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Han Bennink

Since the mid 1960s, Dutch percussionist Han Bennink has been an entrenched member of the avant-garde jazz elite, thanks to his colorful, synergistic, always playful and always masterful drum work, which has allowed him to be successful in virtually any context, at any style of jazz. Bennink is especially famous for his inventive approach to his kit, which has included the use of various unconventional rhythm-making devices, including pieces of wood, sheet metal, and even pizza boxes. His musical curiosity has naturally drawn him out from behind the kit as well, and he has performed on the saxophone, piano, clarinet, trombone, and harmonica. Drums, however, have remained his passion throughout his career.

Initially turned on to music by his father, a percussionist in the Zaandam, Holland symphony orchestra, Bennink became an avid jazz enthusiast in his late teens when he traveled to New York and saw greats like Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, and Steve Lacy perform. During the early '60s, Bennink backed numerous American musicians when they came to Holland, including Sonny Rollins, Eric Dolphy, and Dexter Gordon, but by the latter part of that decade he had become an integral figure in the Dutch free improvisation scene. In 1967, with legendary reedist William Breuker and pianist Misha Mengelberg, he founded the Instant Composer's Pool, a nonprofit dedicated to Dutch avant-garde jazz. Around the same time, he entered into a number of long-lasting musical associations with greats like Mengelberg, guitarist Derek Bailey, saxophonist Peter Brötzmann, cornetist Don Cherry, and the Globe Unity Orchestra.

In 1973, during the time he was blazing a trail through Europe as part of a trio led by Peter Brötzmann and also featuring Belgian pianist Fred Van Hove, he performed a solo show at Germany's Radio Bremen, now available for the first time on CD as Nerve Beats (it's part of Atavistic's Unheard Music series). It's a huge, wild, anarchic affair on which Bennink employs a gigantic kit including tablas, metal percussion, extra drums, and a primitive drum machine, as well as trombone and clarinet, and, as the release's liner notes indicate, "anything/everything," which included bizarre found objects and wordless vocals. The explosive title track is third in the three-track, 45-minute set.