Willem Breuker (1944 – 2010): what the papers say

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Last week composer, band leader and saxophone player Willem Breuker died of lung cancer at the age of 65.

Breuker played a type of Dutch jazz that was dfferent from American jazz. In 1974 he founded an 11-piece band called the Willem Breuker Kollektief, with which he toured and played until the end.

Frankfurter Allgemeine writes about him:

Willem Breuker irritated everybody in a way that was humorous, never belittling and always clarifying.

He could entice the most trivial series of notes from his instrument, but he would tie those notes together in his unified concept of jazz, street songs, Mozart gestures and folklorisms in what was the high art of a public music theatre.

The way he worked with this material was anything but trivial. He pushed schlagers into the acid bath of Free Jazz, painted over twelve tone rows with Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western sound, and put Italian operas back into the street, from where they originally came. None of that came across as arrogant, and nobody was made fun of, even when the odd overtone sometimes sounded a bit different from what one might have gotten used to.

Le Monde adds:

In the Dictionary of Jazz as edited by Robert Laffont, music critic Daniel Soutif said of the Kollektief that it practised “with much humour a form of musical theatre in which the pastiche played a big role.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung:

Breuker was an exception in the otherwise humour free genre of Free Jazz. At a time when his contemporaries were busy trying to grasp the spiritual depths of exotic folk music and coming up with new theories of music, he staged his improvisations as actions of a musical fun guerilla. He would at times mock a major competitor by playing his compositions on a plastic flute, and he would test audiences’ patience with schlagers.

And NRC.next:

Breuker was contrary, stubborn and had an enormous drive.

See also: Willem Breuker Kollektief webpage and Youtube.

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