go see Han Bennink at UVA tonight!

January 27th, 2012 · 4 Comments · By

Han Bennink is playing at UVA tonight, and you should absolutely go and see him because he is one of the best live performers I have ever seen.

If you already know his name, then I’m sure you’re already excited about this show, but I’m betting most of you are wondering, “who the heck is Han Bennink?”

Han Bennink is an experimental percussionist and avant-garde jazz drummer from Holland, who has been playing and touring restlessly for several decades now, and collaborating with everyone in his path; this is his 70th Birthday Tour (!!), and he has shown no signs of slowing down.

He’s not only tireless and prolific, but wildly entertaining as well; he’s well known for his endless drum solos that often involve Bennink leaving the drum kit and wandering around the venue, finding any and all other percussive objects on which he can continue his restless performance; I’ve seen him play drum solos on a microphone stand, a variety of trashcans, an expensive wood-and-leather chair belonging to the University, and his own body. Further internet research results in footage of Bennink playing jazz-drum-solos on everything from a mop handle to a large wheel of cheese.

So he’s not only wildly talented, but also really inventive and entertaining and often hilarious. I’m kind of worried that I’ve made him sound like some sort of wacky-Buckethead-like gimmick character here; a wacky-yet-boring charade win which serious chops are dressed up with goofy presentation, but let me assure you that Han Bennink is at the other end of the spectrum. The unexpected and unusual aspect of what he does is at the very heart of his performance. He seems to have the need to constantly re-think whatever it is that he’s doing; there’s a kind of restless investigation in his improvisations, and an almost child-like sense of experimentation and discovery, which is really inspiring and wonderful. It’s as if he’s taking the audience through his thought process of considering each object in the room as a potential percussive sound-maker, and trying them all out; it’s like he has an inability to stop thinking outside the box (both figuratively and, in the case of his drum kit, literally.)

So, I highly recommend his performances; I could compare him to other great contemporary avant-garde percussionists like Tatsuya Nakatani and Chris Corsano, if you’re the sort of person who recognizes and is impressed by those names — or I could just show this clip and assure you that this show will be really wonderful:

He’s playing tonight with the violinist Mary Halvorson Mary Oliver, with whom he’s collaborated often — she herself is a wonderful improvisor —  and a selection of local musicians, who have not been identified in any of the promo materials.

That’s at Brooks Hall on UVA Grounds (I’m fairly certain that’s the big stately building East of the Rotunda —  it’s in a lovely field right across the street from Mincer’s and Bodos on the corner). The concert starts this evening at 8pm sharp. There’s no advance sales, so get there early; tickets are $5 for students, $10 for members of the Charlottesville Jazz Society, and $12 for the general public (kinda steep, I know, but trust me — it’s worth it.)

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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 arrowhead // Jan 27, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    man, i am not sure if i can make it tonight, but i am grateful just to be exposed to this guy. truly amazing…

  • 2 James // Jan 27, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    Mary Oliver! NOT Mary Halvorson! (sorry, I get the two confused!)

    I mean I’m sure like, maybe 2 of my readers know the difference, but I didn’t want to add to the amount of disinformation available via the internet, so…

  • 3 James // Jan 27, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    the concert was really wonderful, by the way.

    by the time we arrived (8pm exactly) it was “standing room only” — so not only were they no longer asking for $12 (they said it was free to stand, but did ask for a small donation — I gave ’em $5, which is what all concerts should cost) but by sitting on the floor up front, we actually got the best seats in the house!

  • 4 victoria // Jan 28, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Ditto! What really made it so great for me was his combination of immense skill and playfulness.

    Big kudos to the Charlottesville Jazz Society! Those volunteers set up an amazing show. It was just the sort of community-mind music show that I find most meaningful to attend. And, I think they’ve got a great alternative model going for how to bring challenging music to any community. Give ’em your support if you don’t already!