© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
My first tour with Dexter was in September 1972 with the Rein de Graaff Trio lasting about 6 weeks. It was organized by Wim Wigt and it took us through Holland, Germany, Belgium, Luxemburg and France. I remember that after the concert in Luxembourg, we went back to the hotel in the middle of the night and the hotel was closed. We were ringing the bell and started yelling. Finally somebody opened a window and Dexter started screaming at the guy 'Open up you mo*****f***ers, I am Dexter Gordon and I am THE tenor player'. So after a while we got in and I think we woke up a lot of customers!
A double LP was released from a live concert in The Hague. Sometimes we were using different piano players due to Rein's job in the Philips wholesale business.
I really had to get used to Dexter s laid back phrasing. You had to stay on top of the beat, a great learning experience. His solos had a lot of quotes and he was really stretching out, they were really long. Sometimes it felt like a simplified Trane. He always played Body and Soul in that same medium slow tempo. He always knew the lyrics of the ballads and always recited them in his announcements.”
- Eric Ineke, Eric Ineke: The Ultimate Sideman in Conversation with Dave Liebman
Imagine, if you will, being a young Jazz musician living in Holland, where your primary exposure to the post World War II Jazz scene in America is via recordings or the occasional concert or local club appearance by one of the Jazz musicians you’ve long admired..
Your skills as a player have evolved over a decade or more since you first fell in love with the music as a teenager to the point where you can more than hold your own with other Jazz musicians with whom you perform in The Netherlands.
There’s enough work in the Jazz clubs in Den Haag or in Amsterdam or in Rotterdam, so you get to play Jazz on a regular basis, although more than likely, as is the case with many Jazz musicians who haven’t achieve international acclaim, you probably hold down a day gig to pay the rent and take care of your family.
Maybe if you are a pianist or a bassist or a drummer, you come together often enough to form a tight knit rhythm section and to work fairly regularly as a piano-bass-drums trio.
As you come into your own as a rhythm unit, you begin to notice that you are getting regular calls by promoters or nightclub owners to work with American Jazz musicians who are touring Europe.
With the passage of time, you also notice another trend as a result of a dynamic that the Jazz musician and writer Mike Zwerin described as a time when “Jazz went to Europe to live.”
Pushed out by the burgeoning Rock ‘n Roll and Folk Music phenomenons that swept the youth in the USA of the 1960s, American Jazz musicians were becoming expatriates and settling in Europe where the music still had a fan base.
So now instead of the occasional gig with the likes of tenor saxophonist Don Byas who settled in France or trumpeter Benny Bailey who settled in Sweden or alto saxophonist Herb Geller who settled in Germany, you become part of their touring band whenever they make it to Holland.
One day you're listening to them on records and the next you’re making a gig with them at Nick’s Cafe in Laren, The Netherlands!
Here’s another variation of this scenario as told by Maxine Gordon, the widow of the iconic tenor saxophonist, Dexter Gordon, as it applies to Dutch Jazz pianist Rein de Graaff, bassist Henk Haverhoek and drummer Eric Ineke.
The story is told as liner notes - no, not insert notes, liner notes on the back of a 12” LP that Gearbox Records issued in 2016 as Dexter Gordon: Fried Bananas - Live 1972 Heemskerk Societiet Progress, Holland [GB 1535] and if you are a fan of Dexter’s music you can find order information at www.gearboxrecords.com.
“Dexter Gordon had been living in Europe since 1962 and had settled in Copenhagen by 1972 when he went on tour with the Dutch rhythm section of Rein de Graaff, piano; Henk Haverhoek, bass and Eric Ineke, drums. When Dexter arrived in London in 1962 to play at Ronnie Scott's Club, he had no plans to remain in Europe as long as he did. As he liked to say, "I came for one gig in London and when I looked up it was 14 years later.”
Dexter eventually settled in Copenhagen. He rode a bicycle, bought a house, got married, had a son Benjie named in honor of Ben Webster and performed for months at a time at Jazzhus Montmartre. But he didn't stay exclusively in Denmark.
He traveled to France, to Germany, to Italy, to Spain, to Portugal, to Luxembourg, to Belgium, to Austria, to Switzerland, to Sweden, to Norway, to Finland and very often to Holland. There was a booking agent in Wageningen, Holland named Wim Wigt who could find a gig for Dexter and his Dutch band in the smallest venues and towns and villages in the country and neighboring countries as well.
Normally when Dexter toured in Europe it was as a solo musician picking up local rhythm sections in each city along the way. But in Holland, he had a "working band". On October 12,1972, Dexter wrote to friends in Copenhagen from Liege, Belgium. He writes: "Dear Folks, this is 'den gamle rejsemusiker' [the old traveling musician] letting the folks back home know that I'm ok and am defending the colors! This tour is quite fantastic; we are traveling through Holland, Germany, Luxembourg, Beige and France! It's six weeks no, seven weeks and I'm getting rich! Anyway, it's very well organized and seems to be a success. For the most part I'm working with the same group... Hope everything is in order. Love, Absalon (Gordonsen)".
In the Netherlands, Wim Wigt managed to find gigs in Hilversum, Leiden, Veendam, Venlo, Zwolle, Den Haag, Heemskerk, Amsterdam, De Woude, Rotterdam, and Eschede. When Dexter would tell people about all the towns he had played in during his time in Holland, they were incredulous. He would tell them that there were jazz lovers in all these places in a country the size of the state of Maryland.
When a band travels together and has meals together and works this often, they get to know each other in a very special way. They know their habits and moods and they learn to play together when they have this rare opportunity to be in such close proximity for these weeks. The music improves every night and with Dexter, we can be sure that he found a way to communicate what he expected from the rhythm section. Dexter had a particular idea of what he wanted to hear and if he wasn't comfortable with the band, he would definitely let them know. Dexter had very kinds words about his "Dutch band", how serious they were about the music and how much they cared about the musicians from the States who came to Europe to play.
Eric Ineke spoke about Dexter in an interview in 2014 in Amsterdam. "With Dexter, I had communication right away. Dexter had a way of telling you things in a very nice way. In the car, when we were driving, he'd say, 'Eric, can you...' He thought that if he told me some things to do in the music, it would get even better.
I remember all of one thing that happened right on stage. It was in Germany and we were playing a ballad. I got out the brushes, but I used to have my brushes a little smaller for fast playing, it was easier than the other way. So I played a ballad. And Dexter was doing this thing with his ear like he couldn't hear me! And he was looking at my brushes, and he said, on stage, 'Eric! Open up those mo****f***ers! (laughter) When Eric Ineke talks about the time with Dexter, he remembers many things Dexter said to him and he smiles at the memories of those days.
In an interview with pianist Rein de Graaff in 2014, he recalled the tour with Dexter fondly and remembered the first time he heard Dexter and the impact it had on him. "I was in the Army and I found out, late at night, at midnight, that Dexter Gordon was on the radio, a live broadcast from Utrecht from a jazz club with a Dutch rhythm section. Everybody was asleep in the barracks so I went in this place where the showers were. I had a little portable radio and I heard him and it was the most unbelievable stuff that I had ever heard. I was always telling people about this radio show. That was 1963 and I said 'I want to play with this man.' About ten years later, I got to go on tour with him. I will never forget that.”
"One day in 1972, Wim Wigt called me and said, 'Do you want to go on tour with Dexter Gordon? It's going to last about three months, not every day, mostly Holland and Belgium and a little bit of Germany near the border, but actually every weekend, maybe one gig in a week, two gigs in the week', but it lasted for two months, and we were playing, playing, playing, playing... We learned a lot from him because he knew all the tools, he knew all the dramatic things about balance, he taught me that it's a balance of sweet and bittersweet, he taught me the lyrics to 'You've Changed'. Most of the time when we played with him, Dexter stayed at my house. My wife and I had been married for maybe two years then. We lived in Veendam. Everybody in the town knew Dexter and he knew them. The kids would say, 'Hi, Dex' when he walked in town.”
The recording of Dexter Gordon with this trio was made on November 3,1972 at Heemskerk Societeit Progress, The Netherlands. The band played two of Dexter's signature compositions, "The Panther" and "Fried Bananas" plus the iconic "Body and Soul". Dexter often said that every tenor player must know "Body and Soul" and he loved to perform it with his own interpretation which was quite a bit different from the Coleman Hawkins classic.
I am sure Dexter would be very pleased to have this recording released for the world to hear his "Dutch band" and know that his time in Europe was enjoyable musically and personally. The fact that he stayed at the home of the pianist and travelled with these marvellous musicians gives us insight into his way of living and being. Dexter loved going to new places and was a world traveler at heart. With his group, he surely was able to see most of The Netherlands and the audiences were so enthusiastic and loved the music. When he returned to the States in 1976, he often talked about all the little towns he had played in and how people treated him with respect and kindness.
We are grateful to Rein, Eric, and Henk for supporting Dexter and remembering him in such a meaningful manner. We are also grateful to Darrel Sheinman for finding this recording and releasing it on his marvellous Gearbox label.
Please visit us at www.dextergordon.org and www.dextergordon.com and support our work for The Dexter Gordon Society to continue the legacy of Dexter.
Thank you - Maxine Gordon”
Mastered by Barrel Sheinman and Caspar Sutton-Jones at Gearbox Records from the original master tapes courtesy of VPRO.
Cut on Haeco Scully lathe with Westrex RA1700 series amps, Westrex 3DIIA cutting head and Telefunken U73B tube limiter; Maselec master control and Decca valve equalisation, monitored on Audio Note equipment.
Photographs courtesy of Erik Ineke
Thanks to Flora Vailenduuk at VPRO
Sleeve design: Alan Foulkes
Copyright 2016 Gearbox Records