Sunday, September 22, 2013

High Slide Low Blow – The Rik van den Bergh/Bart van Lier 5tet

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

Although we have only met via the Internet, I feel as though I have always “known” Eric Ineke.

Eric is a Jazz drummer who lives in Holland and works there primarily, although given the relatively close proximity of things on the Continent, he has performed in other European venues as well.

You can find our earlier features on Eric’s drumming by going here and our review of his autobiography as told to saxophonist Dave Liebman by clicking on Eric Ineke: The Ultimate Sideman.

The reason why I feel a strong affinity to Eric is basically because we share similar values about Jazz drumming.

These values are based around the primary notion of playing impeccable time that is alive with a sense of urgency and which pushes and prods the soloist to his fullest possible expression.

Another way of putting it is that whatever the context, Jazz has to swing.

Everything that the drummer is laying down back there has to drive the music forward, create a sense of urgency in the other musicians and encapsulate the performance in an atmosphere of energy and excitement.

The most recent example of Eric’s drumming at work can be found on a recently issued CD that was recorded in April of this year in Holland and released on Maxanter as High Slide Low Blow – The Rik van den Bergh/Bart van Lier 5tet [MAX 75990].

Rik on baritone sax and Bart on trombone are joined by Edgar van Asselt on piano, Marius Beets on bass and Eric on drums.

In recent years, Marius has become quite an impresario on behalf of Jazz in Holland serving as a producer, player and recording engineers on many Dutch Jazz recordings in addition to working with his pianist brother Peter in a fine Jazz trio and both Peter and his tenor saxophonist brother Alexander in the Beets Brothers Band.

I first heard Rik on his CD Reserge [Maxanter MAX 75373], a tribute to the late Serge Chaloff who inspired so many of today’s baritone saxophonists and later as a member of the Rotterdam Jazz Orchestra.

Bart van Lier has been a mainstay of The Netherlands’ famous Metropole Orkest for many years and he is the co-leader along with Ilya Reijngoud of one of my favorite two trombone CD’s - Memories of the Future [VSOP 991072].

From every perspective, Rik and Bart’s new CD is a sheer delight from beginning to end: eleven [11] beautifully played and perfectly paced tracks; outstanding musicianship; clearly recorded and mastered music; engaging tunes comprised of five Jazz standards intermixed with six originals [three each by van Asselt and Beets, who also recorded and mastered the disc]; interesting solos all blended around a cookin’ rhythm section.

Bart gets the solo spotlight on Polka Dots and Moonbeams on which he plays muted trombone accompanied only by Marius on bass guitar while Rik brings back memories of the man who started it all on Jazz baritone sax – Harry Carney – with his eloquent ballad feature on Billy Strayhorn’s Chelsea Bridge.

Straight-ahead Jazz your thing? The opening track by Edgar van Asselt, a unison line entitled Early Bird, will have you boppin’ and burnin’ with charging solos by Rik, Edgar, Marius and Eric booting everyone along from the drum chair. As should be the case, the lead track sets the tone for the entire recording.

The next cut – Exotic Vibes – is an original by Marius with shades of Benny Golson’s Killer Joe and Blues March reflected in this vamp-based, medium tempo tune on which everyone gets loose. It’s the kind of tune that’s great to open a set with so that all the players can get into a relaxed groove.

Body Works – Marius’ homage to Body and Soul – follows in a looping, bossa nova beat with a beautifully harmonized melody by Rik and Bart that is set against a countermelody laid down by Edgar and Marius.

Joe Henderson’s Jazz standard Step Lightly is up next and that’s what everyone does as a result of the tune’s mellow groove which is beautifully underscored by the fact that Marius takes the first solo on bass, followed by Edgar on piano, Rik on bari and Bart on ‘bone.  If you think about it, the solo sequence is exactly the reverse of the ordering that usually takes place.

Also on tap are refreshingly different version of Thad Jones’ Three and One, two more originals by Edgar - Vox Populi and Profectus – another of Marius’ marvelous melodic modifications – It Could Happen to All of Us [based on Jimmy van Heusen’s It Could Happen to You] with the late baritone saxophonist Ronnie Ross and Chris Pyne's Sue’s Blues closing things out [I would imagine that Rik may have had something to do with bringing this rarely heard tune to the recording date].

Here’s what Hans Mantel, bassist, musicologist, producer/host of Jazz programs on radio and television, had to say about the music in his Introduction.  

“The jazz quintet format with baritone sax and trombone has not been a very common one in jazz. There were a few successful groups in the late forties and throughout the fifties with the baritone - trombone combina­tion, such as the Curtis Fuller and Tate Houston Quintet, the Gerry Mulligan/ Bob Brookmeyer group and the "Pepper-Knepper Quintet" with Pepper Adams on baritone sax and trombonist Jimmy Knepper.

To the casual listener it could be tempting to think that these bottom feed­ers among the horns can only produce the most rudimentary of solos by musicians lumbering away on these big, clumsy instruments while the real virtuosity and technical fireworks are left to alto saxophones and trumpets. Nothing could be further from the truth, as is abundantly clear to anyone who has devoted some serious listening to the great jazz mu­sicians that play these instruments. Besides, it's not about technique for technique's sake. It's only about the music and with that comes a sound that the musicians want to project.

This is where the baritone/trombone combination comes into its own. There is a sonority in that sound that is unique. Unique in itself and in combination with the rhythm section. This CD demonstrates that once again and in an admirable way.

Rik van den Bergh has become a prominent voice on the baritone in recent years. He hails from The Hague, the city that has always produced the very best straight ahead, hard-driving jazz musicians in The Netherlands. While forward looking, he has thoroughly absorbed the tradition of the baritone saxophone in jazz and the influence of the great Pepper Adams in clear in his playing.

Trombonist Bart van Lier is one of a handful of best jazz trombonists in the world and among colleagues everywhere his name is mentioned with reverence and for good reason. He has worked with the greatest names in the music and as far as his command of the instrument goes, Bart has set a new standard. He's one of a kind.

The seasoned rhythm section also has The Hague written all over it. Pianist Edgar van Asselt is a very versatile musician with a deep love for all things groovy and he was the perfect choice for this band. Over the last twenty years Marius Beets has become one of the most sought after Dutch bassists. His musical empathy, command of the instrument and his ability to always get down to the nitty-gritty explain why he is one of the busiest bassists in the country.

The list of jazz greats that veteran drummer Eric Ineke has worked with is too long to mention. He is one of the most accomplished European side-men and his playing reflects that. His huge experience of five decades and musical scope are an invaluable addition to the sound of this band.

The tastefully selected repertoire for this CD consists of craftily reworked standards, a few beautiful ballads and some originals. What more do you need? The music swings and it sounds organic and natural in the hands of these accomplished musicians. It's beauty and intensity combined. But make no mistake; this band packs a punch.”

Not to quibble with Professor Mantel’s assessment of the number of ‘bone-bari combinations as the ones he notes are certainly principal among them, but thanks to the knowledge of a chat group to which I am a member, the following combinations of this unusual front-line instrumentation should also be noted [although in many case, these are one-off pairings]. ‘Bone player first and then bari:

- Miff Mole and Jack Washington
- Bob Brookmeyer and Jimmy Giuffre
- Bob Brookmeyer and Gerry Mulligan
- Bill Harris and Jack Nimitz
- Eddie Bert and Gil Melle
- Urbie Green and Gil Melle
- Bill Watrous and Nick Brignola
- Herbie Harper/Bob Enevoldsen and Bob Gordon
- Wycliffe Gordon and Joe Temperley
- Julian Priester and Charles Davis
- Frank Rosolino and Tony Scott
- Jimmy Knepper and Tony Scott
- Ake Persson and Lars Gullin
- Eje Thelin and Lars Gullin
- Roy Williams and John Barnes
- Mark Nightingale and Andy Panayi
- J.J. Johnston and Leo Parker
- Curtis Fuller and Pepper Adams
- Curtis Fuller and Cecil Payne
- Jimmy Knepper and Gary Smulyan
- Maynard Ferguson [vtb] and Bruce Johnstone

 Order information for the CD is available at


  1. Hi Steve
    where is Brookmeyer / Mulligan?

  2. Hi Willie:

    Mulligan/Brookmeyer is listed at the beginning of Hans Mantel's insert notes along with Pepper/Knepper and Curtis Fuller - Tate Houston.

    I didn't want to duplicate in the list of amended 'bone-bari combinations.

    Kind regards,


  3. Chris Pyne and Ronnie Ross (Sue's Blues)


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