Monday, June 25, 2012

Eric Ineke: The Ultimate Sideman - A Review

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

“This is really a history of Jazz, especially in the second half of the 20th century when so many of the original masters were still active.”
-         Dave Liebman, Jazz saxophonist and composer

Each explanation that Eric gives is like he plays: lucid, to the point and very precise.
And swinging, of course!”
-         Wouter Turkenburg, Head of the Jazz Department, Royal Conservatoire, The Hague, The Netherlands

“Another of our favorite drummers playing in the style of Philly Joe Jones is Eric Ineke.

Eric is based in Holland and we first heard his work on a 1981 Criss Cross recording by the late Jazz guitarist, Jimmy Raney, and subsequently on recordings by Dutch Jazz pianist Rein de Graaff, alto saxophonist Herb Geller, who has been based in Germany for many years, and soprano saxophonist David Liebman.

Eric keeps time in a manner that is best described as Philly Joe Jones-lite.

Like Philly, his time-keeping is very insistent, but his accents, background figures and fills are more spaced-out.

He’s not as busy as Philly which serves to make his time-keeping sound even more firm and resolute.

Since 2006, Eric has been leading his own quintet, The JazzXpress, in which his driving time-keeping can be heard in support of some of Holland’s finest, young Jazz musicians: Rik Mol on trumpet and flugelhorn, Sjoerd Dijkhuizen on tenor saxophone, Rob van Bavel on piano and bassist and bass guitarist, Marius Betts.”
-         The editorial staff of JazzProfiles, 2/22/2011

Just to be clear, Eric Ineke: The Ultimate Sideman is the name of a book.

It is also an apt description of Eric Ineke, a Dutch drummer who, since 1968, has performed with many legendary Jazz musicians.

The format of the book is based around Eric’s recollection of his experiences with these Jazz masters as told to the American saxophonist and composer, Dave Liebman.

Dave adds his own commentary in places, but the book is essentially Eric’s story as told to Dave because as Liebman notes: “Eric’s memory is flawless and seemingly photographic.  His detailed recounting of time and place are incredible.”

Jazz horn players [in the broadest sense], whose orientation to the music is based on melody and harmony, can have a difficult time working with drummers, because although drummers can be “melodic” [think Shelly Manne], their involvement is primarily with rhythm.

Therein lays the rub.

The melody and harmony guys are often of the opinion that Jazz drummers are not aware of what they have to deal with to make the music happen.

If a drummer is too forceful, too loud, too busy; they can become distracting to horn players [including pianists, guitarists and vibraphonists] and make it difficult for them to concentrate on their improvisations or their ability to play the arrangements.

Sometimes drummers rush or drop [lag] the beat or even override it to push the music in a direction the soloist doesn’t want to go.

They may use cymbals that are not “harmonic;” the overtones don’t blend in well with the other instruments.

There are some drummers who absolutely aver the use of brushes [mainly because they don’t know how to play them] while preferring instead the use of drum sticks at all times: nothing like a few “bombs” going off in the middle of a quiet, bossa nova.

Some drummers are in love with their techniques. I mean, after all those hours of practicing those drum rudiments, you gotta show people what you got, right?

Or then there is the drummer who shows up to a trio gig with a veritable arsenal of cymbals and drums all set up in such a way so that they can cut through big band volume levels. Talk about overplaying!

Because they can be disproportionately domineering, when it all goes wrong for a drummer, they can really irritate other Jazz musicians.

And then there are drummers like Eric Ineke who always seem to fit in, whatever the musical context: hence the terms of respect and endearment – “The Ultimate Sideman” – being accorded to him by many of his fellow Jazz musicians.

For a drummer, being considered in this manner doesn’t just happen. You have to work at it and earn such praise.

Such an appellation is based on merit.

As a drummer, Eric is always listening, always trying to find ways to unobtrusively swing.  He plays what the music calls for. His first choices are always based on enhancing the expression of the music by working closely with the other musicians in the band.

Eric has “chops” [technique], but doesn’t choose to show them off. He knows he can get around the instrument, but he’s not trying to impress anyone with flashiness.

Eric is the prototypical “engine house;” his drums set things in motion. When you listen to the sound of his drums, it’s like listening to the smooth blend of a quietly humming motor. The engine just purrs along and so does the music when Eric’s in the drum chair.

When called for, he can also “gun the engine,” what he refers to as “… kicking the soloist in the a**,” or throttle back on the engine, which he does to help things settle into a groove.

He’s always thinking back there, always aware of how things need to sound for different tenor saxophonist like Joe Henderson, or Dexter Gordon, or Hank Mobley, or how best to have a “conversation” with an instrumentalist while trading “fours” and “eights” with them, or even what bad habits or tendencies in the playing of others he might need to disregard in order to keep the music honest and swinging.

What comes across throughout this book is how constantly aware Eric is of what he is doing in the drum chair and how articulate he is in explaining it.

The book is a document of oral history, but doesn’t read like one. Each chapter is in two parts with Eric laying the groundwork by sharing his reminiscences and observations about the Jazz musicians he’s worked with over the years which are grouped around the Tenor, Alto and Baritone Saxes; the Clarinetists, the Trumpet Players and Trombonists; the Guitarists, Vibraphonists, Pianists and Bassists; The Singers; The Composer-Arranger-Conductors.

The second part of each chapter consists of Dave Liebman interviewing Eric with questions drawn for Ineke’s comments about certain of the Jazz musicians mentioned in each of the instrumental categories.

The opening Preface is written by Wouter Turkenburg who hired Eric to chair the Jazz Drums and Percussion Department, of the Royal Conservatoire, The Hague, in The Netherlands when he took over as Head of Jazz Studies at the school in the mid-1980’s.

Wouter sets the tone for the entire book when he writes: “Eric has an immense knowledge and understanding of music. Moreover, he is a great teacher and he can demonstrate it all on his drum set. When Eric talks about music, you hear the music and you’re in it. Eric connects the presents to the past and to the future.”

The book has two Introductions, each of which is a brief testimonial to Eric’s greatness as a Jazz musician.

The first is by Dave Liebman who authored the work and the second is by Eric’s long-time musical companion on the Dutch and European Jazz scene – pianist, Rein de Graaff.

Dave sets the context for the book when he explains in his opening remarks that –

“Of all the rhythm section instruments, the drums are the most difficult to learn from books and even records. With drums, you have TO BE THERE … one has to see and feel the music, more so than for other instruments whose techniques could more easily be assimilated by studying available recordings which was the customary method for European musicians learning the music.

After all, this was pre-Jazz Education time in Europe. To put it succinctly: finding a drummer who could ‘swing’ could be problematic. …

Jazz is not an automatic pilot art form … the personality and the music is the same. Eric Ineke fills the bill perfectly. To put it succinctly, he was and is THE UTLIMATE SIDEMAN.

If there is one comment that musicians like myself use to describe Eric it is that he SWINGS … HARD!!

Eric has studied the drum language handed down from Klook [Kenny Clarke] to Max to Roy to Elvin and Tony.

Adding his own personality and musicianship to this encyclopedic knowledge translate to what I describe as a feeling of buoyancy when Eric plays, even beyond mere swinging.

His musical personality along with a positive and uplifting persona puts anyone playing with him at ease.

Plus he WILL show up at the airport and get you to the hotel or gig or recording, etc. Eric is a sweet man who can really play … what more could you ask for?!!”

As for Rein de Graaff, Eric’s long-time running mate, he puts things very succinctly in his part of the book’s Introduction when he declares:

“Playing with Eric never has a dull moment and he is always giving his utmost. There are moments when I can really play everything that’s in my head thanks to him. Sometimes I feel like jumpin’ off a cliff but knowing that he’s always there to catch me. He inspires me constantly with his rhythmical inventions.

The best moments are when we start to play freely ‘around the beat.’ Then it is really happening. It is like flying!

In this world of fake Jazz, it’s good to have people like him; always telling the truth on his instrument; always playing the real thing.”

Eric Ineke: The Ultimate Sideman was recently published in April/2012 in a paperback folio edition by Pincio Uitgeverij of The Netherlands and you can obtain information on purchasing it from Eric at, or Dave at or by writing to

Among the musicians that Eric discusses in this book are Hank Mobley, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, George Coleman, Al Cohn, Eric Alexander, Pete Christlieb, Bob Cooper, Lucky Thompson, Clifford Jordan, Teddy Edward, Frank Foster, Joe Henderson, Scott Hamilton, David Liebman, Harry Sokal, Alan Skidmore, Ferdinand Povel, Sjoerd Dijkhuizen, and Simon Rigter – and that’s just the tenor saxophone players!

Others include alto saxophonists, Lee Konitz, Bud Shank, Herb Geller and Benjamin Herman; baritone saxophonists Pepper Adams, Ronnie Cuber and Nick Brignola; clarinetists Buddy DeFranco, Eddie Daniels, and John Ruocco; trumpet players Freddie Hubbard, Dizzy Gillespie, Jarmo Hoogendijk and Conte Candoli; trombonists Urbie Green, Slide Hampton, Curtis Fuller and Bart van Lier; guitarists Jimmy Raney, Wim Overgaauw, Jesse van Ruller, and Martijn Iterson; pianists Barry Harris, Don Friedman, Tete Monteliu, and, of course, Rein de Graaff; bassists John Clayton, Marius Beets, Ruud Jacob and Jacques Schols; vibraphonists Dave Pike, Red Norvo and Frits Landesbergen; singers Anita O’Day, Deborah Brown and Shirley Horn.

Many of the descriptions by Eric and Dave offer an inside-the music perspective that make you think differently about what goes into the making of Jazz.

Here are some anecdotal excerpts from Eric Ineke: The Ultimate Sideman.

Dave Pike:

“‘David Samuel Pike, the Master of the Vibes,’ as Rein de Graaff would announce him … is a super swinging and a real great bebop player. He is a very emotional player and he sometimes has a tendency to rush, so we try to take care of this in a very unobtrusive way.”

Buddy De Franco

“As soon as we got on stage you felt immediately that you were dealing with a great artist. There was that beautiful round almost wooden sound and that flawless, perfect technical command, great articulation, swing and super-fluent bebop lines.

Although his time was in front of the beat, I could deal with it easily, because it was so smooth and relaxed.

It always surprises me that the person you know from hearing on records feels more or less the same when you are playing with them on stage.”

Eric Alexander

“His influences were clearly Dexter Gordon and George Coleman and Trane [John Coltrane], so knowing the first two, I was on familiar ground.

His sound and phrasing are super clear, great chops, energy and [always] swinging.

There is no doubt that if he keeps developing he will become on of the real great tenor players. …

He has that special ‘New York vibe:’ no bullsh**, just hit it from beat one.

That’s what I miss in most European players. It takes them almost a whole set to get on that same level.”

Scott Hamilton

“His style of playing comes right out of Lester Young and Al Cohn. Since I played with Al it was the same kind of looseness only even more relaxed. …

And, of course, his ballad playing is exquisite with that beautiful sound like Ben Webster.

He has a choice of the best standards and he knows so many tunes. The audience loves him. As a person he is also a real gentleman; a good conversationalist; so easy to travel with. He is American, but he could as well have been British.”

Bud Shank

“West Coast wailer, but the way he played he could be from New York, beyond category so to speak. Bud was special to me. I liked his no nonsense straight forward attitude.

He was not the type of person you could make easy contact with, but it always felt o.k.

He was a very melodic swinger, always looking for interplay. We sometime did drums and alto duets and he was always listening to the drums; he liked the melodic way I played with him. He said to me ‘you are something else.’”

Benjamin Herman

“Not to mention Benjamin Herman is totally unthinkable. He is from the younger generation and I think one of the best alto players around. … A real no nonsense Jazz player who is able to work in all kinds of funky situations. … He is also a smart businessman and always impeccably dressed. …

He knows how to play the blues … his phrasing is a little behind the beat, and sometimes even a lot, like Dexter’s [Gordon], which makes it all the more swinging.

He always plays on a high level, but when you kick his a** firmly he starts flying and really plays some sh**.”

There is no other book like Eric Ineke: The Ultimate Sideman.

Its point-of-view is singular; no one has ever seen the Jazz world like this and no one will ever see it like this again.

In addition to the pleasure of its stories and recollections, reading Eric Ineke: The Ultimate Sideman also provides a basis for a fuller appreciation and understanding of how The Act of Jazz Creation comes into existence.

Our thanks to Eric and David for creating such a wonderful reading experience.