Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Paul Desmond - Neoclassicism in Jazz

OUP Material, Copyright Line, and Acknowledgement
IP Number
THE IMPERFECT ART by Giola (1988) 2800w from "IV: Neoclassicism in Art" pp.81-91
 © 1998 by Ted Gioia  By permission of Oxford University Press, Inc.



© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

There are lot’s of ways to learn about Jazz for as the noted Jazz author Doug Ramsey has advised in Jazz Matters: Reflections on the Music & Some of Its Makers [Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 1989, p. 6]:

"You don't need a degree in musicology to understand the language of jazz. ... Jazz is based on the common language of music understood around the world. The listener, whether musician or non-musician, can learn the idioms and vernacular of the language. It is simply a matter of absorption through exposure. My only caveat is this: in the learning process, don't spend your time listening to imitators or second-raters."

Doug’s caveat holds true as well for Jazz writers: only read the best.

Certainly, by any standard of judgment, three of the best authors about Jazz are Doug, Gene Lees and Ted Gioia.

I would think that as the youngest member of this distinguished triumvirate, Ted might be flattered to share the following, paraphrased words of praise which Gene articulated about Doug’s writing in his Foreword to Doug’s Jazz Matters:

“A decent and  respectful curiosity fills Doug Ramsey’s writing. When he expresses reservations about someone’s work, he does so gently and reluctantly.

… And he praises beautifully. This is the hardest thing to do in criticism. Any writer can make himself look clever by excoriation, which calls for witty analogies and comparisons, but a rare and sensitive gift goes into the writing of sensitive praise.

And Doug has the gift of imagery, rather like that of Whitney Balliett, to give impressions of music through words.

Doug writes for the ear, he has a habit of writing only what reads well aloud….

‘The primary responsibility in writing about anything is to help people understand,’ Doug said.

That, above all, is what Doug Ramsey does.”

And that is also what Ted Gioia does, he informs the reader. Whether he is writing about one style or school of Jazz such as West Coast Jazz, or whether his discourse is about the sweeping panorama of the history of Jazz itself, Ted gives his readers knowledge and insights into how to better understand and appreciate Jazz.

Yet, Ted is no stodgy academician, but rather, an interesting storyteller who makes reading about Jazz fun and enjoyable.

His writing also enriches our listening experience by introducing fresh and different perspectives about the music for as he states in the Acknowledgements to The Imperfect Art: Reflections on Jazz and Modern Culture: [click on book title for order information]

“… mine is a decidedly ‘thoughtful’ … approach to Jazz.

Doug and Ted’s musings about Jazz also intersect at another point along its spectrum of personalities. Each has offered a treatment on the subject of alto saxophonist Paul Desmond [although in Doug’s case, it is more like a Magnus Opus!].

In The Imperfect Art: Reflections on Jazz and Modern Culture, Ted’s unique views on Paul are characterized as part of what he refers to as Neoclassicism in Jazz [pp. 81 -91].

Ted and the kind folks at Oxford University Press have graciously granted JazzProfiles copyright permission to replicate his description of what this categorization entails and why Paul’s style of playing fits so neatly into it.

As part of an ongoing series, the editorial staff plans to offer future features on other artists who approach Jazz in a “Neoclassicist” manner including John Lewis, Ahmad Jamal and Miles Davis.

So as not to confuse the reader, before describing Neoclassicism, the excerpt from Ted’s work which follows initially describes Romanticism in Jazz as a basis for contrasting these two radically different approaches to the music.

THE IMPERFECT ART, pp. 81-91, © 1998 by Ted Gioia  By permission of Oxford University Press, Inc. Copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“Drawing parallels between stages in jazz’s development and periods in the evolution of other arts is, at best, a questionable endeavor. Yet the pronounced obsession with individual art­ists which has characterized the reactions of jazz fans, critics, and even musicians at least since the time of Louis Arm­strong—reaching its peak with the figure of John Coltrane— can perhaps be best understood as the outgrowth of a tempera­ment which is essentially "romantic" in nature.

Romanticism, with its idealization of the expressive artist, created a new aesthetic vocabulary in the late eighteenth and nineteenth century—one that fixated on the act of artistic pro­duction; one that glorified the passing moment of artistic in­spiration as a secular epiphany; one in which the artist often became more important than what he created. In many in­stances the artist's life actually became, in his eyes and in the eyes of others, itself a work of art. With Byron, Wordsworth, Keats, Goethe, Wagner, and many of their contemporaries, biography and aesthetics begin to coalesce. The term "roman­ticism" has become worn with use, and, as more than one critic has advocated, much might be gained by discarding it entirely. Yet, as William Thrall has noted, "viewed in philo­sophical terms, romanticism does have a fairly definite mean­ing.”10 [William Thall, A Handbook to Literature, New York: Odyssey Press, 1960, p. 431] It designates a view of the world "which tends to see the individual at the very center of all life and all experience, and it places him, therefore, at the center of art." This aes­thetic sensibility was often seen as having a special affinity with the musical arts, As M. H. Abrams has noted, the Ger­man critics in particular saw " music as the apex and norm of the pure and non-representative expression of spirit and feeling against which to measure the relative expressiveness of all other art forms . . .
[I]nquiry into the neo-representative character of music joined with many collateral influences to strain and shatter the frame of neo-classic theory, and to reorient all critical discussion toward the new magnetic north of the expressive and creative artist.11 [M.H. Abrams, The Mirror and The Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition, New York: Oxford University Press, 1953, p. 94]

The inherent romanticist elements in music are realized with particular force in jazz. In no other area of creative en­deavor is there so little distance between the artist and his work of art. In the spontaneous act of improvisation, the art­ist has no opportunity to give his music a separate existence, to revise it, to reconsider it, to mull over it. The notion of the autonomous work of art—so fashionable in recent intellectual circles—has no place in jazz. Jazz music lives and dies in the moment of performance, and in that moment the musician is his music. His improvisation is the purest expression possible of the artist's emotions and feelings, and it is a purity which is only heightened by the absence of the spoken word. The German romanticist Novalis, arguing for the primacy of the musical arts, wrote towards the close of the eighteenth cen­tury: "The musician takes the essence of his art out of him­self—and not the slightest suspicion of imitation can befall him."12 [Cited in ibid., 93]
With his a cappella introduction to the West End Blues, Louis Armstrong ushered in a period of romanticism in jazz which has become, if anything, more pronounced with the passage of time. The increasingly individualistic nature of the music, the obsessive reactions of the jazz world to figures such as Parker or Coltrane, the almost complete breakdown of bar­riers between the artist and his work of art—all these legacies of Armstrong are the clear signs of an aesthetic sensibility which is essentially romanticist in character.

The benefits of such a musical environment are unmistak­able. Jazz, as a community of creative individuals, fosters a pluralism which is healthy for the art form as a whole. It lacks the embedded institutions of the other arts, yet a stronger em­phasis on group norms, exercised perhaps through academia or other mechanisms of standardization, would probably have stifled some of jazz's greatest talents. One could not imagine a Charles Mingus or a Thelonious Monk thriving in an environment n which artistic success depended on access to fel­lowships, government grants, academic appointments, and the like.

The benefits of jazz's pluralism, however, have not been achieved without a price. The attendant fragmentation of the jazz community has led to a lack of cohesion among practi­tioners, an absence of institutions for preserving and passing on the music's traditions, and, perhaps worst of all, a steady erosion of generally accepted critical standards which define what is good and bad in the music. Without the latter, musi­cians—as well as listeners and critics—may find their isolation only growing. The lack of common standards and a common musical vocabulary has exacerbated the collapse of the jazz world into countless schools and tendencies, each unable to communicate with those outside of its own small world.

Jazz has become, in effect, a music of perpetual romanti­cism. The jazz world has always exhibited a manic quality in which the music's inherent vitality threatened to run away with itself. Today this strain is more dominant than ever be­fore. By contrast, the powerful broadening and unifying in­fluence of an Armstrong, an Ellington, a Parker is now ap­parently a thing of the past.


Within this pervasive aesthetic of emotional excess, however, a handful of musicians have tried to temper the music's natu­ral impulse towards self-indulgence. They have created music of restraint, of control, of economy. These are the neoclassicists of jazz. Like neoclassical artists in other arts, they attempt to pare away the excesses of previous generations to reveal an art that is pristine and timeless. Their paradigm is the sculp­tor, whose work emerges from sharply cut and precisely de­fined lines, and whose warmth of expression is tempered by the cool, distant, and unforgiving medium with which he works. The neoclassicist recognizes that self-restraint is the essence of artistic style. A style which includes everything ceases to be a style—it has become an encyclopedia of tech­niques. The artist who embraces all of these techniques has, by the same token, reduced himself to a mere craftsman. Art begins only when some techniques are favored, others dis­carded.

Jazz, for these artists, is not just a music of possibilities, but rather a music of constrained possibilities. The temptation to­wards all-inclusiveness may have ruined more talent than all of the more publicized vices of the musician's life. Certainly when artistic norms collapse—as in our own day—the great art­ist must impose constraints upon himself. He must reject on his own what others are content to let go by.

Neoclassicism in jazz is not restricted to a specific time pe­riod or geographical area. Artists as different as Lester Young, Wes Montgomery, Bill Evans, Count Basic, Stan Getz, John Lewis, Miles Davis, and Paul Desmond can be included in its ranks, although under almost any circumstances the neo­classicist is part of a minority that distances itself from the more frenetic tradition of romanticism which permeates jazz. Thus the neoclassicist may appear to be perpetually out of fashion, a lone voice in the jazz world.

Jazz, in the hands of a neoclassicist, is a music of balance, of care, of restraint. With an unabashed lyricism and a subtle sense of formal structure, the neoclassicist displays his affinity for jazz's rich tradition of vocal music. The most successful collaborations of jazz singers and instrumentalists—the Billie Holiday/Lester Young recordings come immediately to mind-have more often than not been a part of this neoclassical heritage.

Yet the neoclassicist can often be distinguished not so much by his positive virtues as by what he excludes. Some pundit once remarked that the most telling thing about Jane Austen was that she never mentioned the French Revolution in her writings. A similar perspective, it seems, could be applied fruitfully to the study of musicians. Indeed one of the most striking characteristics of recent jazz in the romantic tradition is its all-inclusiveness. It attempts to encompass the whole musical world, from Third World folk music to the twelve-tone row. Neoclassicism, in contrast, is a music of exclusion, of omission.


In the case of saxophonist Paul Desmond, one never needed to look far to find these omissions. The bebop clichés, the ob­session with playing fast, the memorized licks which char­acterized jazz saxophone playing in the post-Charlie Parker era—all of these were noticeably absent in Desmond's music. As Dave Brubeck once mentioned, with no slight intended: "Paul's big contribution is going to be that he didn't copy Charlie Parker."13 [Downbeat, Sept. 15, 1960, p. 17]

A comparison between Desmond and his contemporary Charlie Parker is illuminating. Parker, perhaps the most bril­liant improviser in the history of jazz, was at his best when the tempo was fast and the chord structure was complex: his virtuosity delighted in musical obstacle courses such as "Ko-Ko" or "The Hymn." Desmond, in contrast, seldom played at very fast tempos, and when he did one sensed that it was done un­willingly. Not that his technique was not equal to the task; rather it was Desmond's overriding concern with creating a melodic and thematically organized improvisation that led him to eschew the facile glibness of many of the beboppers. Unlike the less talented descendants of Parker who followed a credo of "let your fingers do the walking," Desmond played a thinking man's jazz with solos that often made punning reference to other compositions and improvisations. On an early recording of "You Go to My Head” for example, Des­mond inserts a quote from a Charlie Parker blues in the midst of a most un-Parker-like passage. In other contexts he would incorporate long extracts from Chet Baker or Gerry Mulligan solos into his own improvisations.

Desmond was born less euphoniously as Paul Emil Breitenfeld on November 15, 1924, in San Francisco. His father was once an organist for silent movies and later an arranger. Paul began studying clarinet in 1936 while at San Francisco Poly­technic High School, and continued with it until 1943 when he switched to the alto saxophone. That same year he went into the Army and spent the next three years in San Fran­cisco as part of the 253rd AGF band. "It was a great way to spend the war," Desmond later remarked. "We expected to get shipped out every month, but it never happened. Some­where in Washington our file must still be on the floor under a desk somewhere."14 [Ibid.] After leaving the Army, Desmond played briefly with the bands of Jack Fina and Alvino Rey before joining forces with Dave Brubeck in 1951, a collaboration that would continue for over a quarter of a century.

At some point during this period, Desmond discarded the name Breitenfeld for his more manageable stage name. He claimed that he came upon the name Desmond while paging through a phone book. The remark is appropriate: for an im­provising artist such as Desmond, the spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment decision is the basis of all he does. And Des­mond, more than most, let the philosophy of improvisation govern much of his life outside of music. His casual attitude went beyond the choice of a name. At its worst it encouraged a pronounced habit of procrastination, and Desmond was a procrastinator of almost legendary proportions. For years he spoke of writing a book about his experiences with the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Only the title (How Many of You Are There in the Quartet? — according to Desmond, a favorite question of stewardesses) and one very funny chapter ever emerged.15 [It appeared in Punch on Jan. 10, 1973] Among his other intended projects was an album in which he planned to play each song in the style of a different alto player.

Perhaps the latter idea was only offered as a joke. With Desmond one could never tell. He once told an interviewer that he wanted his alto to sound like a very dry martini; whether his music attained this lofty goal is open to discus­sion, but of the dryness of his humor there can be no dispute. The humor figured prominently in his music—a rarity in mod­ern jazz, where the artists' self-conscious seriousness and the concert hall atmosphere of even nightclub performances casts a sombre aura over most of the music. As his close friend, jazz critic Nat Hentoff wrote:

At times Paul was the wittiest of improvisers. His ear was extraordinarily quick and true, his mind moved with eerie swiftness. He could take a phrase that someone had played earlier or a musical reference that a friend in the audience would understand and insert it into his solo. He'd build on that phrase until he had turned it inside out and seven other ways. Usually this kind of quoting is trickery, but Paul made it cohere. In his music, as in his life, the absurd cohabited with the familiar.16
[Nat Hentoff, Village Voice, Aug. 22, 1977]

For much of his twenty-six-year career, Desmond found his musical skills overshadowed by the work of his longtime friend and collaborator Dave Brubeck. Brubeck, who studied with Darius Milhaud in the late 19405, was a pioneer in the syn­thesis of jazz and classical music—his piano work featured dense harmonies, a studied sense of rhythm, and the use of elements seemingly alien to jazz such as the twelve-tone row and odd time signatures. Yet Desmond was the unsung hero of the Brubeck Quartet; as much as the group's leader, Desmond was instrumental in shaping the ensemble's distinctive sound. His lyrical tone was immediately identifiable, and his ingenious compositions (most notably the group's biggest hit "Take Five") were an important part of the band's repertoire. Although not a student of Milhaud's, Desmond was involved with Brubeck's experimental work from the start. His affin­ity for classical music was also revealed in other ways—most markedly in his intonation, which was remarkably pure, es­pecially when contrasted with the "dirtier" sound favored by many of his contemporaries.

In the midst of a period in which cool jazz and West Coast jazz were increasingly the scorn of jazz critics, Desmond em­braced both with a vengeance. Desmond was well aware of what passed as fashionable in jazz circles; commenting on Bud Shank, a fellow Californian (although one transplanted from Ohio), Desmond said: "I sympathize with him because I have the same problem in my occupation, which is the problem of one who is sort of raised in the atmosphere of cool jazz trying to sound hostile enough to be currently accept­able.” 17 [Downbeat, Oct. 16, 1958, p. 43] In another interview he elaborated: "The things I'm after musically are clarity, emotional communication on a not-too-obvious level, form in a chorus that doesn't hit you over the head but is there if you look for it, humor, and construc­tion that sounds logical in an unexpected way. That and a good dependable high F-sharp and I'll be happy."18 [Downbeat, Sept. 15, 1960, p. 37]

The virtues Desmond enumerated are easy enough to list, but maddeningly difficult to attain. Desmond's dissatisfaction with his own playing frequently came to light in many of the interviews he gave over the years. As Lee Konitz, a contem­porary who shares many similarities with Desmond, com­mented: "I feel that Paul has experienced greatness, and once this feeling of playing what you really hear has been felt by a player, it's difficult to settle for less than this."19 [Ibid., p. 16]

One senses that towards the end of his life Desmond came closer than ever to realizing this goal. His last recordings re­veal an artist who is at peace with himself and who knows with a dogged assurance what it is he wants to express. The ravages of lung cancer may have lessened his stamina and shorted his phrases, but if anything this led Desmond to be even more refined and thoughtful in his playing.

The sardonic humor, however, remained. One wonders what to make of the cover of Live, the last album he saw released. Desmond is pictured seated alone in a club at closing time—the chairs are stacked on the tables, and Desmond is packed to go with a suitcase, or perhaps his saxophone case, at his side. The artist is smoking a cigarette, although even then he must have known he had only a short time before lung cancer would take its final toll. Another detail: if one looks closely, one notices little skulls and crossbones on Desmond's suspenders. These details, combined with the album's ironic title and Desmond's grim smile, are powerfully unnerving. The music inside, however, is every bit as beautiful as the album's cover is morbid. His solo on "Wave" could be a text­book example of solo construction, each chorus outdoing the previous one in inventiveness and incisiveness. Elsewhere, on his own composition "Wendy" or in his closing chorus on "Manha de Carnival" Desmond plays as well as at any point in his career. This is the music of a master.

The end was approaching fast. His last appearance in a re­cording studio was for friend Chet Baker's debut album with the Horizon label. He had been slated to play on the entire album, but had the stamina to record just one track before begging leave to go home and rest. Although he had rarely played in the preceding months, his tone was as pure as ever and his short haunting solo is as fitting a closing statement as any artist could wish to make.

His were the legacies of a man immersed in music. Des­mond's piano, left to Bradley Cunningham, now graces Bradley's in New York, and has acquired a reputation as one of the finest nightclub pianos in jazz. His alto was left to Brubeck's son Michael, with whom he shared a special closeness. Yet these pale beside his legacy to jazz fans through his many records and a few—too few—short writings. Desmond, a West Coast musician at a time when that was virtually synonymous with being unfashionable, had his ashes scattered over Big Sur country near his birthplace in San Francisco.”

Friday, July 23, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Metropole Orchestra [Metropole Orkest]

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

As a young man aspiring to make a career in music, the catchphrase as I was maturing in the business was – “Don’t give up your day gig.”

Fortunately for my career in the music business, I came-of-age in the greater Los Angeles area where discipline, diligence and the ability to read music resulted in a decent living being earned by playing club dates, working casuals and receiving some studio calls for gigs involving TV and movie soundtracks, commercials and jingles.

I even got to play at the famed Lighthouse Café in Hermosa Beach, CA for six months as part of a college quintet that spelled the featured group while the latter took a dinner break during the famous [infamous?] 2:00 PM – to 2:00 AM Sunday marathons at the club.

Bassist Howard Rumsey, The Lighthouse’s impresario, fed us, gave us all the free Coca Cola we could consume and provided enough actual money to pay for a fill-up in my ’55 Chevy; but hey, it was THE Lighthouse and I think that all of us in the group would have paid him to make the gig!

The era of resident orchestras as maintained by the movie studios was coming to an end, although a number of local municipalities sponsored bands for their summer concerts series, and there were many classical orchestras in the area, too.  But this kind of “legit” work never appealed to me [sitting around for what seemed like hours, counting 142 measures of “rest” and then picking up two huge, heavy cymbals to strike them together once before sitting down again to count more measures of rest was not my idea of playing music]. 

Sometimes, the chance to pick-up a few schimolies by riding a bus with a big band came my way, but the music was generally uninspiring and the downside was being out-of-town when the studio contractors called, thus losing your place in the hierarchy.

Imagine my surprise then when I learned that many cities in Europe kept radio orchestras on staff that were supported by various state governments. Can you picture it – being on salary with benefits and showing up for work each day to play Jazz on a regular basis – and this is your “day gig?!” Heck, they even got paid for rehearsals [and the music obviously sounded much because of this extra time to learn it].

Most of the major European countries, but especially Germany and Holland, maintained such aggregations who in turn supplied a steady stream of music for broadcast over radio and television as well as a fairly active performance schedule at some of these countries most renown concert halls.
Holland, a nation of only around sixteen million people, provides government support for two, such orchestras – The Metropole and The Concertgebouw – the former playing at concert venues throughout The Netherlands while the latter performs primarily at its namesake auditorium in Amsterdam.

Unfortunately, for those of us without ready access to Holland, until the advent of concerts streamed via the internet, the music of these orchestras was not widely heard outside The Netherlands.

To compound matters, since it lost its recording contracts with the Koch and Mons record labels, commercial CDs by The Metropole Orchestra are only rarely available and the Concertgebouw Jazz Orchestra, for the most part, has underwritten the issuance of its own recordings during its comparatively briefer existence.

However , thanks to the munificence of a Dutch internet Jazz buddy, as well as, one in southern Oregon – neither of whom I’ve ever met in person – I have been a regular “visitor” to most of the concerts performed by these orchestras over the past ten [10] years or so.

In order to help its readers to sample some of the music of The Metropole Orchestra, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles has prepared the following YouTube.

The audio track features trumpeter Terence Blanchard and his quintet performing Miles Davis’ Au Bar du Petit Bac with The Metropole Orchestra. Miles wrote this tune as part of a soundtrack he composed and recorded in 1957 for director Louis Malle’s film Ascenseur pour L’échafaud [Lift to the Scaffold].

Listening to the way in which the string section of Holland’s magnificent Metropole Orchestra plays Jazz phrasing, one wishes for a time machine so that Charlie Parker and Clifford Brown could be re-make their famous “with strings” albums and benefit from a string section that knows how to play Jazz.

The reasons why The Metropole Orchestra are so adept at Jazz phrasing are explained in the following article about the orchestra, its history and evolution by the noted Jazz author, Mike Hennessey.

[Incidentally, when the string section is included, it is referred to as The Metropole Orchestra and sans strings it is The Metropole Orchestra Big Band.]

Also integrated in this piece for JazzProfiles’ readers is an overview of the orchestra and its origins and development as excerpted from the orchestra’s own website -

The High-Flying Dutchmen - Jazz Now, July 2004 issue

Mike Hennessey spotlights the unique Metropole Orchestra

© -Mike Hennessey Jazz Now, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“The Metropole Orchestra was founded in 1945 by the Dutch Radio Foundation. It came into being because, after the Second World War, Holland's newly re-established public radio network needed an ensemble capable of producing high quality music programmes covering every genre of light music.

Dolf van der Linden was appointed chief conductor and was given the task of recruiting musicians for the orchestra. He began by contacting top class Dutch musicians who were playing in orchestras all over Europe and inviting them to return to Holland to join the new ensemble.

The son of a music dealer who owned several musical instrument shops, van der Linden took violin and music theory lessons from his father, who was an excellent player, and later studied composition at a music academy. When he was 16, he took a job as a theatre organist and, from 1936 to 1939, he worked regularly as an arranger for various radio orchestras. It was after the war that he concentrated on conducting.

The 17-member Metropole Orchestra made its début on November 25, 1945 and has since won international acclaim as a major institution of the European music community.

There is no other ensemble like it anywhere in the world.
The orchestra today has 52 full time members, all on regular salary with full social security and pension rights. It plays an average of 40 concerts a year and spends about eight weeks a year doing studio productions. It is financed by the Dutch government and has an annual budget of 5.5 million euros.

Dolf van der Linden was chief conductor for three and a half decades, up to his retirement in 1980, and he developed the ensemble into an orchestra which included a full symphonic string section and a conventional big band line-up.

The orchestra rapidly earned a glowing reputation throughout Europe, first through radio and television productions initiated by the European Broadcasting Union, then later through live performances in various countries. To date, the Metropole Orchestra has performed in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Norway, Greece and the United States.

Over the years, the orchestra has worked with a glittering array of world-class vocalists and instrumentalists from the worlds of opera, operetta, musicals, Jazz, rock and pop. But perhaps Dolf van der Linden's greatest achievement was that, in spite of playing in a multitude of musical styles and in constantly changing circumstances, particularly with regard to technical developments, the orchestra always maintained a strong identity of its own.

When van der Linden retired in 1980, he was succeeded by Rogier van Otterloo, the son of the celebrated conductor, Willem van Otterloo. He rapidly brought the orchestra up to speed with the newest developments in music and adopted a double rhythm section policy, one for Jazz and the more traditional forms of light music and one for pop and rock music.

Rogier van Otterloo's involvement with the orchestra came to an untimely end with his death in 1988 at the age of 46. It took a number of years to find a worthy successor and it was in 1991 that Dick Bakker, already a successful composer/arranger, was appointed chief conductor and artistic director.

Bakker studied music at the Hilversum Conservatory and also qualified as a professional sound technician. He has won many international awards and it was with his song, "Ding-a-Dong", that Teach-In won the 1975 Eurovision Song Contest. Since 1982 he has expanded his European activities, composing and arranging music for the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra, among others.
The brilliant Dutch composer and arranger, Rob Pronk, was the Metropoleís guest conductor for 21 years the current principal guest conductor is the Grammy Award-winning Vince Mendoza.

The roll call of artists who have appeared with the Metropole Orchestra over the years is staggering and richly diverse. It includes Charles Aznavour, Burt Bacharach, Kenny Barron, Shirley Bassey, Tony Bennett, Michael and Randy Brecker, Ray Brown, Joe Cocker, Natalie Cole, Pete and Conte Candoli, Eddie Daniels, Manu Dibango, CÈline Dion, George Duke, Bill Evans, Clare Fischer, Ella Fitzgerald, Tommy Flanagan, Art Garfunkel,

Gloria Gaynor, Stan Getz, Astrud Gilberto, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, Shirley Horn, Freddie Hubbard, Hank Jones, the King's Singers, Lee Konitz, Hubert Laws, Joe Lovano, Vera Lynn, Bob Malach. Andy Martin, Bob Mintzer, Mark Murphy, Peter Nero, the New York Voices, Bill Perkins, Oscar Peterson, Frank Rosolino, Zoot Sims, the Supremes, the Swingle Singers, Lew Tabackin, Clark Terry, Toots Thielemans, Mel Tormé, Sarah Vaughan, Dionne Warwick, Kenny Werner, Andy Williams, Nancy Wilson and the Yellowjackets.

Arrangers and composers who have contributed scores to the Metropole's book include Bob Brookmeyer, John Clayton, Steve Gray, Peter Herbolzheimer, Bill Holman, Chuck Israels, Jim McNeely, Vince Mendoza and Rob Pronk.

The Orchestra today has its own recording studio with the control room built by NOB Audio and the control room acoustics designed by the British company, Recording Architecture. Recordings are made and mixed using a Neve VR Legend 60-channel console and a protools mix cube. In addition, there is a hard disc editing system, the full range of state-of-the-art out-board gear and custom-made ATC monitoring facilities. The whole set-up is designed for Dolby Surround post-production and has projection systems installed for the recording and editing of film and television scores.

For live recordings the orchestra uses Audio 1, a mobile studio with separate recording and machine rooms, which is equipped with a first class SSL console, plus state-of-the-art microphones, outboard-gear and monitoring facilities.

Recordings by the Metropole Orchestra are not that easy to come by, but currently has 21 releases listed on its website, including albums featuring such guest soloists as Claudio Roditi, Swiss saxophonist George Robert, German saxophonist Peter Weniger, trombonist Andy Martin, bassist Chuck Israels, Clark Terry, Dee Daniels, Bill Perkins, Jiggs Whigham and Lew Tabackin.”

© -The Metropole Orchestra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

The Metropole Orchestra is the world's largest professional pop and jazz orchestra. Renowned for its wide-ranging abilities, the Metropole Orchestra performs anything from chansons to World-music, film-scores, Rock- or Pop-tunes as well as high-octane jazz. The orchestra is a regular feature at the North Sea Jazz festival and the yearly Holland Festival along with countless TV and radio programs broadcast to millions. The ever-growing Dutch film and television industry relies heavily on the Metropole Orchestra for its film scores. Since 2005 the Metropole is under the baton of its Chief, four-time Grammy Award winner Vince Mendoza, and can be seen frequenting the concert stage, in festivals and on recordings in the Netherlands as well as internationally.

A sampling of the performers who have shared the stage with the Metropole Orchestra underscores the ensemble’s quality and flexibility to cover a wide range of genres: Oleta Adams, Vicente Amigo, Antony & The Johnsons, Within Temptation, Andrea Bocelli, Joe Cocker, Elvis Costello, Eddie Daniels, Brian Eno, Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz, Astrud Gilberto, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Hank Jones, Chaka Khan, Pat Metheny, Ivan Lins, Mike Patton, Paquito D’Rivera, John Scofield, The Swingle Singers, Jean ‘Toots’ Thielemans, Gino Vannelli, Steve Vai, Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson, Dino Saluzzi, Trijntje Oosterhuis, the legendary Turkish singer Sezen Aksu and Fado-queen Mariza, just to name a few.
The CD recording Ivan Lins & The Metropole Orchestra with the Brasilian singer/songwriter Ivan Lins, released in August 2009, received a Latin Grammy for 'Best Brasilian Album'. 


The Metropole Orchestra was popular right from its inception in 1945 by founder Dolf van der Linden, who led the group from one success to another. When van der Linden formed the group shortly after the Second World War, his mandate was to create an ensemble with the ability to produce high level performances of pop and jazz music for public radio. He traveled extensively throughout Europe to find the right mix of musicians for his orchestra. His refreshing and challenging musical ideas spoke directly to a public starved for a new musical culture after years of war. Dolf van der Linden directed the orchestra for 35 years. Radio, and in later years television broadcasts helped spread the orchestra’s fame even further. International tours and pan-European broadcasting (EBU) brought the Metropole’s musical message to countless listeners all over the world

Perhaps the greatest compliment to the legacy of Dolf van der Linden is that the Metropole Orchestra has maintained its own unique musical personality and still continues to develop within an increasing variety of musical styles and technical innovations.


The energetic, young Rogier van Otterloo, the son of the famed classical maestro Willem van Otterloo, followed van der Linden as Artistic Director and Chief Conductor. Van Otterloo’s enthusiasm was contagious and the orchestra developed into a first-class ensemble with the flexibility to work in the newest genres in light music, from rock 'n roll onwards. The Metropole Orchestra was expanded to include a double rhythm section, one for pop-music, the other for jazz- and World-music. Van Otterloo developed into a major figure as composer and arranger. Soloists from genres ranging from American top jazz stars to Opera divas joined forces with the Metropole Orchestra. The orchestra contributed greatly to the growing European jazz scene.
1991 and beyond

Dick Bakker’s arrival to the Metropole brought a new life to the Metropole orchestra. The group made countless appearances in large-scale television productions at home and abroad and a selection of memorable performances including the Acropolis concert with George Dalaras and Mikis Theodorakis in Greece, and performances at Amsterdam’s rock temple, Paradiso. At the same time, The orchestra moved to a new, modern studio and worked steadily on recordings for radio, television, cds and film soundtracks.

In 1995 Vince Mendoza began his relationship with the orchestra primarily in the area of jazz. The relationship blossomed with the music that he wrote for the orchestra as well as the concerts and recordings featuring many of the top Jazz and Pop soloists in the world. During this time a new fleet of arrangers and composers joined the ranks to create the contemporary sound of the orchestra that you know today. In 2005 Mendoza became the chief conductor and continues to maintain the high level of performances that the public has grown to expect from the orchestra. Today the Metropole is active with more than 40 concerts a season on concert stages all over the Netherlands and internationally.


The Metropole Orchestra prides itself on the glittering array of great artists it has worked with. In alphabetical order, the lineup of stars: Oleta Adams, Sezen Aksu, Antony & The Johnsons, Charles Aznavour, Burt Bacharach, Victor Bailey, Kenny Barron, Shirley Bassey, Jeff Beal, Jim Beard, Tony Bennett, Andrea Bocelli, Terry Bozzio, Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Ray Brown, Patrick Bruel, John Cale, Amit Chatterjee, Chico Cesar, Joe Cocker, Natalie Cole, Pete and Conte Condoli, Elvis Costello, The Creatures, Pete Christlieb, Ronnie Cuber, Eddie Daniels, Manu Dibango, Céline Dion, Eva de Dios, George Duke, Brian Eno, Sertab Erener, Peter Erskine, Bill Evans, Clare Fischer, Ella Fitzgerald, Tommy Flanagan, Bruce Fowler, Art Garfunkel, Gloria Gaynor, Stan Getz, Astrud Gilberto, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, Tom Harrel, Conrad Herwig, Roger Hodgson, Shirley Horn, Freddie Hubbard, Al Jarreau, Ingrid Jensen, Hank Jones, Junkie XL, Mike Keneally, Nancy King, The King's Singers, Lee Konitz, K's Choice, Hubert Laws, Ivan Lins, Joe Lovano, Vera Lynn, Kevin Mahagony, Bob Malach, Mariza, Andy Martin, Nancy Marano, Dina Medina, Daniel Mendez, Pat Metheny, Bob Mintzer, Mark Murphy, Andy Narell, Daniel Navarro, Silje Nergaard, Peter Nero, Ed Neumeister, The New York Voices, Trijntje Oosterhuis, Alan Parsons, Mike Patton, Bill Perkins, Oscar Peterson, Fabia Rebodao, Diane Reeves, Paquito D’Rivera, Frank Rosselino, John Scofield, Zoot Sims, Sister Sledge, Mike Stern, The Supremes, The Swingle Singers, Lew Tabackin, Within Temptation, Clark Terry, Jean 'Toots' Thielemans, Tulug Tirpan, Mel Tormé, Rafael de Utrera, Steve Vai, Gino Vannelli, Sarah Vaughan, Harvey Wainapel, Dionne Warwick, Kenny Werner, Andy Williams, Nancy Wilson, The Yellowjackets and Karim Ziad.


Michael Abene, John Adams, Manny Albam, Jeff Beal, Bob Brookmeyer, Dori Caymmi, John Clayton, Michel Colombier, Bill Dobbins, Clare Fisher, Steve Gray, Tom Harrell, Peter Herbolzheimer, Bill Holman, Chuck Israels, Jim McNeely, Vince Mendoza, Bob Mintzer, Ennio Morricone, Ed Neumeister, Chuck Owen, Gunther Schuller and Maria Schneider.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mallets and Jazz Drumming

We have always been a fan of tympani mallets in Jazz drumming ever since we first heard them used by the late, Shelly Manne. They really bring out the melodic possibilities of the instrument as you can hear on the following track entitled Aotearoa by Dutch drummer Eric Ineke's Jazzxpress featuring Rik Mol on trumpet, Sjoerd Dijkhuizen on tenor saxophone, Rob van Bavel on piano and Marius Beets on bass [who is also the composer of the tune].

Monday, July 19, 2010


Scott DeVeaux, The Birth of Bebop: A Social and Musical History 

[BerkeleyCAUniversity of California Press, 1997, pp. 364-365]

[Click on the book title for a link to the publisher for order information.]

Coming of age in Jazz when I did, where I did, I “missed” Bebop [what a horrible name for such wonderful music]. I literally had to seek it out after-the-fact and educate myself about the music and its makers. While I was on this quest, there were no books like Scott DeVeaux’s available.  If you have an interest in learning about Bebop or in revisiting it from some fresh perspectives, then this is a book that will help you on your way.  Here’s an excerpt. 

© -Scott DeVeaux, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“In the history of bebop, 1945 was the decisive year. At its outset Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker were still edgy young professionals, fighting against the odds to make names for themselves in a crowded field. By year's end they were not much better known—not, at least, by the gen­eral public—but they had proved that an idiosyncratic form of jazz en­tertainment could carve out a new niche on the periphery of the music business. On 52nd Street, in concerts in New York's Town Hall, and at Billy Berg's new Hollywood nightclub, Gillespie and Parker found paying audiences for an idiom that showcased their finely honed virtuosity— not within the usual contexts of dance or popular song, but in defiantly dissonant and disorienting original compositions.

And, of course, they made recordings. Their efforts in the studio from the first months of 1945 constitute a permanent record, rich in detail, of the new music's emergence as public phenomenon and commercial com­modity. These recordings include the earliest surviving versions of much of its core repertory—"A Night in Tunisia," "Be-Bop," "Groovin' High," "Blue 'n Boogie," "Dizzy Atmosphere," "Salt Peanuts" (all Gillespie com­positions)—as well as the first collaborations between Gillespie and Charlie Parker in the small-combo format.

Many of these early recordings were obscure when released and remain obscure today. The first recording of "Groovin' High," for example, had such a limited run that in 1976, when the Smithsonian produced a special edition of Gillespie's recordings, only one battered copy of the original 78 rpm recording could be found. Immediately after the transfer to tape, Martin Williams reported melodramatically, "the walls of one of its grooves broke down forever.'

Others, however, have long since earned a firm place in the jazz canon. Performances like "Shaw 'Nuff" (recorded May 11 for Guild) and "Ko Ko" (November 26 for Savoy) are now enshrined on the Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz as "definitive statements of the new music." What is being celebrated here is not simply artistic achievement. There are, after all, many other fine recordings by Gillespie and Parker. But there is only one pivotal, defining moment: the birth of modern jazz. One can look ahead and see, as Gary Giddins does, all of jazz modernity flowing from this moment ("Ko Ko," he writes, "was the seminal point of departure for jazz in the postwar era"). Or one can cast an eye backward and see the first bop recordings as the desired, and probably inevitable, outcome of a tortuous struggle for self-expression and artistic autonomy, the permanent achievement that marked the end of the Swing Era and announced a new musical age. "With them," James Lincoln Collier has written, "the bop revolution was complete."

That a handful of commercial recordings should stand metonymically in these assessments for all that the bop generation sought to achieve is hardly surprising. Recordings are jazz's enduring artifacts, analogous in this respect to the published compositions of the European "classical" tradition. Because they constitute virtually the only surviving evidence of artistic activity, it is natural to exaggerate their importance as an official record of musicians' intentions. Much of this is wishful thinking. We may understand that improvisation is an inherently volatile act, more process than product; that the recording studio is a poor stand-in for the usual social contexts in which the music was heard; and that the econom­ics of recording affects the process of documentation in myriad, mostly unhelpful ways. Still, we hope that the result faithfully represents re­flexes honed by countless hours of working together on the bandstand and that only the most ingenious and effective routines have been se­lected for preservation. We have faith that it is truly a record of a certain musical reality and that a history of recordings therefore constitutes a history of the music.”