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Han Bennink


17-04-1942 - current


banjo, drums, klarinet, percussie, tenorsaxofoon, trombone, viool


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Han Bennink

Han Bennink (Zaandam, 17 April 1942) is a phenomenon in Dutch jazz and beyond, a bop trained drummer combining a faultlessly timed swing with explosive improvisations, who lets extremes clash in a visually remarkable performance. All over the world Bennink is seen as the symbol of the 'New Dutch Swing' ...
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banjo, drums, klarinet, percussie, tenorsaxofoon, trombone, viool

Mentioned in the biography of

1929   Max Teawhistle
1957   Jacques Schols
1958   Misha Mengelberg
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Biography Han Bennink

Han Bennink (Zaandam, 17 April 1942) is a phenomenon in Dutch jazz and beyond, a bop trained drummer combining a faultlessly timed swing with explosive improvisations, who lets extremes clash in a visually remarkable performance. All over the world Bennink is seen as the symbol of the 'New Dutch Swing' of which he was one of the originators - a mix of improvisation with jazz en absurdist humor, in which he makes music with whatever means are available: a chair, a pizza box, the floorboards of the stage, or a perfectly tuned snare drum. Bennink's technique is formed in the 1960s when the young, self-taught drummer has the opportunity to accompany American top soloists like Johnny Griffin and Eric Dolphy. In the late 1960s Bennink distances himself from the jazz conventions, developing a Dutch form of improvised music with kindred spirits like saxophonist Willem Breuker and pianist Misha Mengelberg. His performances expand into a form of physical, total theater, with an arsenal of unusual percussion, string and wind instruments. In the 1980s he gradually decreases his set of instruments in size and from the late 1990s he often performs with only a single snare drum. A constant factor in five decades is his musical partnership with pianist-composer Misha Mengelberg, which started in 1960 and took shape in the Instant Composers Pool (ICP) from 1967 onwards. In all of the ensembles bearing that name Bennink and Mengelberg have been the most important leading minds. He also achieves artistic heights between 1988 and 1997 with the Trio Clusone, while his versatility shows from his collaboration with the anarcho-punkband The Ex and the Ethiopian soul singer Mohammed 'Jimmy' Mohammed from 2000 onwards. Han Bennink is also active as a visual artist. He made the sleeve designs for some fifty ICP albums and exhibits his assemblages, in which he also makes use of used drumsticks and worn-out drumheads, both in the Netherlands and abroad.

1942 - 1960

Hendrikus Johannes Bennink is born on 17 April 1942 in the town of Zaandam, as the oldest son of the percussionist and reed player Rein Bennink. Between1949 and 1966 Bennink Sr. has a steady job as the percussionist of the AVRO radio orchestra De Zaaiers. Han and his younger brother Peter (born 1 February 1945, from the late 1960s active as a saxophonist) get a chance to witness recordings in the AVRO radio studio from close by. Han soon shows a fascination for percussion. He starts drumming at home on a wooden kitchen chair, using an empty bottle for a cymbal. He is not officially taught, but he learns the tricks of the trade by closely watching his father and his colleagues in the radio world, like Wessel Ilcken, Cees See and Joop Korzelius. A performance by Cozy Cole in the AVRO studio makes a deep impression – it is the first American jazz drummer he sees playing live. From January 1958 Han Bennink starts appearing on stage. He performs in Minjon, the AVRO radio program for youngsters, plays in novice combos led by saxophonist Hans Peters, bassist Arend Nijenhuis and pianist Jan Huydts, and gets to meet colleagues like guitarist Wim Overgaauw at sessions in the Utrecht jazz cellar Persepolis. In 1959 he has his first foreign adventure alongside his father: a show for the Dutch military in the French army camp La Courtine. Father and son have rehearsed a duo version of Benny Goodman's Sing Sing Sing, but it turns out the French summer heat has torn the head of Han's tom-tom. At his father's advice he starts drumming on the wooden floor of the stage – which is met with enthusiasm by the audience. 'Thus I discovered that you can drum on anything and everything,' is his later conclusion. In December the 17-year-old drummer gets his first positive newspaper review, reporting on a jazz competition in Bussum. 'A personal success for Han Bennink, who demonstrated an acceptable, deftly varied drum solo', was the verdict of a local newspaper on Bennink's feature in Sonny Rollins' St. Thomas. An important source of inspiration are the late night concerts at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, where he gets to study idols like drummer Kenny Clarke from close by. He befriends bassist Ruud Jacobs, a fellow townsman and four years his senior. He teaches Bennink the tricks of working in a rhythm
tandem. His stage experience broadens in 1960 with the Jazz for Christ tour with pianist Carel Heinsius, who draws crowds with a mixture of swing and evangelization.

Ruud Jacobs

1961 - 1966

In July 1961 Bennink sings up as a ship's musician on board the passenger vessel Maasdam. The ship sails to New York, where he visits as many jazzclubs as he possibly can during a weekend's shore leave. He sees his favorite musicians in their own surroundings, including pianist Sonny Clark with drummer Billy Higgins, the Ornette Coleman Quartet with drummer Charles Moffett, and the John Coltrane Quartet with drummer Elvin Jones. He returns home with his vivid impressions: 'I came back fully energized, with the feeling: now I know; now I've seen it all.' The collaboration he started in 1960 with pianist Misha Mengelberg takes the shape of ad hoc quartets featuring the trumpeter Ado Broodboom, the tenor saxophonist Toon van Vliet or the Australian born saxophonist Ray Warleigh. The ensuing quartet with alto saxophonist Piet Noordijk (and Jacques Schols or Rob Langereis on double bass) becomes the most exciting Dutch jazz band of the period, feeding on the mounting tension between bop and freer forms of jazz. The quartet is the first European jazz group featured at the famous Newport Jazz Festival at Rhode Island, in July 1966. When Mengelberg and Bennink ask the 21-year-old saxophonist Willem Breuker to join the quartet, Piet Noordijk quits late 1966. He no longer feels at home in the free-for-all style the group with Breuker prefers. Bennink also opts for more adventurous forms, but his affinity with the jazz tradition always shines through, even in the more abstract passages. His driving, dynamic technique is formed in tours where he has to stand his own as a novice with American top soloists. His trial by fire is the March 1963 performance with saxophonist Johnny Griffin, pianist Pim Jacobs and Ruud Jacobs on bass. The American veteran forces the 20-year-old drummer to his limits. 'As bad as Art Blakey', is Griffin's compliment after the shows. Another important formative experience is the 1964 tour with the adventurous reedist-composer Eric Dolphy, with Misha Mengelberg on piano. A recording with Dolphy for VARA radio is released on a Philips LP, Last Date, receiving a five star review in the American jazz magazine Down Beat early 1965. In 1966 Bennink graduates cum laude at the Amsterdams Instituut voor Kunstnijverheidsonderwijs (art school) and he decides to become a professional musician. The following year brings yet another a triumph with a tour with the American jazz great Sonny Rollins, featuring exciting exchanges between the drummer and the tenorist, incorporating influences from rising free jazz drummers like Sunny Murray and Milford Graves. After comparably successful combinations, featuring the tenorists Ben Webster, Don Byas and Oliver Nelson, singer Nina Simone and the guitarists Wes Montgomery and René Thomas, a performance with the American tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon in 1969 (recorded on the LP Live at the Paradiso) marks Bennink's symbolic farewell to swinging accompaniments in a jazz setting. The following two decades the drummer concentrates on freer forms of improvised music, incorporating the raw energy of free jazz, but setting its own priorities: anti-aesthetics, satirical distancing and a theatrical presentation.

Misha Mengelberg Piet Noordijk Willem Breuker

1967 - 1982

In 1967 the Stichting Jazz in Nederland (Dutch jazz foundation) awards Bennink the Wessel Ilcken Prijs (the major Dutch jazz award). The jury report calls the drummer 'a link between the various jazz generations in the Netherlands', praises his 'in the Netherlands unprecedented technical capabilities' as well as his 'enthusiastic and inspiring personality' and concludes that Bennink 'has creatively contributed to the emancipation of the role of the drummer in jazz music'. In the same year Willem Breuker, Misha Mengelberg and Bennink found the Instant Composers Pool (ICP), a musicians' collective that organizes concerts and runs its own record label. The first ICP production to appear early 1968 is the LP The New Acoustic Swing Duo by Bennink and Breuker. After a dispute with Mengelberg Breuker leaves the ICP in 1973 to start his own Kollektief. Although Bennink occasionally plays pure jazz (for instance on the LP Altissimo with the alto saxophonists Lee Konitz, Jackie McLean, Gary Bartz and Charlie Mariano, recorded in Copenhagen, in the summer of 1973) the iconoclastic duo with pianist Misha Mengelberg becomes the epicenter of his activities. He keeps doing the occasional gigs with Breuker: in 1984 they embark upon a duo tour of Japan, live recordings of which are released by the Japanese Jazz & Now label. Together with Breuker and Mengelberg Bennink also plays a role in the development of a contemporary form of musical theater, in which cultural critique and pure fun go hand in hand with musical parody and improvisation. Bennink parodies himself as 'Hitse Beuk' a drumming primeval beast in Breuker's Kaïn & Abel and Oltre Tomba (1972 and 1973), and is featured in productions with Mengelberg and theater maker Wim T. Schippers like Bugpeh Expé (1974), Tafelhoofdpijn (1979) and Duizend Gordijnen (Holland Festival, 1982). In the early 1970s Bennink further extends his international scope. An important factor in this is his collaboration with the German reed player and visual artist Peter Brötzmann, who opens up the German club and festival circuit for Bennink and is a mainstay in ICP line-ups until the early 1980s. With an international octet featuring Bennink and Breuker Brötzmann records the legendary LP Machine Gun in May 1968. In all its radical rawness the album emphasizes the break with the American jazz model. The drummer finds another regular partner in the British guitarist Derek Bailey, with whom he records six duo albums. In these years Bennink's work space is a former cowshed in the village of Loenen aan de Vecht, an austere hangout where he collects a great assembly of musical instruments and works of art, and studies in increasing isolation. 'This intensive studying started in the cowshed. It was a fertile period, especially because of the isolation.' The intensity can be seen and felt on stage, where his energy may take on haunting guises. A film made about Bennink by VPRO television in 1968 bears the appropriate title De Bezetene (The Posessed One). 'I myself thought I wasn't possessed enough,' Bennink states in retrospect, in his 2009 biography.

Instant Composers Pool Misha Mengelberg Willem Breuker Wim T. Schippers

1983 - 1997

Proof of Bennink's respect for his jazz roots, in spite of all of these far-out musical adventures, is a 1983 concert at the Amsterdam Bimhuis where he accompanies the 79-year-old American piano veteran Art Hodes with bassist Ernst Glerum. Hodes' repertoire includes classics like Bourbon Street Parade and Beale Street Blues, and Bennink accompanies him in the propelling style of New Orleans drummers like Baby Dodds and Zutty Singleton. Jazz critic Jeroen de Valk of the Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool typifies Bennink on this occasion as a 'superior, heavily swinging trad jazz drummer'. His versatility – to which the 1985 Bird Award at the North Sea Jazz Festival bears witness – remains exemplary: in the same week in 1988 Bennink shares the stage with the American freejazz pianist Cecil Taylor and with the soul singer Percy Sledge. His undiluted swing returns even stronger in the Trio Clusone, which makes its debut at the 1988 jazz festival in the eponymous Italian mountain village. In the trio Bennink joins two other ICP Orchestra cohorts: cellist Ernst Reijseger and reedist Michael Moore. In the trio the improvising, humoristic ICP style blends with traditional jazz influences, in intuitively linked pieces by composers ranging from Irving Berlin to Mengelberg. Six CDs and tours in countries as far apart as Australia, Burkina Faso, China and Vietnam make Trio Clusone a major international attraction ('one of the most delightfully iconoclastic groups to come down the improv pike in decades', according to the AllMusic Guide). The personal differences that make for the trio's musical edge are finally the cause for its explosive demise after nine years. In July 2005 the threesome meet for a reunion in Clusone, but the performance remains without a follow-up. Now that Bennink plays more explicitly 'in the tradition' – also in the ICP Orchestra, which focuses on reinterpretations of the music of Herbie Nichols, Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington from 1984 onwards – his reputation abroad is growing. From 1987 he is the only European scoring high in the Critics Polls of the American monthly Down Beat. The specialist magazine Modern Drummer praises his 'jaw dropping technique' and calls his playing 'entirely musical, beautiful and powerful'. And after a Bennink program in New York in 1997 the authoritative American critic Gary Giddins calls him 'a singular virtuoso'.

Ernst Reijseger Michael Moore

1998 - 2011

In the 1990s Bennink's practice as a soloist is booming. He gives over a hundred concerts a year, and increasingly abroad. There are foreign festivals devoted to his work, also incorporating his visual art. As a workshop leader for young musicians he is often employed abroad. His method, aimed less at technique than at generating creative energy, makes him popular at the Banff Center in Canada and the LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts in New York. From 2001 his friendship with guitarist Terrie Ex of the improv punkband The Ex leads to new musical impulses. With The Ex he tours Ethiopia a number of times, performing with the Ethiopian tenor saxophonist Getatchew Mekuria. In 2006 he records a CD with Mohammed 'Jimmy' Mohammed, a vocalist singing in the Amharic language, Bennink recognizes as a soul brother. At the same time Bennink remains firmly rooted in the jazz tradition as well, as he demonstrates on the Piet Noordijk CD Jubilee Concert (2007) and Monk, Volume One (2008), a CD with pianist Michiel Borstlap and bassist Ernst Glerum, which is awarded an Edison Jazz Nationaal (the Dutch Grammy). As recognition for his versatile mastership Bennink is awarded the European Jazz Prize 2008, at a sum of 14,500 euro. The award ceremony is in November 2008 in Vienna, encompassing a two day festival of his music. From the jury report: 'Today more than ever before, Bennink understands how to swing in the traditional way and to master the free jazz sound, as well as to generate collective gusto for playing with his musical partners'). In all his versatility Bennink himself observes a return to base: 'My choices are clearer now and I know better where I should be heading.' The austerity comes to the fore in concerts where he plays snare drum exclusively – to such an effect that he is asked to open the final night of the September 2010 Tokyo Jazz Festival as a soloist. A year earlier the 'master drummer' starts his first group as a leader: the Han Bennink Trio. He doesn't opt for seasoned veterans, but relatively unknown talents: the Danish pianist Simon Toldam and the Belgian reedist Joachim Badenhorst. Amidst these young Turks 67-year-old drummer remains the avid pace-setter of the band. Or, as he puts it himself in the biography De Wereld Als Trommel: 'When I see a photo of Charlie Parker, I still look at it with the mind of a 14-year-old. [...] For it is never enough, never.

Ernst Glerum Michiel Borstlap The Ex

Discography Han Bennink

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.

Photos Han Bennink

Audio/Video Han Bennink

Video Han Bennink

Han Bennink - een jazzpor...
Han Bennink - een jazzportret in 1 minuut
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Han Bennink - een jazzportret in 1 minuut

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