Jan Verwey – Dreamdancing, Cool Jazz On Harmonica
Jan Verwey – Dreamdancing, Cool Jazz On Harmonica
Lineup: Jan Verwey – chromatic harmonica, Johan Clement – piano , Jasper Somsen – double bass Recorded: January 2016, O.A.P. Studios, The Hague
Released: May, 2016 Label: O.A.P. Records Tracks:12 – Time: 61’27
80-year old Jan Verwey is one of The Netherlands’ unique jazz musicians. Like his Flemish colleague Toots Thielemans, he is a master of the chromatic harmonica, a uncommon jazz instrument that is hard to play. Where Toots goes for emotion, we encounter a slightly more detached, but by no means inferior
musicianship. His latest CD, ‘Dreamdancing, Cool Jazz on Harmonica’ is living proof of this.
Twelve American standards are interpreted tastefully, from Cole Porter’s ‘Everything I Love’ to ‘Sippin’ at Bells’ by Miles Davis. Verwey plays without drums, most likely to avoid drowning out his soft-sounding instrument. On piano is Johan Clement, well-known for his collaboration with Toots Thielemans and on double bass Jasper Somsen, who currently travels the world with acclaimed Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi.
Verwey’s unsentimental interpretation of Mal Waldron’s ballad ‘Soul Eyes’ is brilliant and, having changed it to a four/four time signature, his interpretation of ‘Waltz for Debbie’ is testimony to his sense of rhythm. Perhaps his most beautiful piece is his interpretation of Jules Styne’s rarely played ‘I Fall in Love Too Easily’. In this version, all Jan Verwey’s melody, rhythm and timing skills are represented. Also truly tasteful is pianist Johan Clement’s musical framework. Richie Beirach’s ‘Leaving’ brings this fine production to a fitting close with Somsen’s subtle double bass bowing.
‘Dreamdancing, Cool Jazz on Harmonica’ is a unique album dedicated to an instrument that all too often takes a back seat in jazz. Fortunately, we now also see younger musicians like Hermine Deurloo committing themselves to ‘the bun’ (to use a Toots expression). But what a pleasure it must be, at this age, to be able to play at this level! 23 June 2016
Jan Verwey: Standards & Other Pieces (Daybreak)
Thinking about the harmonica in jazz, the first one who comes to mind is Toots Thielemans, who refers to his instrument fondly as his ‘broodje’ (= sandwich). But although he remains in Thielemans’ shadow, Jan Verwey has developed into a highly interesting musician. After a career as an interior decorator, he decided to concentrate on the chromatic harmonica. Soon, he was the first one producers  would call if Thielemans was unavailable.
Verwey is a fantastic improviser and makes a great couple with piano virtuoso Bert van den Brink. On this duo-album, they approach a series of standards in a relaxed, playful manner, after which they close the CD with small suite, entirely improvised in the studio.
Verwey’s beautiful, airy sound combines surprisingly well with Van den Brink’s vivid piano playing. They clearly enjoy themselves. As a bonus, on a couple of tracks Holland’s best jazz singer can be heard: Fay Claassen.
‘Standards & Other Pieces’
As Toots Thielemans, Jan Verwey has been a man with a ‘broodje’ (= sandwich, Thielemans’ nickname for his favourite instrument).
Hermine Deurloo is the third Dutch harmonica player. Verwey, already 73 years old, had plenty of time to concentrate on his harmonica playing since his retirement. He even dared to record his latest album ‘Standards and Other Pieces’ as a duo with
pianist Bert van den Brink. In order to make the CD even more varied and attractive, singer Fay Claassen was invited as a third artist. Compared to Toots T., Verwey has a more modern and unconventional approach.
Van den Brink, completely at ease on this CD, reacts with fast reflexes to Verwey’s ideas. He obviously enjoyed recording with the harmonica player. Both of them never get lost in endless meditations; their improvisations are powerful and never lack direction. They keep inspiring each other consistently. Just listen to ‘Stella by Starlight’; Van den Brink and Verwey sound like they’re out for
an adventurous walk in the moonlight.
The CD closes with a five-part improvised suite, titled ‘Studio Fantasy 1 – 5’. In these short tracks, the two musicians copy each others’ licks before going into a surprising musician discussion.
Fay Claassen is present in three tracks. ‘Perhaps’ is her most adventurous contribution, as her lyrics were written to Charlie Parker’s original solo.
She also sings ‘I’m Glad There Is You’ and ‘How Deep Is The Ocean’. In the latter lamentation, composed by Irving Berlin, her timing is impressive once again. This is a CD full of delicate nuances and shades. ses.
Jan Verwey ‘does’ Thelonious Monk .. and how!
Jan Verwey is an extraordinary self-effacing and amiable human being, but above all a fantastic musician. His instrument, the harmonica, became famous in jazz thanks to Toots Thielemans. But Jan is not a mere imitator; he has his own sound and personality.
Jan made this clear earlier with his Miles Davis Project. Recently, he issued a similar tribute to a composer/musician even more eccentric: Thelonious Monk, who founded with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie the music we know as ‘bop’.
Monk’s ‘Round About Midnight’ and ‘Straight No Chaser’ became jazz classics and can be heard, of course, on ‘Jan Verwey Plays Thelonious Monk’. They are treated in a special way on this CD. The former tune, for example, is played solely on the guitar
– in an incredible way by Olaf Tarenskeen (who reminds me immediately of the great Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell).
On all the other tracks, Jan’s band is accompanied by the Gustav Klimt String Quartet.
Jan Verwey meets Bert van den Brink ? Standards and other pieces
Personnel: Jan Verwey – harmonica; Bert van den Brink – piano. Guest: Fay Claassen –vocals. Recorded: March 27 and April 23, 2009. Released: 2010 Label: Daybreak / Challenge Records International / tracks: 15 / time: 67.07 For many years, harmonica player Jan Verwey combined his musical career with a job as a designer and interior decorator. He could be heard in a lot of radio shows during the seventies and was hired whenever producers weren’t able to get hold of Toots Thielemans.
In 1985, he decided to concentrate on the music fulltime. He studied musical theory and perfected his technique. Recently, at the age of 73, he issued the album ‘Standards and Other Pieces’. It presents primarily his duets with pianist Bert van den Brink. They play mostly standards, just as Verwey’s regular bands do.
Verwey selected the tunes, among others ‘Stella by Starlight’, done this time as a fast waltz, and ‘It’s a Dance’, written by one of his favourite musicians, Michel Petrucciani. From the first track, Dizzy Gillespie’s ‘Groovin’ High’, the recording impresses with its sheer joy of playing. By playing the theme in unison and unaccompanied, the both of them create a nice upbeat for their improvisations. Van den Brink plays inimitable, as usual. He creates both musical miniatures and sudden cascades of notes, delivered at a high speed, and both lyrical chord sequences and angular accents.
With his phenomenal technique, he manages to sound if all this is no big deal at all. The same can be said about Jan Verwey. His chromatic harmonica has twelve holes, and each of these can produce four notes: by inhaling or blowing air and doing the same with the side-button pushed in. He produces both soft, melancholy sounds in the ballads and fast bebop lines. Verwey is among the few harmonica players who are able to play octaves, even a complete Charlie Parker-solo. He has a wide range of sounds at his disposal.
In the chanson-like ‘We Love Paris’ – written by Verwey and Van den Brink and the only non-standard – his harmonica sounds like an accordion. Fay Claassen sings in three tracks. Especially for this album, Suzie Scraggs and Hein Van de Geyn wrote lyrics to Charlie Parker’s ‘Perhaps’. Claassen combines a composed, warm delivery with creative scat improvisations.
The CD closes with five short, free improvisations by Verwey and Van den Brink. In this dessert, the gentlemen demonstrate once again how well they work together. They chase each other, playfully like puppies, take over each other’s lines and complement
each other. As a result, they get the maximum out of this minimal duo setting.