Monday, May 9, 2022

Eric Ineke 75 ‘Swinging, Boppin’ and Burnin’ - Liner Notes

 © Copyright ® Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

It was a privilege and an honor to be asked to write the liner notes to Eric Ineke 75 ‘Swinging, Boppin’ and Burnin’ - Daybreak DBTR 801. Happy 75th birthday, Eric.

“Eric is a great musical companion. Always swingin’, high energy and super positive. He will never let you down on stage. You can take on the world with him. He is rightfully a living legend in the Netherlands.”

- Ben van den Dungen, tenor saxophonist

‘Eric is a beautiful person, a super swinging and energetic drummer and I’m very happy (and lucky) to have known and played with Eric for more than 30 years!”

- Rob van Bavel, pianist

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

The best moments are when we are starting to play freely 'around the beat.’ Then it is really happening. It is like flying! In this world, full of fake Jazz, it's good to have people like him around: always telling the truth on his instrument; always playing the real thing.

After a fifty year career I don't know how long I will keep playing but I sincerely hope that Eric will be my drummer. Till the end.”

- Rein de Graaff, pianist

If you look at a list of the iconic Jazz musicians he has worked with over the past 50+ years, Eric Ineke is almost in a class by himself. With the exception of Roy Haynes, few, if any, other Jazz drummers have had such a long and varied career. [Louis Hayes could also be added to this small, but distinguished group.]

More specifically, I can think of no other Jazz drummer who has performed with such a vast array of Jazz artists both in his native Holland and other European countries and with those visiting The Netherlands from America.

Fortunately, you don’t have to look far for a listing because these are all enumerated in his autobiography The Ultimate Sideman [2012] in which “Jazz Master drummer Eric Ineke talks about the artists he has played with in a conversation with saxophonist Dave Lieberman.”

As Dave notes in his Preface: “Each explanation he gives is like he plays: lucid, to the point and very precise. And swinging of course! Eric has an immense understanding and knowledge of music.

Wouter Tukenburg, Jazz Department head at The Dutch Royal Conservatoire agrees: “Eric is a great teacher and can communicate it all on a drum kit. When Eric talks about music, you hear the music and you’re in it. Eric connects the past to the present to the future.”

In many ways, Eric’s career 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.”

And yet, Eric continues to be active in the 21st century as since 2006, he has led 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. I guess given his many years of experience it was only a matter of time before The Ultimate Sideman was enlisted by the group of younger musicians that formed the JazzXpress to become The Ultimate Bandleader.

Eric lists as his favorite drummers playing in the style of Philly Joe Jones and Elvin Jones.

To my ears, 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.

Jazz horn players [in the broadest sense including pianists, guitarists and vibraphonists], 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, or too busy, they can become distracting to horn players 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 abhor 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 in each of the following tracks is how constantly aware Eric is of what he is playing and how he articulates it in relation to what the other musicians are doing. [Except as otherwise indicated, these tracks are drawn from the Dutch Radio Archives].

1. Hershey Bar [February, 1982] - Guitarists Jimmy Raney/Doug Raney Quartet featuring  Ruud Brink - tenor sax and Jesper Lundgaard - bass. This tune by Johnny Mandel was written before he gained fame as a film composer and songwriter. Its original title was Music To That Effect. It’s from the famous 1951 Stan Getz/Jimmy Raney recording at Storyville in Boston with the great Tiny Kahn at the drums. Eric commented that “it is one of my all time favorite albums.” Like Tiny’s playing on the original, Eric’s drumming is understated to allow for the mellow sound of the guitar to come through. This performance is a perfect example of Eric’s understanding that a drummer is first and foremost an accompanist.

2. I Thought About You [March 1993] - Etta Jones - vocal, Houston Person - tenor sax, Rein de Graaff -piano and Koos Serierse - bass. This features Eric in perhaps the most common musical setting of his long career - working with pianist Rein de Graaff backing a visiting American Jazz performer. Eric does exactly what he is supposed to do when accompanying a vocalist; lay down the time, keep it swinging and stay out of the way.

3. Ornithology  [December, 1993]- Pepper Adams - baritone sax, Piet Noordijk - alto sax, Rob McConnell -valve trombone, Rein de Graaff - piano, Koos Serierse - bass. Based on the How High The Moon, this Charlie Parker composition finds Eric effortlessly navigating the tune’s fast tempo while keeping things under control. And the 12 minute length of this uptempo Bebop anthem speaks to Eric’s strength and stamina. Notice how he sensitively switches to brushes to bring down the volume during Rein’s piano solo before switching back to sticks, all the while maintaining a quiet intensity. The track also features Eric trading 8 bar solos with the horns before the group returns to the closing melody.

4. Easy Living [December, 2003]- John Marshall - trumpet, Rein de Graaff - piano and Marius Beets - bass. This track is a fine example of Eric’s ability to play quietly and still “burn.” When John and Rein double the tempo during their solos they know they have the freedom to explore because of Eric’s mastery of time.

5. Thou Swell [1989] - Frans Elsen - piano, Jacques Schols - bass. Here we have an opportunity to listen to Eric’s tasty brushwork in a trio setting which includes 8 bar and 4 bar trades with Frans. Eric’s performance reaffirms the Jazz drummer adage: “Anything you can play with sticks you can also play with brushes.”

6. Tangerine [April, 2004] - Scott Hamilton - tenor sax, Rein de Graaff - piano, Marius Beets - bass. Once again, Eric in a familiar setting as a member of Rein de Graaff’s trio, this time with Marius Beets on bass, backing an American hornman visiting Holland. And I must say of all the recordings I’ve listened to over the years in this format, Scott Hamilton and Rein’s trio blend together almost seamlessly. Eric locks in with Marius to create an almost palpable pulse. The time never deviates: you can set your watch to it. And when Eric talks about “swing,” his playing on this track is what he’s describing. More 8 bar and 4 bar trades featuring Eric who constructs them in such a way that you can hear the melody as he rhythmically plays over it. This one swings so hard that you almost don’t want Scott and the trio to take it out.

7. Eric’s Blues - [April, 1968] Maynard Ferguson - trumpet, Pim Jacobs - piano, Wim Overgaauw - guitar, Ruud Jacobs - bass. An uptempo tour de force featuring trumpet pyrotechnics by the legendary Maynard Ferguson. Eric has a chance to really “stretch out” on this one as he trades 5 choruses of 12 bars each with Maynard. And speaking of legends, Pim, Wim and Ruud certainly belong in a Dutch Jazz Hall of Fame. (Eric tells me that this tune was just improvised with no name and that when Marius and he were editing this Marius said, “why not call it Eric’s Blues?”)

8. The Theme [May, 1972] Ben Webster - tenor sax, Tete Montoliu - piano, Rob Langereis - bass. Swing era tenor sax icon Ben Webster growls, slurs, honks, shouts and trills his way through this tune, which was often used by Beboppers to close their sets, only to then give way to the amazingly fluid and funky technical runs of Modernist pianist Tete Montoliu’s solo before Eric amps up the excitement by trading 4’s with Ben to close this crowd pleasing performance.

9. Jotosco.  The JazzXpress [May, 2007] featuring Rik Mol - trumpet, Sjoerd Dijkhuizen - tenor sax, Rob Van Bavel - piano, Marius Beet  -bass. What better way to close this tribute to Eric Ineke on the occasion of his 75th birthday than to feature him in an extended solo in an uptempo burner. Aside from demonstrating his technical mastery of the drums, his performance on this track shows his incredible resilience in being able to negotiate the band through a 12 minute performance, including 3 minutes of his own solos, while keeping it all together. No train wrecks while Eric’s in the Engine Room!

To paraphrase Dave Liebman: “Adding his own personality and musicianship to each musical situation creates a feeling of buoyancy when Eric plays, even beyond swinging. This musical personality along with a positive and uplifting persona puts anyone playing with him at ease. Eric is a sweet man who can really play. What more can you ask for!?”

Happy Birthday 75th birthday, dear friend, and best wishes for many more.

Steve Cerra

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