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Wim Overgaauw en Ruud Jabocs in Jazzclub Veenendaal


23-11-1929 - 30-11-1995


gitaar, jazz


Bill White

Wim Overgaauw

Wim Overgaauw (Hilversum, 23 November 1929 – Hilversum, 30 November 1995) is the most important Dutch jazz guitarist of his generation. He starts his varied career as a self-taught guitarist in Amsterdam, works for the American forces in Germany, tours the Netherlands with pianist Pim Jacobs and singer Rita Reys, ...
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Mentioned in the biography of

1955   Chris Dekker
1957   Rita Reys
1958   Pim Jacobs
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Biography Wim Overgaauw

Wim Overgaauw (Hilversum, 23 November 1929 – Hilversum, 30 November 1995) is the most important Dutch jazz guitarist of his generation. He starts his varied career as a self-taught guitarist in Amsterdam, works for the American forces in Germany, tours the Netherlands with pianist Pim Jacobs and singer Rita Reys, and finally establishes himself as a studio musician and guitar teacher in Hilversum. His sophisticated playing goes largely unnoticed with a larger audience, especially since the introverted guitarist doesn't show any interest in appearance or in the business aspects of the music world. The few albums he records as a leader are largely in easy listening genre. It isn't until after his death that Blue Jack Jazz Records releases some of his jazz concerts on CD. Overgaauw's playing also lives on in the host of students he taught at the Hilversum Conservatory, including Jesse van Ruller, Martijn van Iterson and Maarten van der Grinten.

Played in

Pim Jacobs   gitaar


As a teenager Overgaauw plays the violin for a number of years, but around the end of WW II he switches to guitar. He is initially self-taught, and without any knowledge of harmony plays the music of Django Reinhardt and later Charlie Parker and Lennie Tristano. At his parents' insistence he trains as an electrician. This comes in handy when he adapts his Spanish guitar into an electrical one, making use of discarded radio parts. When someone at a jam session asks him to become a professional musician, he doesn't hesitate: 'In Hilversum I earned 35 guilders a week as an electrician with the Philips company, in Amsterdam I could make 135 guilders as a musician', he relates in a 1981 interview. (1) In the Dutch capital he quickly upgrades his theoretical knowledge. 'There I met people with theoretical knowledge. They said: “What you're playing there, is a C Major chord.” Well, that's nice to know.' Among his first professional bands is pianist-vibraphonist John Krispijn's combo in 1951. Overgaauw plays for the American forces in Germany with drummer Nick Vollebregt's Stardust Quintet and later can be found in drummer Wessel Ilcken's groups and his own bands. He calls himself Bill White for a number of years, since no one can pronounce his family name across the border. When faced with tough audiences he gets up on stage, playing instrumental rock & roll hits by Duane Eddy and others. A rare instance of showmanship of the otherwise so introverted musician.

1958 - 1972

Back in the Netherlands Overgaauw finds employment as a sideman with singer Rita Reys and pianist Pim Jacobs. Until the early seventies he has a busy schedule as a member of the subtly swinging drumless Pim Jacobs Trio, featuring bassist Ruud Jacobs. For fifteen years the trio gives educational concerts during the daytime and plays the jazz circuit at night with Rita Reys. Pim Jacobs develops as an emcee and consequently as a media personality. The pianist manages to make money out of the prize they win at the international competition of the Antibes Jazz Festival in 1960 – the trio plus Rita Reys is voted the best European jazz combo – and out of the marriage with the singer, later in the same year. After the success at Antibes the pianist always announces her as 'Europe's First Lady Of Jazz'. The marriage is celebrated with the LP Marriage In Modern Jazz. The flawless guitarist joins them in their triumph. Backing Reys he usually takes on a role akin to that of Freddie Green, Count Basie's imperturbable rhythm guitarist; in an instrumental setting he gets more room to play solos. When he plays without a piano he excels in virtuoso chordal solos. Between 1966 and 1970 he is the annual winner of the magazine Jazzwereld's poll as Best Guitarist.

1973 - 1980

Wim Overgaauw bij het Grand Gala du Disque 1972 (bron: fotocollectie Beeld en Geluid) When the Pim Jacobs Trio disbands – the pianist has too much work as a television presenter and in other capacities – Overgaauw offers his services to the Hilversum studios. He is soon discovered as flexible, tireless musical omnivore, a fast and easy interpreter of anything they care to put on his music stand. Back in 1972 his easy listening album Don't Disturb earned him an Edison (Dutch Grammy). The LP sells well, but doesn't do justice to his talents as a jazz guitarist, and neither do any of his other albums of this decade, even though they all have their good moments. Overgaauw's student Martijn van Iterson comments: 'The intro to Here's That Rainy Day on the Don't Disturb album is of the highest musical level, and easily stands the test of time. Regardless of category or musical style.' (2) The short-lived rockjazz group Strangers, with which Overgaauw plays the Paradiso and the Melkweg in Amsterdam, is never recorded. For this band the guitarist takes his inspiration from the American free jazz pioneer Sonny Sharrock. At one time he smells something burning while he is playing; it turns out to be his plectrum, which has half burned away because of his vicious attack on the strings. (1) His duo with drummer Han Bennink wasn't officially recorded for posterity either.

1980 - 1995

Overgaauw is one of the first teachers at the Light Music department at the Hilversum Conservatory, which will merge with Amsterdam Conservatory after his death. He doesn't take his job lightly, but turns out to be a conscientious teacher. He publishes a number of teaching methods, including The European Jazz Guitar. Among his students are Maarten van der Grinten and Jesse van Ruller. The latter wins the 1995 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in Washington, and is always in praise of his teacher. Another student, Martijn van Iterson, is now Rita Reys's regular accompanist, and as such Overgaauw's successor in her combo. In addition to his teaching Overgaauw keeps doing studio jobs and plays in clubs, usually not drawing a great deal attention. He does point out to a journalist that he feels most at home in 'a bunch'. He doesn't think much of his own recorded oeuvre, and says so without the blink of an eye. (1) He occasionally tours with the American pianist Hod O'Brien, just like him an unsung hero on his instrument. After Overgaauw's death Blue Jack Jazz Records releases two live CDs of the two men together. Both albums feature stylish, nimble-fingered bebop. Overgaauw succumbs to cancer in 1995 after a long illness, shortly after his 66th birthday.
(1) An interview with Jeroen de Valk, partly published in Jazz Nu, March 1981.
(2) An e-mail from Martijn van Iterson to Jeroen de Valk, June 2010.

Discography Wim Overgaauw

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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