36th Vilnius Jazz Festival. 12-16 October, 2022
Han Bennink / Jaak Sooäär / Liudas Mockūnas Vilnius Jazz'2004

Han Bennink / Jaak Sooäär / Liudas Mockūnas (The Netherlands / Estonia / Lithuania):

Han Bennink - drums, percussion
Jaak Sooäär - guitar
Liudas Mockūnas - saxes

The most significant current Dutch jazz performer, veteran of avant-garde and free jazz stages, 'cult' drummer and multi-instrumentalist Han Bennink.

The genius drummer and artist, the star and legend of new jazz is one of the initiators of European free jazz, and for almost four decades he has been one the most significant representatives of European new music.

H.Bennink was born in 1942 in Zandam, near Amsterdam, in professional drummer's family, and he grew surrounded with percussion. His first music instrument was kitchen stool, and though his father soon provided him with a normal set of drums, H.Bennink still hasn't loose his turn for non-conventional sounds, produced and derived from unusual objects, usually found straight on the backstage of concert halls. H.Bennink plays anything he grabs, e.g. pica carton, normal peace of wood or a piece of string, even the wall or floor of the stage, and still hasn't lost his predilection for playing stools.

Having begun his professional career in dance ensemble led by his father, still in his teenage years Han became interested in jazz music, when in 1960, having played on board of Dutch-American ship he spent some time in New York, where he was able to listen to such jazz grands as O.Coleman, J.Coltrane, A.Franklin, S.Clark, and S.Lacy.

In the beginning of the sixties, H.Bennink began his international career. He was acknowledged as extremely flexible drummer, able to play anything from Dixieland to free. As an excellent swing performer, the drummer accompanied such American jazz stars touring in Holland as B.Webster, D.Gordon, K.Drew, S.Rollins, W.Montgomery, and J.Griffin. In 1964 he participated when recording E.Dolphy's album Last Date, and in 1969 when recording D.Gordon's album Live at Amsterdam Paradiso.

At the same time H.Bennink was in the very centre of European free music revolution. He participated in creation of the new European improvisation music and is one of the pioneers of this trend in Europe. He has been in long-term professional relations with the pianist Misha Mengelberg. H.Bennink says that he has worked with the musician for 42 years, i.e. "for longer than Duke Ellington with Harry Carney". In 1963 together with M.Mengelberg H.Bennink established the quartet that in 1966 participated in Newport Jazz Festival. In mid-sixties he began to play free jazz with M.Mengelberg and W.Breuker. In 1967 together with these guys he established Instant Composer's Pool (ICP) - non-profit institution of Dutch jazz avant-garde, and later - a record company ICP Records. At this period H.Bennink established long-term professional relations with J.Tchicai, P.Brötzmann, A.Schlippenbach, D.Bailey, F.van Hove, and the trumpeter Don Cherry as well as the Globe Unity Orchestra. For a long period H.Bennink played together in the trio with P.Brötzmann and F.van Hove, where he played not only drums, but also clarinet, trombone, soprano saxophone and other instruments. In 1971 as a multi-instrumentalist H.Bennink began the series of his solo album records.

From the late eighties H.Bennink together with saxophonist M.Moore and cellist E.Reijseger plays in the very successful Clusone Trio. During the recent period he has performed with the saxophonist's T.Deliu's quartet plays in trio with C.Fuhler and W.de Joode; collaborates with various different jazz musicians.

During his career that lasted over 4 decades, H.Bennink gave a number of spontaneous concerts with the musicians of various nationalities and trends, including Irene Schweizer, Myra Melford, Eugene Chadbourne, Derek Bailey, Dave Douglas, Harry Miller, Evan Parker, Steve Lacy, Roswell Rudd, George Lewis, etc.

H.Bennink is a very flexible drummer. He is excellent at swing tradition, performs with free jazz musicians, punk band The Ex, and Clusone Trio. He is very good at free jazz and is distinguished by his unusual technique, special feeling for ensemble, strong pulse and distinctive swing. The musician is famous not only as a distinctive drummer - he has a degree in arts and is significant in visual arts. In his objects he usually uses the bodies of broken drumsticks. He was the author of a number of his album covers. H.Bennink is an extremely artistic, even theatrical character with his peculiar sense of humour. It is not enough to listen to the show-performances of H.Bennink, who every time newly gives meaning to himself in his oeuvre - it is necessary to see him.

For already 4 decades the distinctive aspect of H.Bennink's creative activities is his spontaneous concerts with the musicians from various countries and of different styles. In Vilnius Jazz Festival H.Bennink appears with the most significant Lithuanian and Estonian jazz musicians of young generation.

From 2003, together with H.Bennink co-operates Jaak Sooäär (born 1972), a well known for the Lithuanian jazz lovers guitar player from Estonia. Having begun his concert activities in the famous Estonian boys' choir, from 1989 J.Sooäär is an active participant on Estonian jazz and pop stage. He played with the following famous Estonian jazz musicians: L.Saarsal, R.Tafenau, V.Veski, accompanied for the singer T.Mägi, led the ensembles Valge Maja (1989-1992) and Ajastajad (1993-1996). The guitarist is a member and the leader of a number of international projects, namely in 1996-1999 he was a leader and guitarist of Estonian-Danish-Swedish quartet The Jaaksters, in 1997 he played in duet with Italian saxophonist A.Succi, he also was the leader of Estonian-Danish duet Almost Zebra; from 1998 he is the leader of Estonian- Danish-Swedish ensemble The Dynamite Vikings, from 1999 he collaborates with L.Mockūnas and A.Gotesman as well as with P.Dørge, P.Burman, S.Ericson, performs together with European Youth Jazz Orchestra.

In 2003 together with H.Bennink and the Finnish saxophonist M.Innanen J.Sooäär gave concerts in Estonia and Finland, performed in NYYD Festival with festival ensemble and Gavin Bryars.

J.Sooäär is a versatile musician, who plays together with both classic, rock, pop and folk music performers. Last year he was granted the Estonian Music Award as the best Folk/Etno performer of the year. Besides concerts and performances, J.Sooäär is involved in pedagogic activities: he teaches guitar and improvisation in Tallinn Academy of Music and he also composes and arranges.

The third member of the international project, the saxophonist, clarinetist and composer Liudas Mockūnas, recently has appeared together with famous musicians.

L.Mockūnas, who formed a distinctive style of wind-instrument playing, is famous of his stage experience: having debuted on jazz stage only when being eight, from the age of fifteen he regularly participates in jazz festivals, has already played together with the majority of Lithuanian jazz musicians, was the member and the initiator of international projects and the leader of ensembles. Despite of jazz, L.Mockūnas also plays contemporary academic music. The same as J.Sooäär, L.Mockūnas graduated from the Copenhagen Rhythm Music Conservatoire and became involved in music life in Denmark.

The creative interests of L.Mockūnas are focused on improvisation music and experimental jazz stage. He regularly performs with international groups: Baltic Trio, Idiot quartet, Revolver trio; L.Mockūnas has long-term professional relations with the Danish drummer S.Pasborg. Their albums, released during the recent years, were very well received by critics. L.Mockūnas has performed together with M.Ducret, T.Berne, P.Dørge, T.Rayne, M.Innanen, etc; in European Orchestra project he participated with World Saxophone Quartet; the musician is always invited to play with CAE, Ok Nok Kongo. Last year L.Mockūnas performed with the legendary US pianist Andrew Hill Nonete, who was awarded the 2003 JAZZPAR prize.

© Jūratė Kučinskaitė


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