Ben van Dijk, The Gentle Giant of “The Jazz Bass Trombone” tm

I have become convinced that Ben van Dijk is something akin to the James Bond of the bass trombone. At home in any castle or sanctuary where the bass trombone resides, van Dijk is always appropriate and never out of place. He can, and most likely will, master any and all the utterances of bass trombone within.

Words come to mind: An inspiration. A gentleman. A musician. Ben van Dijk makes music where others may be distracted by technique, finds meaning when others might be lost in debate, and offers of himself and his musical bounty with the greatest generosity. Supportive. Kind. The source of beauty in his playing is undoubtedly fed by his personality, and his high professional standards are exuded in all of his presentations.

I came into contact with Ben van Dijk personally as he began to master my “Stereogram” compositions. No. 10; No. 3; No. 34.; Wow!

Later, as I explored jazz guitar and bass trombone in Duo Brubeck, van Dijk made one of the most ingenious adaptations of a Flamenco Stereogram with HIMSELF on flamenco guitar, and palmas. His arrangement greatly amplified the meaning of the original piece. Amazing!

Ben van Dijk joins the “Jazz Bass Trombone” in celebration of his newest recording of Flamenco music principally for trombones and guitar-seemingly his two favorite voices. Enjoy, as well, the words of the gentle giant of the bass trombone…

1. Why come to the United States to study trombone? And why Los Angeles instead of New York or Chicago?
Although already being a fan of the Chicago Symphony sound I heard on records (Fritz Reiner RCA Red Seal recordings), which my American teacher at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague made me aware of and the live performances of Mahler 5 and Bruckner 9 in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw under Solti, the solo LP “The Big Trombone” and LA Symphony album with the Alpine Symphony with Jeff Reynolds impressive playing on bass- and contrabass trombone made me decide to go to Los Angeles extend my study time.

2. Who were your heroes in LA? And what did you learn from them?
Of course the man I came for, Jeff Reynolds, was my biggest hero, but being there many others impressed me. Roger Bobo, Ralph Sauer and Tommy Stevens all made big impression on me.

One of the things that always keeps in my mind is their collective balanced singing sound in an orchestral tutti! Breathing together, starting on the nose and shaping the notes with nice endings.

I have been and still are a intuitive player, not thinking too much about why and how but just going with the flow. Jeff made me analyze pieces better and I see the benefit of this more.

3. Please tell us about your latest project.
May I use part of the liner notes from the booklet of my new album for this? It says exactly how it is:

I think it’s been over 8 years ago that I asked my friend Ilja Reijngoud if he would like to write me a very specific composition. I’ve known Ilja not only as an amazing jazz trombonist, but also as a great composer and for me, he was the perfect man to compose a flamenco-jazz suite for bass trombone solo, trombone ensemble, flamenco guitar and percussion, based on a theme by one of my flamenco heroes: El Camarón de la Isla.

My idea was to play all trombone voices, including the flamenco guitar, myself. I’ve been playing guitar since my younger years, back when I fell in love with the art of flamenco after hearing the legendary singer, El Camarón de la Isla, together with the great guitarist Paco de Lucía.

I couldn’t be more happy with the suite Ilja wrote me, as it exceeded my expectations completely and even left room for some extras that makes the piece even more interesting and authentic.

Due to many personal and non-personal circumstances it took me many years to finally start with this time consuming dream project, but with the helping hand in editing and mastering of my friend Martin van den Berg, I can now proudly present you the end result.

The composition is titled “Brisas Andaluzas”, which translates into “Andalusian Breezes”, because of the many Andalusian influences that helped form this album.

Posted by Ben van Dijk on Saturday, 18 August 2018

4. How big a part have your interests in tenor trombone and guitar influenced your forays into jazz and commercial music?
Of these 2 instruments mainly the tenor trombone had the biggest influence in this interest of mine.

Starting with Urbie’s 21 trombones, Tutti’s “Camarata” trombones, Frank Rosolino (love his playing ), Dick Nash, Bill Watrous, Jiggs Whigham, both Dutch legendary bone brothers Bart and Erik van Lier but also Blood Sweat & Tears, Chicago and Frank Zappa are huge influences in my musical life.

The guitar was mainly focused on that completely different art form, Flamenco.
Although I loved to listen a lot to Joe Pass but simply couldn’t get all these chord changing in my system:-))

5. Tell s about your favorite non-classical pieces that have been written for you?
Haha well at this very moment it is “Brisas Andaluzas” by Ilja Reijngoud, it’s completely in my blood right now. This very evening we have the last mixing session and in a week the mastering will be done and of it goes to be pressed:-))
Also Ilja’s masterpiece “Mr Roberts”, a tribute to the one and only Mister bass trombone, George Roberts, for bass trombone solo and jazz trombone quartet which I recorded on my first Album Nana, is a treasure.

6. Tell us about your spiritual journey towards greater humanity and kindness, How have music and your quest influenced one another?
Serious and difficult question David!

I think I have been a lucky guy with having such a wonderful family. Starting with my parents whom have been a stable, loving inspiration for me in my youth. Than I met my wife Aaltje ( coming September 40 years my wife) who has given me everything I needed in life. Of course our two amazing sons who are my 2 best friends ever but she also gives me a warm home, love, respect and a healthy realistic view on everything. She adores me but also puts me in a healthy way with my two feet on the ground. She is my inspiration in everything. Having 2 extra children, our beautiful sweet daughters in law who gave us four adorable grandchildren whom are for me a daily gift and inspiration to stay a child for ever.

My family is my soul!

Of course all the years of making music, coming season will be my 43 orchestral year as Symphonic bass trombonist, all the ensembles I played in, the 5 solo albums I’ve made, the teaching I do etc etc are a lifeline which probably also made me the way I am.

Like I earlier said I’m a intuitive player but also in life I follow mostly my intuition based on love, respect, listening, health, inspiration, these are my keywords in life with since my heath dip of 2 years ago “Carpe Diem” on top!

7. What can you tell us about your interest in recording, editing, electronics and the very high production values you are able to attain for your many projects, both professional and at home?

This goes back to when I was around my 17th. I had this Philips multi track tape recorder and started to make my first home recordings.

Made my own arrangements and remember making some 4 trombones, 4 trumpets, piano and high hat recordings together with my dad. We recorded the trumpets on trombone half speed so when we played it normal speed they sounded like trumpets ( with some fantasy ) and had a lot of fun doing this. I learned a lot from this and having an amazing trombonist at home made me be critical on everything I did.
For a very long time I didn’t do much with this besides making frequent study recordings.

I always had the dream to once in my life make a cd and after a lot of doubts this became reality in 1999 when I recorded my first album Nana. Of course I had ideas about sound etc etc but I wasn’t and still aren’t a technical person.
One of my former students and now very good friend, Martin van den Berg, is. He is the bass trombonist of the Metropole Orchestra and the dud that nailed “Saturday night is the loneliest night of the week” on this meg hit on YouTube.

Martin and me discussed what, how and where to record and he was my ears in the recording sessions and until today he still is. After doing the first 3 cds with recording companies Martin decided to start his own recording company. I helped him to set up and because of this I have the possibility to record on the highest level.

In the meantime I got myself a Mac computer with on it Garageband and started to do some home recordings for fun. After a while I wanted to go to a bit higher quality and more options to work with so I bought Logic Pro X, a nice interface and a microphone and started to do more myself with the guidance of Martin on distance. When I work with this again I go for intuition and simple use my ears where to go for. So much fun to do but also very time consuming which makes me sometimes study not enough.

For video’s I use these days Final Cut and learn in every project I do. YouTube is so valuable in this with all the tutorials you can find there.
With this story I send you the video teaser I made for my newest album I hope you like.

8. What are your thoughts on the jazz and commercial trombone? Any directions you would like to see pursued or see pursued yourself? Any thoughts on where the instrument sings best?

First of all I’ve always loved and envied the more freedom one has in jazz style material, specially in playing solo. As player who has the Symphonic Orchestra as main core business I always have to follow the score, the conductor and my colleagues in a very disciplined way with not much room for a personal touch.

One of the serious problems of today is electronics (use of samples), in music making. When I think back of the time when I entered the music scene back in the early seventies and see how many jazz-commercial trombonists had work in Holland and you see the business today it looks like a catastrophe.

In these days every television or radio show had a live band, studio work was full with live musicians but today you barely see this happen.

It would be a dream come true if a new Tommy Dorsey, Dick Nash or Urbie Green would standup like what we had with pop groups like Blood Sweat and Tears and Chicago and make our instrument hip again!

Writing this I also realize there is still a big crowd that appreciate the jazzy bone and we have to cherish them. My personal hope is that the big audience will start to recognize again the beauty of the trombone sound!

We have some nice things happening here in Holland with younger players like my former student bass trombonist Brandt Attema making steps in the pop scene, adding the bass trombone to the accompaniment of some pop singers. Not yet reaching the big audience but still nice attempts.

I see interesting new input in for example the flamenco scene. Flamenco already has, since many years, been influenced by jazz musicians. The famous Paco de Lucia working together with people like Al Di Meola and Chick Corea made huge impact on the music. We have for instance here in Amsterdam a real Flamenco Big Band which is very successful . Have a look at www.bvrflamencobigband.com and see their work. By adding some typical flamenco rhythm instruments like the cajón, hand-clapping, flamenco singing and flamenco guitar they created complete new vibes to the big band sound.

With my latest project I hope I also give the world a bit of a new look at the posibilidades of the trombone:-))

9. How would you say the reception for jazz and crossover music has been in Europe as opposed to the United States. Is it mostly recordings, or live events as well.

I think most of this I more a less answered on your previous questions:-)) Difficult for me to see how it works in the States but of course I see interesting things happening like your bass trombone – guitar duo and young players like Christopher Bill and Paul the trombonist making nice videos that might attract young people to our beautiful instrument.

About the equipment I use:
At home it is a Focusrite interface and a Se microphone with Logic Pro X.

c. 2018 David William Brubeck All Rights Reserved

Interested in more of “The Jazz Bass Trombone”? Look Below:

The Jazz Bass Trombone No. 1, with Big Band Arranger, Leader and Bass Trombonist Thomas Matta and highlighting bass trombonist extraordinary-Charlie Vernon!

“The Jazz Bass Trombone” No. 2 features a beautiful discussion of Duke Ellington with Marc T. Bolin and Bass Trombone Soloist and Big Ban Leader Demetri Pagalidus’ “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” arranged by Tom Kubis as discussed by bass trombone virtuoso Major Bailey.

The Jazz Bass Trombone No. 3, features Eliezer Aharoni and his moveable compendium of all things “non-classic” bass trombone.

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