Monday 20 August 2012

Love you madly – serendipitous beauty from tenorman Bob Rigter

Jazz from Holland

While doing some Internet research for my Hub on Jazz: “What is Jazz? Ain't no other music like it!” I came across an article by one Bob Rigter entitled “The etymology of the word JAZZ” and I discovered from the site that Bob was a retired Professor of English at the University of Leiden in Holland, a novelist, and, most intriguingly to me, a jazz musician.
I contacted him to learn more and he, very kindly, offered to send me a copy of his latest CD, called “Love You Madly” from the tune by Duke Ellington. This I have now received and am enjoying greatly.
The CD features, besides Bob on tenor, Simon Planting on bass, Han van der Rhee on piano and Rob Engels on drums.

Straight from the heart

All the numbers on the CD are standards, fitting the description of the CD as “in an intimate, after-hours mood,” recalling, in Bob's words, “the atmosphere of those nights when we played on into the late, late hours,” after the more formal part of the gig was over, when “drinks were handed round, the lights were dimmed and … we started to play tunes that were special, mostly ballads.”
So all 10 tracks of the CD feature Bob's singing, mellow and breathy tenor backed by sensitive and lyrical playing that gently swings, no haranguing, no wailing, just lovely, atmospheric and melodic improvisation on well-remembered tunes.
It is a programme of tunes played, in Bob's words, “straight from the heart,” with no gimmicks: “no cutting, no splicing, no dubbing.” In other words, a totally honest offering of heartfelt music.
“This is the kind of music the musicians in my quartet believe in, and it is the kind of jazz that our audiences believe in,” Bob writes.
The CD kicks off with the title track which starts with a great little piano and bass intro and then Bob picks up the melody, which after he has laid it down most elegantly, he starts to play with gently, with great swing. And there follow some great interpolations by the other musicians, notable Planting on bass.
Han van der Rhee introduces the next number which Bob plays with great feeling – that very British ballad “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”. Bob explains the importance of lyrics in his style of music making with reference to this song: “I knew the lyrics before I had ever heard this beautiful (British) ballad, for I had read Nevil Shute's novel Pastoral, in which a war-pilot hums this song on his way home in a bullet-riddled plane after a raid on Germany. He has lost radio-contact and he has little chance of making it back. His girlfriend is the radio-operator at the airfield. He cannot hear her, but she can hear him! And, while his bomber is slowly going down, she hears hears him humming: 'The streets of town were paved with stars. It was such a romantic affair. And as we kissed and said goodnight, a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square.'” I confess I will never hear this song again the way I did before. For that I thank you, Bob.
The whole programme of the CD has a smooth, mellow, rich tone somewhat how I would imagine a good whiskey (though not being a whiskey drinker this is pure conjecture on my part!), and it could have a similarly relaxing effect on the listener. The numbers which are the most up-tempo on the CD are Tad Dameron's “On a Misty Night”, Dexter Gordon's “The Rainbow People,” and Ruth Lowe's “I'll Never Smile Again, Until I Smile At You”, the other numbers all being very laid back

Ben Webster's ghost?

Photo of Ben Webster at his last gig. Photo taken by Bob's wife Jasperina
Listening to Bob's breathy tenor on this album one could almost see a ghostly Ben Webster playing, the
sound is so similar. And this is perhaps no accident, for on Bob's website is an account of Webster's last concert, which I'm sure Bob will not mind my copying here:
Towards the end of Ben Webster’s very last concert in 1973, Ben asked Bob Rigter to play the blues on his instrument. This happened in jazz café De Twee Spieghels , Nieuwstraat, Leiden, on 6 September. It appears that Ben felt his end approaching, and he wanted some time out. Irv Rochlin was the pianist, Henk Haverhoek played the bass and Peter Ypma the drums. With this rhythm section, Bob played the blues on Webster’s ‘Betsy’, a Selmer Balanced Action with a rather wide Otto Link mouthpiece and what felt like a 3 or 3½ reed. After his instrument was handed back to him, Ben played one more piece. Then he got to his feet and made a little speech. He wanted to pass on what an old man had said to him when he was young: ‘You are young and growing, and I am old and going. So have your fun while you can.’ He repeated this: ‘Son, you are young and growing, and I am old and going. So have your fun while you can.’ The next day Ben was taken to the St Lucas Hospital in Amsterdam, where he died on 20 September 1973.
Fittingly, the last number on the CD is Billie Holiday's beautiful ballad, “Don't Explain”, and maybe we shouldn't. We should just accept that beauty comes in sometimes strange, sometimes unexpected, always serendipitous ways, and be grateful.

Copyright Notice

The text and all images on this page, unless otherwise indicated, are by Tony McGregor who hereby asserts his copyright on the material. Should you wish to use any of the text or images feel free to do so with proper attribution and, if possible, a link back to this page. Thank you.
© Tony McGregor 2009


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