5 Drummerszone artists - Pierre Courbois

Pierre Courbois
* April 23, 1940
The Netherlands
Pierre Courbois is one of the few 'living legends' of the Dutch Jazz World. He is a musician with a strong standing among his peers, a rich body of work and a solid reputation both in and outside of the Netherlands. Pierre, the son of a jeweler, was born April 23, 1940, in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. He studied percussion along with composition and piano at the Hogeschool der Kunsten (HKA) in Arnhem.

After finishing his studies in 1960 Pierre left for Paris, the center of Jazz in Europe at the time.
There he worked with a number of jazz giants (pianist Kenny Drew, violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, saxophonists Stan Getz and Johnny Griffin and guitarist Ren Thomas) at the legendary jazz club, the Blue Note.

Pierre Courbois has taken part in countless international jazz ensembles, toured throughout the whole world and has over time appeared on a great number of albums.

He has also played with the legendary saxophonists Ben Webster and Eric Dolphy, the pianists Mal Waldron, Jasper van 't Hof and Rein de Graaff, horn players Willem Breuker, Hans Dulfer and Theo Loevendie, the Gunter Hampel Group and the European Jazz Quintet.

Courbois was one of the first musicians in Europe to experiment with improvised music or 'Free Jazz.' In 1961 he became the drummer and leader of a unique group in Europe for its time, the Original Dutch Free Jazz Quartet.

In 1965 Pierre started another group, the Free Music Quintet, composed of international musicians. The albums from the Free Music Quintet recorded under the ESP label have been called the best example of European Jazz.

Pierre Courbois continued to push musical boundaries in 1969 with the first European 'Rock-Jazz' group, Association PC. This famous ensemble, winner of the famed American Down Beat poll, existed until 1992 with different members, including Jasper van 't Hof, Joachim Khn, Toto Blanke, Sigi Busch and Jeremy Steig.

In 1992 Pierre started a quintet under his own name and for the first time in his career performed pieces, composed by himself. This ensemble pleasantly surprised both the critics and the public with a return to the Charlie Mingus tradition - thematic, melodic ensemble jazz and an experimentation with linear improvisation. Compositions were built from different sections of collectively improvised music. Few drummers are capable of creating melodic, harmonic and rhythmic improvised music. Furthermore, the jazz drummer / composer may be viewed as a rare phenomenon. Pierre Courbois has raised the position of composition in improvised music.

Despite the rise of fusion and neo-bop, Courbois has shown with his quintet that the Mingus style of jazz is still full of life. In order to realize his ideas about composition and improvisation, Courbois has brought together one of the most talented ensembles in the Netherlands.

Besides the leader, the group consists out of trompet player Toon de Gouw, trombonist Ilja Reijngoud, pianist Willem Khne en double-bass player Egon Kracht.

The group has recorded Courbois's compositions on the VPRO-label Eigen Wijs. 'Rouverture' is the name of the CD, which was named by the Dutch magazine 'Jazz Nu' as the best Dutch jazz album of 1994. The report described the album as "intense swinging musicsuperior technical qualitya special piece in Dutch jazz."

In the spring of 1996 'Rouverture' was re-issued by A-Records and distributed worldwide (AL-73070). Since then a second CD has been released by the quintet with the title 'Live in Germany' (AL-73071).

During the 1994 North Jazz Sea Festival the highest award in the Dutch Jazz World was bestowed upon Pierre Courbois. The 'Bird Award', named after the jazz giant Charlie 'Bird' Parker, was unanimously awarded by the prize's jury to Courbois. Here is a fragment from the jury's statement:
"Courbois experimentedthe greatest revolutionary in the Dutch jazz world with 'uneven' (Balkan) types of measuresa superior and enthusiastic worker, constantly pushing the array of sounds of percussion in jazz. This great pioneer has once again shown with his quintet, in which the wonderful drummer also surprises compositionally through beautiful melodic jazz themes, why this decision was so simple."