In a way every improviser’s story is a refraction of their personal experience. Cornetist and composer Eric Boeren’s begins in the brass band in the Netherlands’ far south—where folks speak their own dialect—grooving on the horns’ interplay and massed power. After he came to Amsterdam to study, he learned other communal dialects, as free improviser and as a member of (among other bands) the Peru-to-Madagascar-to-Ellington co-op Available Jelly, Sean Bergin’s South African-influenced M.O.B., new music composers Guus Janssen’s and Paul Termos’s improvising groups, and Michiel Braam’s orchestra Bik Bent Braam, with its musical mobiles.From the mid-1990s Eric has helped organize weekly improvisers’ series in Amsterdam (currently at community center Zaal 100, Tuesdays), where he began his own investigations into Ornette Coleman’s compositional and improvisational methods—Ornette’s way of tweaking forms and inventing new material on the fly. That led to the Eric Boeren 4tet with Michael Moore on reeds, Wilbert de Joode on bass and Han Bennink on drums, a band that mixes Coleman’s themes and Boeren’s contrasting numbers in freewheeling suites. (Their CDs are on BVHaast and Clean Feed.) With that band’s frequent presence at international festivals, Eric’s circle has grown; witness his Boerenbond, with New York’s Peter Evans on trumpet. Berlin’s Tobias Delius on tenor saxophone and Chicago’s Jason Adasiewicz on vibes. Eric’s compositions and musical games are designed to facilitate focused collective improvisations.
Boeren has likened every new language he’s learned, in his journey from Brabant village to Amsterdam to the global stage, to another new door opening, onto new vocabularies and syntactical possibilities. His musical trajectory shows the same progression: Boeren keeps opening doors, for the fresh views. He also leads the HO&I (Hot and Improvised), with the contrasting electric guitars of Franky Douglas and Paul Pallesen, plus Julius Peter Nitsch’s electric bass and Tijn Jans’s drums. Boeren’s and Douglas’s compositions mix free funk with Caribbean, Latin American and South African beats. Different companions, a different emphasis—but with every voice contributing to a spontaneous conversation.
Eric says: “I am very fond of collective improvisation—where music in the background can move to the front, and foreground music can be used as a background, and several musical ideas can co-exist in multiple layers. Improvisation to me is about adjusting musical ideas on the spot. A band is a team, and I want to be a team player. One of the most difficult aspects of collective improvising is to hear other musicians developing melodic ideas in a different direction then I was working on at the moment. The challenge is to bring all of this information together in a way that makes sense!”