Han Bennink

Hazzentijd
Data Images 06

Han Bennink’s art is intensely visual as well as musical, which is made clear on this excellent 70-minute documentary. An un-self-conscious entertainer as well as a first-class drummer, the lanky, 68-year-old Dutchman – often decked out in shorts and a headband – coaxes swinging beats from floors, walls and other objects as easily as from his kit.

Director Jellie Dekker mixes 1960s black and white stills and footage of Bennink playing with established jazzers like saxophonist Johnny Griffin and questing Dutch improvisers, with a full-color contemporary portrait of the drummer at home, in his studio, on the road and in concert, not only playing, but – trained as a an artist – creating distinctive drawings and sculpture.

Anchor of the Instant Composers Pool (ICP) orchestra, Bennink’s 50-year partnership with ICP pianist Misha Mengelberg is illustrated. So are other performances ranging from an Ethiopian tour with a rock band to an Amsterdam session with his trio, whose members are approximately one-third his age.

Bennink is as articulate as he is passionate about improvising. The film shows him fascinating Dutch school children with his play-anything style; plus a sequence at the Banff Centre where the veteran musician instructs young drummers in rhythmic versatility using only a snare drum. Then he studies birds and animals in the Alberta wilderness.

Besides Bennink’s own commentary, there are explanatory interviews with musicians such as saxophonist Peter Brötzmann and pianist Guus Janssen. Extras include seven full performances featuring Bennink solo and with different ensembles.

— Ken Waxman

— For Whole Note Vol. 15 #6