

Mentioned in the biography of

1962   Joris Teepe
1982   Ruben Hein
1988   Ben van Gelder
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Biography Benjamin Herman

Benjamin Herman (London, 9 May 1968) is one of the best known and most popular Dutch jazz musicians. His zeal and versatility make him a linking pin in the Dutch music scene. With his energetic playing and his boisterous sound he is a source of inspiration to many saxophonists of younger generations. Herman’s saxophone solos are characterized by their meaty sound and percussive character, owing a great deal to the extremely heavy reeds he prefers. Over the years his sound has become rougher and rougher. Herman’s playing is rooted in the bebop of Charlie Parker, Art Pepper and Jackie McLean, but also contains elements referring to free jazz and rock 'n' roll. As a composer, and in his choice of repertoire, he has a preference for catchy themes, focusing on melody first and foremost. His solos, however, are drenched in bebop harmonies. The breaking down of barriers in the Netherlands between traditional and freer forms of jazz, between art and entertainment, and between younger and older generations of musicians, over the past decade, owes a great deal to Benjamin Herman’s role as a pioneer. As one of the co-founders of the New Cool Collective he has brought jazz to contemporary nightlife, he plays his bebop licks as a guest musician with well-known pop acts, and assembles bands including members of the alternative improv generation as well as from the bop scene, and introduces his old heroes, like the poets Jules Deelder and Remco Campert, pianist/composer Misha Mengelberg and the British pianist Stan Tracey to a younger audience. Since he switches between Amsterdam and Rotterdam as his domicile, he infuses the collaboration between musicians from the two cities with a subtle impulse. In addition to all this he is a sharp dresser – something that was no longer common among jazz musicians. It gained him the title of Best Dressed Man in the Netherlands in 2008.

Played in

Floris   saxofoon
Fra Fra Sound   saxofoon
New Cool Collective   dirigent, fluit, saxofoon
New Cool Collective Big Band   saxofoon
S.O. Jazz   saxofoon

1968 - 1993

Benjamin Herman spends the first years of his life in Great Britain. His Dutch mother plays the piano and his British father, the rabbi and psychotherapist Sonny Herman, the trombone. When he is eight years old the family, consisting of his twin brother Jonathan (nowadays a television and film director), two older sisters and two older brothers, move to the Netherlands, settling down in the village of Zaandijk. The English connection will continue to play a role in his career. Benjamin Herman starts out in music playing the drums, but at the age of thirteen he is given a saxophone as a bar mitzvah present. The young horn player soon becomes a well known figure in the local scene, playing in scores of bands. His first paying gigs are at De Witte Vlinder and Bar Dancing Dam 8 in Zaandam in 1981, together with guitarist Patrick Sedoc. In 1985 he performs at the North Sea Jazz Festival for the first time, as a member of the pop band Latiffe. In the same year he also makes his recording debut: Dissolving The AD Big Band. At the age of eighteen Herman starts attending the Hilversum Conservatory, where he graduates cum laude in 1991. As a student he can already be found regularly in the Amsterdam nightlife, at jazz café Alto and in the pop scene around Loïs Lane and Candy Dulfer. He puts in a guest appearance on Candy Dulfer’s album Saxuality (1990) and records with singer Henk Westbroek (Voorjaar, 1992) and pianist Michiel Borstlap (Day Off, 1992). 1992 also sees the release of Between A Dog And A Lamppost, the first album by the Benjamin Herman/Maarten van der Grinten Quartet. He tours internationally with pianist Mike Del Ferro and the Glenn Miller Orchestra. A scholarship allows Benjamin Herman to study for six months at the Manhattan School of Music in New York in 1993, where saxophonist Dick Oatts is one of his mentors.

Candy Dulfer Henk Westbroek Loïs Lane Maarten van der Grinten Michiel Borstlap

1994 - 1996

At the Amsterdam club The Soul Kitchen Herman and DJ Graham B experiment with a combination of a DJ versus live musicians. Out of those experiments the seven piece New Cool Collective eventually grows, in 1994. The band plays a danceable mix of soul jazz, Latin, boogaloo, funk and afrobeat (without a DJ, incidentally). After a while a big band version of the NCC also hits the clubs. They perform every Monday night at the Amsterdam club Meander, and these 'Big Mondays' earn the band an ever growing popularity. After two and a half years they move to the larger Panama, where numerous musical guests are added to the line-up. NCC will continue to play an important role in Herman’s career and in the Dutch world of music (see the entry on the New Cool Collective). Meanwhile Benjamin Herman also becomes a prominent member of the solid modern jazz scene which creates a stir in the 1990s. Focal point is the Michiel Borstlap Sextet, which includes Herman, saxophonist Yuri Honing, trumpeter Eric Vloeimans, drummer Joost Lijbaart and bassist Anton Drukker In 1999 the group disbands after a number of highly successful international tours. Herman also joins the new band Five Up High (including tenor saxophonist Jasper Blom and drummer Joost Patocka). A second album with guitarist Maarten van der Grinten is released (Psychodixie For C-Melody Saxophone) and he guests on albums by trumpeter Saskia Laroo and the Cubop City Big Band. From its founding in 1996 until 2003 Benjamin Herman is a member of the Jazz Orchestra Of The Concertgebouw (initially called New Concert Big Band). 1996 sees the release of Lost Languages, the Van der Grinten/Herman Quartet’s third album.

Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw New Cool Collective Saskia Laroo

1997 - 2003

Benjamin Herman’s first album as a leader is released in 1997: Café Alto. It gains ample praise for the ‘catchy tunes’ and its ‘fresh quality’. The sequel, Get In (1999), featuring the American Hammond organist Larry Goldings, guitarist Jesse van Ruller and drummer Idris Muhammad (who takes a one-off return from free jazz to the soul jazz that originally made him famous), takes it a step further. Although it is not considered sensible by the record industry, Herman keeps churning out CDs. The New Cool Collective Big Band records the album Big in late 1999. A year later Herman releases a live recording where he performs music by improv founding father Misha Mengelberg exclusively (Plays Misha Mengelberg). It earns the pianist unexpected appreciation in bebop circles for his compositions dating back several decades. And vice versa Herman is valued by improv buffs for his non-sectarian view of music. This open attitude also shows from Herman’s guest role on the EP Outta Nowhere by the then unknown teenager Perquisite, who will later gain fame and fortune with the subtle hiphop he creates with rapper Pete Philly. Other bands in which Benjamin Herman plays a role are Zuco 103, Zijlstra, Floris, Group of Friends, DJ Roog, and singer Francien van Tuinen’s outfit. He continues to tour (internationally) with NCC, under his own name, and with others. 2002 sees the release of the CD Benjamin Herman Plays Jaki Byard. In this period a subtle change takes place in Herman’s sound. His tone becomes more muscular and even more self-assured than in the Café Alto days. His repertoire of jazz licks continues to grow and becomes more characteristic of the man. As a consequence other Dutch alto saxophonists start imitating Herman’s style.

DJ Roog Floris Francien van Tuinen Jesse van Ruller Misha Mengelberg Perquisite Zijlstra Zuco 103

2004 - 2006

In 2004 Herman participates in a seminal recording session with guitarist/singer Paul Weller. The British musician initially invites Candy Dulfer to play on the new album he will record at the Amsterdam Studio 150. Dulfer passes on the assignment to Herman, a fan of the mod revival and of Weller’s old band The Style Council. His loose, non-perfectionist approach leaves a deep impression with the saxophonist. From that moment on he sounds much more raw and impulsive. This becomes immediately clear on the album The Itch (2005), featuring drummer Han Bennink, guitarist Anton Goudsmit and bassist Ernst Glerum. It is a collaboration between musicians of different generations, and like Herman’s next records it is recorded at Studio 150. The Itch is a stylistic break away from the more bebop oriented Heterogeneity, released a year earlier. A new activity Herman takes up, is recording and releasing vinyl singles and 12 inches like Skunkaholic (2004) and Durban Poison (2005) on his own Roach Records label. He claims that the financing of this activity keeps him from getting his driver’s license. In 2006 Herman is awarded the VPRO/Boy Edgar Prijs (the major Dutch jazz award). The jury’s verdict: '…an exemplary jazz musician: open minded, inquisitive, energetic and committed. His unrelenting drive, great technical skills and a beautiful tone typify him.’ In this period Herman performs with many new jazzy pop acts like C-Mon & Kypski, Pete Philly & Perquisite, Benny Sings and Wouter Hamel. But he also releases the straight-ahead jazz CD The London Session, featuring veteran British pianist Stan Tracey and trombonist Bart van Lier. And at long last there is a new CD with Maarten van der Grinten: A Curse And A Sigh.

Anton Goudsmit Bart van Lier Benny Sings C-Mon & Kypski Ernst Glerum Han Bennink Wouter Hamel

2007 - 2011

Benjamin Herman Benjamin Herman shows his introspective side on the album Campert. It takes up the music he wrote for a documentary on the Dutch writer and poet Remco Campert: De Tijd Duurt Eén Mens Lang. The CD features the young pianist Gideon van Gelder. But entertaining remains Herman’s core business. He does so in a successful theater tour with NCC and his Rotterdam jazz friend, performing poet Jules Deelder, which has a rerun in 2011. He also becomes a member of The Painkillers, the backing band for singer Hans Teeuwen, who takes a long sabbatical as a cabaret performer to focus on his jazz singing. In 2010 his CD How It Aches is released. Late 2008 the 'Xmas album' Hypochristmastreefuzz (More Mengelberg) is in the shops. It continues in the rawer vein Herman started with The Itch. His celebrity status is enhanced by his election as Best Dressed Man by the readers of Esquire magazine, successful concerts by NCC with rapper Typhoon, an Edison (Dutch Grammy) for the CD Campert and his work with Teeuwen. Now and again he also takes up the baritone sax as a second horn. For Jules Deelder’s 65th birthday the saxophonist releases a vinyl EP, using the unusual 10 inch size (Deelder 65). Psychedelic funk characterizes the CD Blue Sky Blond (2010), dedicated to ‘jazz cigarettes’. Since 2010 Herman has his own weekly radio show on the Dutch station Radio 6.

Gideon van Gelder Hans Teeuwen Jules Deelder


In June Deal is released, the soundtrack of the new film by Eddy Terstall, which will be premiered later this year. The album is partly recorded with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.

Discography Benjamin Herman

In the discography you will find all recordings that have been released listed chronologically. We restrict ourselves to the title, the type of audio, year of publication or recording, label, list of guest musicians, plus any comments on the issue.

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Audio/Video Benjamin Herman

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