Thursday, January 19, 2012
Piet Noordijk Kwartet: Loverman, 1982
It's been a couple of months since I posted a good old-fashioned straight ahead jazz album, so here's a lovely effort by a quartet featuring three Dutchmen and a German, recorded live in 1980. The grooves on the A side are especially slick. All the musicians play beautifully on this one and Noordijk (who passed away in October) in particular kills it on a couple of solos. However, it was the great Cees Slinger who stood out to me as the anchor of this album. Slinger, who died a few years back, not only played piano on this album but arranged all the songs. Slinger's work is known and appreciated in some jazz circles, but in my mind, the recognition that he received stateside never matched his creativity in playing and in arranging, (his album Live at the North Sea Jazz Festival is a noteworthy example of the latter.)
I'd be curious to hear how well known Slinger is in Europe, but in any case he is a member of the generation of European jazz musicians whose contributions to the genre have been severely underappreciated in the U.S. Unlike so many American listeners, a lot of the American jazz greats viewed a number of Western and Northern European countries as significant sites on the jazz map. American jazz musicians toured Europe routinely and some even relocated to Europe permanently to live there as ex-pats and make their mark on the European jazz aesthetic by playing with local musicians. Slinger was apparently well acquainted with the American circuit; All About Jazz credits him with playing alongside Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Knepper, Sonny Stitt, Jimmy Heath, and Archie Shepp, among others.
It's impossible to say exactly which musical trends the Americans brought across the pond and which ones they brought back to the States as a result of their international collaborations, but there is no question that trans-Atlantic listening was a major part of jazz even from the decades immediately following the genre's inception. Early on, a lot Black musicians liked playing in Paris because they were treated less like second class citizens there. And from some time in the 20th century through to the present day, European governments have been very supportive of creative music compared to the U.S. government, giving out grants for compositions, performances, and travel much more readily. These factors and the general enthusiasm that so many Europeans have historically felt for jazz made the continent a much more comfortable environment for the music, and even today they say that it is much easier to live as a jazz musician in Europe than in the U.S.
The thing that I wonder about is why European jazz fans seem to know so much more about American jazz than Americans know about European jazz. Obviously, the music was born in the States and many of its major innovations occurred on American soil as well, but I get the sense that European collectors are generally more dedicated to seeking out the deeper, rarer jazz recordings from all around the world. Is it a different attitude towards the arts in general? A different culture of music listening? Either way, I'm always grateful to hear new material from the European masters, especially because in the absence of a lot of information about their careers, every recording feels like a window into a different world.
Piet Noordijk: alto and soprano saxes, percussion
Cees Slinger: piano and arrangements
Rob Langereis: bass
Evert Overweg: drums
No Problem by Easyjams