WTM #1104: Willem Breuker Zomer

wReck thiS meSS ~ Radio Patapoe 88.3

Amsterdam ~ Ethno-Illogical Psycho-Radiographies
16 August 2010 // 16.30-18.30
“My music is for the guy from my neighborhood, for you, and for the Waterlooplein flea market.”
• Willem Breuker

Crazy > COH
Cuando Viniste > Jimmy Hertz
Yoga, Gathering New Energy > Puck van Waveren [Rust en Enrgie / Natura Sana]
+ It’s Like That > Run-D.M.C. [Run-D.M.C. / Profile]
The Typewriter > Willem Breuker Kollektief [With Strings Attached / BVHaast]
Parade Choral [Satie]> Willem Breuker Kollektief [With Strings Attached / BVHaast]
Petite Fille Americaine [Satie] > Willem Breuker Kollektief [With Strings Attached / BVHaast]
If Dogs Run Free > Bob Dylan
Babu Samjho Ishare > Kishore Kumar
Dunia Wanja wa Fujo > Electricity vs Fire Eater
Time Machine > Yann Tomita
9 to 5 / Pollution Blues > Bonzo Dog Band [The History of the Bonzos / UA]
Snevel > Willem Breuker Kollektief [To Remain / BVHaast]
Canyons of Your Mind > Bonzo Dog Band [The History of the Bonzos / UA]
Ek Bottle Bagal Main > Kishore Kumar & Asha Bhosle
Omi > DJ Click
Thep Thida Tan Kandal > Sinn Sisamouth
Tennessee Waltz [1964] > Tomi Fujiyama
The Past Sure is Tense > Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band [Ice Cream for Crow / Virgin]
PTT > Willem Breuker Kollektief [At Ruta Maya Cafe / BVHaast]
81 Poop Hatch > Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band [Ice Cream for Crow / Virgin]
Birds & Machines [Machine Suite] > Gen Ken Montgomery [Birds + Machines / Pogus]
Le Peuple Fait la Fete Tango & La Valse de la Bourgeoisie & Finale [Brecht] > Willem Breuker Kollektief [Drums in the Night / BVHaast]
Tall Dwarfs Brunch Party > Le Syndicat
Pop Goes The Dread Club > Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry
Perfect Day > Lou Reed & Friends
Shadow on the Sand > Misora Hibari
Costume De Lapin > Momus
Dibidik > Nickodemus & Zeb vs Sultana
Bored > Destroy all Monsters
Der mit dem Derwisch tanzt > Peeni Waali vs. Schildpatt
Hell With The Lid Off (Age 8) > Marjoe Gortner
Dolls’ Polyphony > Geinoh Yamashirogumi

The interesting thing about Willem Breuker is the forceful yet elegant manner in which he culled music from his various influences to make it sound natural, organic, like something that has always existed while being quite unique. An eccentric form of jazz, with soundtracks, organ grinder, show tunes, blues, avant-garde, and various other influences producing an ouevre that is particularly Dutch and yet embracingly international.

He died in late July 2010. I knew something was up because I used to work regularly for him and his label even after an operation. He always seemed energetic, full of verve and curiosity, at once honoring and rearranging past sounds.

I knew him as a modest man despite his stature in the world of jazz and improv and in the Netherlands. An icon, a giant who always had a gift for provoking, challenging, irritating the powers that be by pushing the envelope but always within an organically developed audio lexicon.

He did soundtracks for the provoking socialist film director Joris Ivens and produced very unusual interpretations of Brecht / Weill. His music sometimes irritated my ears or upset my expectations but one can say that there was a tense beauty, a dynamic sound that has a way of making difficult sound beautiful. He had fairly ample funding to survive for many many years, this allowed him to blossom as composer, conductor and instrumentalist and travel around the world where he is greatly admired, an ambassador of Dutch music, always feisty, but also with a certain humility.

I used to help rewrite, translate and edit texts, liner notes, etc. And he was always an upright man with no airs and a lot of trust in human nature. He actually paid on time and offered me sage advice at times. He took under his wing a budding post-classical musician whose name will go unmentioned here to give him the benefit of the doubt he doesn’t much need. This budding young musician was also a friend of mine and when suddenly in 2009 I stopped hearing from him to get together and I stopped hearing from WB to do work I realized there was something not right here. WB was still recovering from recent medical complications – he eventually died of lung cancer – and so I contacted him. Besides health issues he was also hit by a drastic reduction in national arts funding, which he fought and won; the national arts foundation rescinding their original verdict and reinstating his funding. This is never a fun battle with rancor and stress reigning. On top of that he told me that mutual friend and budding musician [whom WB had mentored, supported and given employment and label support] had scooted off to the US with funds skimmed from his label bank account. He did not gossip, did not vent, did not condemn but you could tell that he was so disappointed in budding musician, in human nature, in his naive trust of other people. He had treated budding musician as a soul mate and equal and for this he was punished by this man’s greed. This sent me into a tailspin. But probably did not help the fragile nature of WB’s recuperation… And being a post-Romantic I sometimes believe that health issues are not the sole determinant of one’s demise: I think it could not have helped that he was engaged in defending his reputation and having a trusted colleague go AWOL with the company money…

I will miss him.

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