Han Bennink at the HotHouse in Chicago on 3 November 2004. Photo by Seth Tisue.
|Birth name||Han Bennink|
|Born||17 April 1942|
|Origin||Zaandam, the Netherlands|
|Instruments||drums, percussion, saxophone, clarinet, violin, banjo, piano|
|Associated acts||Irene Schweizer, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins and Eric Dolphy|
Though perhaps best known as one of the pivotal figures in early European free jazz and free improvisation, Bennink has worked in essentially every school of jazz, and is described by critic Chris Kelsey as "one of the unfortunately rare musicians whose abilities and interests span jazz's entire spectrum." Known for often injecting slapstick and absurdist humor into his performances, Bennink has had especially fruitful long-term partnerships with pianist Misha Mengelberg and saxophonist Peter Brötzmann. Han is a brother of saxophonist Peter Bennink.
Early life and education
Through the 1960s he drummed with a number of American musicians visiting the Netherlands, including Dexter Gordon, Wes Montgomery, Sonny Rollins and Eric Dolphy (he can be heard on Dolphy's recording, Last Date (1964)).
He subsequently became a central figure in the emerging European free improvisation scene. In 1963 he formed a quartet with pianist Misha Mengelberg and saxophonist Piet Noordijk which had a number of different bassists and which played at the 1966 Newport Jazz Festival, and in 1967 he was a co-founder of the Instant Composers Pool with Mengelberg and Willem Breuker, which sponsored Dutch avant garde performances. From the late 1960s he played in a trio with saxophonist Peter Brötzmann and Belgian pianist Fred Van Hove, which became a duo after Van Hove's departure in 1976. Through much of the 1990s he played in Clusone 3 (also known as the Clusone Trio), a trio with saxophonist and clarinetist Michael Moore and cellist Ernst Reijseger. He has often played duos with Mengelberg and collaborated with him alongside other musicians.
From the late 1980s through the early 2000s, Bennik collaborated closely with Dutch post-punk band The Ex, appearing on their 1995 album Instant and traveling and playing with them on their first tour to Ethiopia.
As well as playing with these long-standing groups, Bennink has performed and recorded solo (Tempo Comodo (1982) being among his solo recordings) and played with many free improvisation and free jazz luminaries including Derek Bailey, Conny Bauer, Don Cherry and Alexander von Schlippenbach, as well as more conventional jazz musicians like Lee Konitz. In 1983 he collaborated with Boogie-woogie pianist and vocalist Little Willie Littlefield for his album I'm in the Mood.
Bennink's style is wide-ranging, running from conventional jazz drumming to highly unconventional free improvisation, for which he often uses whatever found objects happen to be onstage (chairs, music stands, instrument cases), his own body (a favourite device involves putting a drumstick in his mouth and striking it with the other stick), and the entire performance space—the floor, doors, and walls. He makes frequent use of birdcalls and whatever else strikes his fancy (one particularly madcap performance in Toronto in the 1990s involved a deafening fire alarm bell placed on the floor).
|This section requires expansion. (December 2011)|
The following is a partial list of recordings by Han Bennink.
- As a leader
- Nerve Beats (1973)
- With Peter Brötzmann
- Machine Gun (1968)
- Nipples (1969)
- Balls (1970)
- Ein halber Hund kann nicht pinkeln (1977)
- Schwarzwaldfahrt (1977)
- Atsugi Concert (1980)
- Still Quite Popular After All Those Years (2005)
- Total Music Meeting 1977 Berlin (2006, archival)
- In Amherst 2006 (2008)
- With Don Cherry
- Orient (BYG, 1971)
- With Eric Dolphy
- With Willem Breuker
- New Acoustic Swing Duo (ICP001, 1967)
- Improvisie (AM6121 1971)
- With Sean Bergin
- Kid's Mysteries (Nimbus West, 1988)
- With Armen Nalbandian
- Coup de Grace (Blacksmith Brother), 2011
- Olderen, Martin van, I'm In The Mood, Linernotes OLCD 7002, 1993
- Biography and discography from the European Free Improvisation Pages
- Han Bennink website
- FMP releases
- Cheese Kit Diptych: Solo by Bennink performed on a custom drum kit made from Dutch cheeses