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Dutch Saxophonist, Bandleader and Composer, Willem Breuker Dies

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Willem Breuker Renowned Dutch saxophonist and composer Willem Breuker has died in Amsterdam aged 65. Willem Breuker founded his own eleven-player orchestra in 1974 to perform a unique combination of jazz and contemporary classical music.

The Willem Breuker Collective is seen as ane of the earliest Dutch ensembles to present improvised music in a way that was accessible to the general public. Amsterdam-born Willem Breuker was awarded many prizes, including the 1993 VPRO Boy Edgar Prize.

It might be odd to find a memoriam here for Dutch bandleader Willem Breuker, who died today, but I have a special fond memory of his music.

Probably in the early 1990s, hanging out on the Zorn List, I explored some of the byways of European jazz, and eventually came to Breuker's Kollektief. Maybe the first CD I got was Heibel, which came packed in a cheese box. But the second one was Sensemaya, a CD nearly sometimes disparaged by Breuker lovers because the group performs more standard repertoire than straight improvisational jazz.

Among these was a beautifully recorded crooning ballad sung in Dutch, “Diep in Mijn Hart," a danceable foxtrot with the most sensuous trombone solo that instantly transported me to the fairy tale land of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The Kollektief on this album was augmented by a 12-piece string ensemble and a couple of soloists, and the recording was impeccable. I fell in love with this song, still one of my favorites and on my iPod even now. Several albums later I realize that this was uncharacteristic music for Breuker.

I should also mention the Acousmatrix series of electronic music CDs that his label, BVHaast, released. Seminal electronic pieces by Henri Pousseur, Luc Ferrari, Gottfried Michael Koenig, and others, were all available through Breuker's effort.

So today, I'm having a beer and a listen to Heibel in his memory. R.I.P, Willem Breuker.


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