Thursday, May 19, 2016

Cees Slinger (1929 - 2007) Jazz Pianist - Band leader - Composer - Arranger

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

During his lifetime [1929-2007], Cees [pronounced “Case”] Slinger was considered to be among  the most important of European-based modern jazz pianists.

His sometimes unconventional, but always melodic, hard-swinging style of playing and his ability to adapt himself to the soloists he accompanied gave him wide acclaim, both in his native country Holland and internationally. As a result, during his long career, Cees has played with innumerable American and European jazz greats.

Cees got his start with the Diamond Five a hard bop combo he founded which featured Cees Small [trumpet/valve trombone], Harry Verbeke [tenor sax], Jacques Schols [bass] and John Engels [drums]. Their base throughout most of the 1950’s was the Scheherazade nightclub in Amsterdam which they also owned.

Over the years, Cees accompanied many of the Jazz greats including Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie.

In 1976 and 1985, Cees made two extensive European tours with the legendary drummer Philly Joe Jones the second one including tenorist Clifford Jordan and resulting in the album Sling Shot! (Timeless). In 1987 another European tour followed, this time with the Mingus Dynasty band.  

From 1979-1989 Cees was teaching piano and conducting ensemble classes at the Rotterdam Conservatory of Music. In 1996 he received the prestigious Bird Award at the North Sea Jazz festival

Among the many recordings Cees has made are: Ben Webster: At Work in Europe,Dexter Gordon Live at the Amsterdam Paradiso and 'Live at the North Sea Jazz Festival with his own Cees Slinger Octet, a group which played a series of very successful concerts in California. All of his recordings are available on CD and you can locate more information about them and about Cees by visiting a website that his wife Hilde maintains at

During the closing years of his life, Cees’ activities included being musical director for singer Silvia Droste, writing for and leading the Cees Slinger Octet and being pianist/arranger for 'Bart's Bones', a 4-trombone group led by Bart van Lier.

Here’s what drummer Eric Ineke has to say about him in his autobiography, The Ultimate Sideman:

Another legend of the Dutch Jazzscene was pianist Cees Slinger. It took some time before we got to play more frequently with each other, but fortunately it happened in the last ten years of his life when he asked me for a gig that was supposed to be a quintet with trumpet and tenor sax (The Buddies in Soul), but the trumpet player could not make it, so it became two tenors instead. The gig was great so the 'The Two Tenor Case' was born, which eventually became 'The Three Tenor Case' with bass player Frans van Geest.

Like the name said, the group involved three of the best tenor players in Holland: Sjoerd Dijkhuizen, Simon Rigter and the teacher of them both, Ferdinand Povel. So you can speak of two generations of tenor players. But before the band became a 'Three Tenor Case (adding Ferdinand) we recorded a live CD together with Slide Hampton for Blue Jack records on a cold winter night in December 2002 in the shortlived Jazzclub Pannonica in The Hague.

It was the pre-opening night and during the rehearsals and sound check in the afternoon, the heating system was still not working and the workers were still decorating the club. It was like trying to play in a refrigerator! They were ready just in time and that same night the heating system was working and the club was packed and the band was swinging.

As a pianist, Cees was not a so-called virtuoso but a wonderful accompanist in his own right who knew millions of songs by heart. Singers like Greetje Kauffeld loved to work with him. He came out of Nat Cole and later in his life he was influenced a lot by the great Cedar Walton. They eventually became close friends.

I admired Cees since the days when he was the leader of the Diamond Five, a famous hard-bop quintet in the fifties and sixties. As a matter of fact, I grew up with them by listening to the radio and even bought their records. When I was still in my teens and attended high school, I wrote for the school magazine about jazz and did an article, with a friend of mine, about the Diamond Five. We called them up to do some interviews and we were invited to their homes.

This way I first met my future teacher, the great John Engels who happened to be the drummer of that group, but that's another story. When Cees revived the Diamond Five in the seventies I had a chance to sub for John on a couple of gigs. Later on in the nineties he started to call me more and more. We did a lot of trio gigs together and I found out what a great trio player he was with an excellent choice of tunes that were always very nicely arranged for trio.

In trio setting he was loose and free, swinging and totally himself; he played very creative, always responding to my playing. I told him that just before he unexpectedly passed away. He smiled and was very happy with what I said. Even in his seventies he kept his childlike enthusiasm and openness for the music; he was always somebody you could count on and he just kept on till he dropped.

Cees will always be missed because he was such a supportive musician, especially for the younger generation. Fortunately his wife Hilde keeps the flame burning by supporting the Jazz community and you can always spot her when there is some good Jazz going on. She gives CD's and tapes out of Cees' well organized archive to any young musician who is interested. And interesting it is, because Gees worked with everybody in the business, Dexter, Griff, Zoot, George Coleman, Jimmy Heath, Slide Hampton and so on.”

Some of the fine, “young” musicians that Eric refers to join Cees’ Octet in the following audio-track of Sweet and Lovely recorded at the North Sea Jazz Festival in 1995 including Niels Tausk on trumpet, Ilja Reijngoud, trombone, Carolyn Breuer on alto sax and Herman Schoonderwalt on baritone saxophone. Ferdinand Povel is on tenor sax and James Long on bass and Joost Patocka help round out the rhtyhm section with Cees.

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