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Preface

The main purpose of this website is to promote concerts, sell cds and keep my students informed of my teaching schedule. Still, the first page of this website is dedicated to my life story. Or as I like to call it, the vanity page: this is the part where I get to brag shamelessly about my fabulous life and astonishing accomplishments; well, that's what the reader is supposed to think. Why? Well, because it's so important that anybody who wants to write about any project that I'm involved in knows all about me. You know, those hungry people from the press who might want to write about my bands and my latest cd. They don't, but I still think they should! So here it is, my life story. And in English too - because, although I live in the Netherlands and speak Dutch all the time, I like to think that my audience includes people from all over the world - and everybody in the Netherlands speaks mostly English these days anyway.

Childhood

One cold morning in 1965 I was born in Utrecht, in the Netherlands; but just a few weeks later I would leave this cold and rainy country, because my father's job required a lot of relocating to many exotic destinations. And so I spent many months and (mostly) years in countries as diverse as Syria, India, Algeria, Zambia, and the USA. But by the time I was fourteen, the traveling (for me at least) had become a thing of the past, and I've lived in the Netherlands ever since.

From the very start music has always been important to me; my parents remembered me singing along to the radio when I was barely a year old, and by the time I was able to walk or crawl a little bit the record player would usually be where I could be found. I started playing guitar when I was about six years old, and in a few years I would try to make sounds on any instrument I could find. By the time I was thirteen years old we were living in Brookings, South Dakota (USA) where this strange behaviour was greatly encouraged by the Middle and High schools I attended: I was allowed to play upright bass in the school's string orchestra, electric guitar in the children's chorus, and electric bass in the stage band, and even some baritone horn in the big band.

Education and influences

By the time I left high school I was very certain that my destiny was to become a working musician, so I enrolled at the conservatory in Hilversum in 1984, majoring in electric bass, and graduating in 1989. The conservatory was a jazz oriented school. My parents had very eclectic musical tastes, so I grew up listening to many different styles of music, including jazz. When I was very young I loved Schubert, Chopin, Brahms, and many other composers from the classical repertoire. By the time I was six I first heard the then current radio hits by pop musicians like Slade, Mud, Alice Cooper, David Bowie, and I was hooked. The Sweet were my favorite band. But by 1974 I heard Planet Waves, by Bob Dylan, with The Band. That changed everything: that was the sound I wanted to hear! That organ in Tough Mama! That weird guitar sound in Going Going Gone! That voice! I became a huge fan, and this admirition continues to be strong to this day. But in a jazz oriented conservatory I felt almost embarrassed to admit that my hero was one Mr. Bob Dylan, famous for sloppy musicianship, no singing abilities according to some, three chord tunes - so I started developing a sort of split personality, studying harmonically and rhythmically complex music in my "professional musician" mode, and listening to Bob Dylan to remember why I needed to be a musician in the first place.

In time I came to realise that I can appreciate many different styles of music. I love the weird, almost mathematical complexity, the incredible musicianship and the incongruous humor of Frank Zappa's music; I love crazy individuality of Captain Beefheart; the slick intelligent weirdness of Steely Dan; the harmonic adventurousness and brilliant lyrics of Randy Newman; the happy sleaze of Dr. John and Professor Longhair; the immediacy of Geraint Watkins and Nick Lowe; the emotional depth of Elvis Presley; the melodic fluidity of Gerry Mulligan; the energy of Charles Mingus; the explorations of Miles Davis; the joy of Bob Wills; the introspectiveness of Joni Mitchell; the voicings and melodies of Chopin; the voices of Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, the Persuasions and the Dixie Hummingbirds; the sound of friendship and homemade music of the Band and Bobby Charles; the dreamy sounds of Jerry Byrd and Herb Remington; the sheer power of Curly Chalker and the Texas Troubadours; and this is just the tip of the iceberg - the music I've been absorbing lately.

On the road

From 1989 onwards, I became active as a working musician, both as a steady member of various bands and as a freelance allrounder. I became enamoured with the lifestyle of change and variety: doing concerts in barns, living rooms, theaters, concert halls, outdoor festivals, bars; radio and tv shows; at home and abroad, including performances in Belgium, France, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Lithuania, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Romania, Croatia, Slovakia, Ireland, England and the USA; backing up famous artists and emerging talented unknowns; getting the VIP treatment one day and suffer abuse the next; no two gigs are alike! Mostly I had been working as a bass player, but lately the emphasis has shifted towards the pedal steel as well as occasional gigs as a piano, guitar, mandolin and violin player. This makes life even more varied - which I enjoy a lot!

A few bands need special mention. The first professional band I joined was Jaap Dekker's Jazz & Boogie Set, in 1989. This was a very important experience: it was the first time for me to be in a band that worked a lot, it was an education on many levels: we used no charts and never rehearsed so I had to learn to anticipate and recognize chord changes on the spot; we played a lot of blues tunes, but also jazz standards and old pop songs, most of them from the 1950s and 1960s when I hadn't been born yet so I often felt confused, but after a while I knew how to do it. We had a pretty good band at one point, but weird stuff would happen too, involving clashing personalities and some peculiar excentricities. Still, it was a valuable experience, thank you Jaap!

I left the group after a few years and joined a band in the Hot Club de France style, Capelino. Another great experience, gave me a lot of practice on the acoustic bass which I hadn't played that much before. I also joined another boogie woogie piano player, Eric-Jan Overbeek a/k/a Mr. Boogie Woogie, another high energy band with many concerts. It was a very good band but the extremely long sets and monitors turned up to full volume eventually got the better of me, and it was time to move on.

Other bands that I worked with on a regular basis were the Dicky Greenwood Band and the Wouter Kiers Trio, two very different groups (one a soulful blues quartet, the other a jazz and jive trio) that involved a lot of spontaneity, no rehearsals, and an eclectic repertoire that made me feel very good, and I realised that I was happiest in bands where every band member plays an important and active part in every aspect of the music - where there's not a strict division between bandleader, frontman, sidemen or backing musicians. And where you never know what will happen! The format that had been pioneered by bands like The Band and Grateful Dead, but which had become a bit of a rare thing for me for a few years.

In between gigs with my steady outfits I would do many performances with just about anybody who would call - variety is the spice of life, and just about any musician I've ever worked with would contribute something to my own musical development. Particularly inspiring where my collaborations with Tom Salisbury and Pinetop Perkins (the first time I worked with musicians who had actually played on records that had been a huge inspiration to me - and in the case of Pinetop, a musician who was right there when it all started.) But the tours I did with Lisa Otey and with Candye Kane were especially memorable; thank you, Lisa and Candye!

The bands I work with most these days are my favorite bands so far: Men In Blues and the Freelance Band. Two very different bands; Men In Blues is very spontaneous. Led by Chris Koenen, one of the most amazing vocalists and guitar players I've ever met, his taste in music is so similar to mine that it's like all of a sudden I have an extra brother. The other musicians are great too, and this band has the ability to put across many different styles convincingly, old style acoustic blues, country music, rock & roll, but also incongruous stuff by including a song by, say, Steely Dan, or jazzrock stuff. You never know. Freelance Band on the other hand sticks closer to the original arrangements and performs only original songs, mostly written by bandleader Philip Kroonenberg. In both bands I'm a multi-instrumentalis, mostly playing pedal steel, but also keyboards, mandolin, violin, guitar and vocals. Both bands feature terrific rhythm sections by the way, including my neighbor Andreas Carree on drums and my good friend Aad van Pijlen on bass, who also produced my latest cd.

Meeting musical heroes

Another important piece of the puzzle was in place when I made a short visit to Woodstock NY to meet many of my musical heroes, including Garth and Maud Hudson, John Simon, Levon Helm and Jim Weider. John and Garth especially were so generous with their time, all those fantastic stories; thank you so much! I cherish the memory of Garth showing up late at night at the hotel, jumping down the hallway to deliver a couple of bags filled with candy - it was Easter weekend! And Garth and Maud taking us on a trip through the area to visit important musical landmarks.

John Simon sharing memories of many fantastic recording sessions with The Band and other artists, treating us to a private concert, and some very tasty homemade soup, and then asking us to help with moving a couple of rocks in his garden. Thank you John, I sometimes feel a bit foolish and starstruck, almost like a groupie, when I'm in the company of people I've admired for a long time, and moving heavy stuff in the garden proved to be the best antidote. Then there was the Midnight Ramble in Levon Helm's barn, and our visit to Rick Danko's grave. Anybody reading this will know by now that I'm a huge fan of The Band. Of course we also caught a glimpse of Big Pink, the Beasville studios and other historical sites. We, by the way, was me and Jan Hoiberg. Thank you Jan, Garth, Maud, John, Levon, Jim, Ollabelle, and all the other lovel people we met over there!

Teaching

Besides performing I also spend a few days each week as a teacher, working at various music schools - currently at a very wonderful music school in Woerden (the Netherlands) known as Het Klooster. Teaching wasn't originally my main goal in life, in fact it was hard work and fatiguing at first - and then, after a few years, I came to love it! To me, the challenge is always, how do you discover the origins of any problem the student might have - if a rhythm isn't performed correctly, is it for lack of a beat, or is it lack of dexterity, or a misunderstanding of how the notes are divided in relation to the beat, or is it something else? This almost feels like detective work to me. Then when I think I know what the real problem is, we do some very basic exercises, and then hopefully everything will fall in place and the student will suddenly take a huge step forward. This is rewarding, but usually also it will result in some progress on my part - reworking basic exercises helps me keep my own chops in shape.

In addition to all this, I occasionally get to do compositions or arrangements for various projects; this also helps me become a better musician. In the early days I played mostly bass, and wanted to put everything (read: way too many notes) in my bass part. These days I'm more aware of everyone's part in an arrangement, and I have a lot of fun getting to play whatever is needed to get a good soonding group. Sometimes this involves many notes and solos, and sometimes none at all. Whatever it is, if it sounds great I'm happy!

And last but not least, I am a musical director and bassist for the United By Music organization, where an incredible collective of extraordinary musicians with intellectual disabilities get to develop their talents. I have Lisa Otey and Candye Kane to thank for my involvement with this project. What a long, strange and lovely trip this has been! Working with people with intellectual (and sometimes physical) disabilities requires a different approach - telling each person what t play doesn't work, most of the musicians I work with don't read music or sometimes don't read at all, and it's hard for some of them to remember anything at all. Thankfully they all have great ears and our vocalists are dedicated and are good at remembering the melodies and most of the words to their songs. So the modus operandi has become this: if the lead singer knows the song and if I know the bass part, everybody else just joins in. The first time we play it sometimes the chords won't fit, or the feel might be slightly off, but each time we play it everybody will figure out what their parts should be. At first it took some time, but these days playing a song just once is often enough to get a good result. The repertoire includes over a 100 songs by now, it runs the gamut from songs made popular by early pop and jazz singers such as Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, to fifties rock & roll, Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, to sixties pop songs by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and more. I'm very proud of our talented bunch and always look forward to performing with them.

My own music

In between all these activities, I got to record two cd's with my original songs, Bassman's Holiday (2005) and The Secret To Success (2016). That's right, the secret to success! How's that for modesty? No huge commercial successes here but I'm very glad I did them. Please check them out on Spotify and if you enjoy the music, please buy a copy; support the starving musician...

Anyway, I'm also the proud recipient of a prestigious award: I was pronounced Best Dutch Blues Bassist of 2011 by the Dutch Blues Foundation.

So that was my life in a rather large nutshell. Well, once you get me started there's no stopping me I guess. But if you'd still like to here more, here's a more detailed (albeit still incomplete) overview of bands, music schools and projects that I've been involved with.