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Innovative Bandleader Willem Breuker Dies
Posted 7/23/2010

Dutch saxophonist Willem Breuker, who founded and led the innovative, and often hilarious, Willem Breuker Kollektief, died in Amsterdam on Thursday, July 22. He was 65.

Breuker—who grew up playing saxophone and clarinet in Amsterdam—embraced the free improvisation of American jazz in the early ’60s also drew on European classical music, cabaret, political propaganda, swing and slapstick comedy for his large band. His twists on traditional jazz forms included a composition for three barrel organs and 19 mandolins.

Along with like-minded Dutch musicians Han Bennink and Misha Mengelberg, Breuker encouraged the government to subsidize jazz projects. The Dutch Ministry of Culture and Amsterdam Arts Council responded in the early ’70s with funds to support the BIMHuis creative music venue and BVHaast label, which Breuker created with pianist Leo Cuypers. Breuker founded the 10-piece Kollektief in 1973 and began to peform internationally; its early performances were documented on such discs as On Tour (BVHaast) in 1977. Breuker’s love for traditional American composers was clear on Rhapsody In Blue (BVHaast) in 1982, although it was Bob’s Gallery (BVHaast) six years later that reached a larger audience in the United States.

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