OSCAR JAN HOOGLAND
Improviser, pianist, composer
In dOeK, Oscar Jan Hoogland represents the so-called “fourth generation” of Dutch improvisers, in the lineage of Misha Mengelberg, Guus Janssen and Cor Fuhler—smart pianist/composers with an itch to make music that cuts across genres, who don’t take themselves so seriously, but whose whimsical music has real bite and brainpower.
Hoogland plays in a plethora of groups. They include: EKE, a trio with Yedo Gibson on reeds and Gerri Jäger on drums; a more self-consciously jazzy trio with cellist Harald Austbø and drummer Marcos Baggiani, which becomes The Ambush Party with Natalio Sued added on tenor. He plays duo with drummer Han Bennink, in Gibson’s roiling Royal Improvisers Orchestra, and in the bicycle-portable, words-and-music street outfit, the Bakfietsband. He’ll play solo piano, electric clavichord, or a concert on broken, discarded pianos.
“Musicians basically play for two kinds of audiences,” Oscar Jan says: “those who know you, and those who don’t. An audience that knows your music understands the language; there’s a shared understanding. Together you take off from the history of the music so far and go on from there, commenting on it, improving it, destroying it, reinventing and repeating it. If they wanted to know more about what I do—and they don't have to—I could tell them that I am driven by an enthusiasm to explore, to try to go as far down a certain path as you need to figure out what it’s about. And then adding some different aspect to it.
“The other great audience is the completely ignorant, innocent one. In a village in Brazil, EKE played for a young audience who’d never heard anything like it before, and they were sucked right into it.
“EKE is about creating something new, with an abstract approach to sound and interaction.
I take it very seriously. The Ambush Party is about the game of instant composing, or instant songwriting. It’s also about being un-dogmatic, having aspects of serious sonic improvising, ironic Dutch theatrical impro, jazz and free jazz, romantic ECM soundscape jazz, modern contemporary music, pop songs, good taste and tastelessness. We love or hate all that music and in a free situation it all comes out.
“The trio Hoogland/Austbø/Baggiani is about loving to write little jazz tunes. Jazz to me is playing a game I learned at school that I like a lot! And playing duo with Han feels almost outside of time—like we’ve played together forever.
“I like to be a chess player among tigers. But on other days I like to be the tiger myself.”