2002 Interview Volkskrant

An interview with Frank Van Herk, volkskrant.

Playfully provoking eachother

For almost ten years vocalist Ineke van Doorn and guitarist Marc van Vugt have been operating as Vandoorn. "Actually we are lyrical singer-songwriters to whom improvisation is of paramount importance." He: "She never ceases to surprise me."She: "As it happens, I still surprise myself sometimes."

Dutch singer Ineke van Doorn and guitarist Marc van Vugt, together forming the core of Vandoorn, have known each other for almost 23 years, yet continue to develop themselves into adventurous directions. They explore the attractive borderline between songs and improvisation, with Ineke utilizing her wide range and vocal command to either perform the lyrics or function as a soloing wind instrument.

Just recently, they were invited by the NPS (Dutch National Radio) to make recordings with the 60- piece Metropole Orchestra conducted by Vince Mendoza - an experience Marc, providing the compositions and arrangements, compares to suddenly obtaining a huge paint box. On their two latest CD's, however, the duo play with a single guest only. On "Love Is A Golden Glue" (2001), last year's recipient of the Edison Jazz Award (Dutch equivalent of a Grammy), they are joined by trumpet player EricVloeimans, while their newest CD, "Uncovered", also nominated for an Edison, is pushed to great heights by alto sax player Paul van Kemenade.

The present, most trimmed-down version of what once began as a quintet, took shape while jamming for fun on standards like "Nature Boy" in a trio with trumpeter Erik Vloeimans. Van Vugt: "Everyone knows these pieces, so you can freely play around with them. It's like an ever-flowing river: you can safely get off it and try something else. Playfully provoking each other, yet still keeping the engine running." For the follow-up, with Van Kemenade, they decided to perform some of their own work as well. "And with the line up being so small (vocals, guitar, sax) we had to peel back all superfluous layers until there was nothing left to hide behind, leaving us with the things that really mattered. All of a sudden we were stripped down to our core and had nothing but our naked selves to present: Vandoorn Uncovered."

Earlier, they had released three albums featuring their own work: "The Question Is Me" (1994), with British guest trumpeterKennyWheeler, presents a cool and inventive kind of jazz. "President For Life" (1996), with American altosaxplayer ThomasChapin, offers accessible folk and soul-influenced vocal jazz. On "Four Brothers" (1999), with American trombonist RobinEubanks, the duo continue their mission as singer-songwriters in jazz. More than once they played the big festivals in Canada, including the Montreal International Jazz Festival, where they performed before a crowd of 20,000. They played the New York Jazz Festival at the renowned Knitting Factory and performed at festivals and clubs in Japan, Hungary, Vienna and Indonesia.

Van Doorn enjoys sparring with a horn player. "It feels like being on a playground together. Someone throws up a ball, who catches it keeps it."In the time-honored "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good To You" she enters free space, showcasing a very own kind of scat, in which even cat-in-heat growls still sound musical. But in other pieces, such as Paul Simo's "Something So Right", she chooses to stick close to the original. "Those lyrics are so wonderful, the song is so complete, you don't want to mess with that.'

"As a horn player Paul van Kemenade is one of the most important improvisers on the Dutch jazz scene. He is of our generation but started playing the big stages much earlier than we did. Exploring the borderline between harmonic and free improvisation, he has created a style that has influenced many musicians of our generation and younger. In 1999 he was deservedly awarded the Boy Edgar Prize, Holland's most prestigious jazz award. Improvising with Paul is like a fantastic journey. You go somewhere and he will go with you or challenge you to go somewhere else. When the chips are down, he will add the lyrical support a song begs for. And he plays each note as if it were his last.... That's Paul!"

Although Vandoorn present themselves as a jazz ensemble, Van Doorn and Van Vugt both feel uncomfortable with the term. "To many people, even today, jazz is either bebop, free impro or old style. At the same time there is a large audience for musicians who go beyond the categories." Sure enough, Vandoorn are not performing category bound jazz. Their influences are diverse and include singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon, Betty Carter's improvisations, Bill Frisell, Gil Evans as well as Brazilian music, fado and flamenco, elements of which can be found in Van Vugts guitar-playing.

Their cooperation dates back to the days they both played in a Brazilian band called Baixim. Ineke was still in high school at the time. "Marc and the others were really into Airto Moreira and Flora Purim", she remembers. "At first I didn't understand their music at all, but it gradually grew on me and I was especially moved by Purim's "instrumental" vocals. Back then I considered standards to be light entertainment music. It was only later that I realized how much of myself I could put in them. In fact, I have taken the reverse route - from free and abstract singing to performing more and more structured songs."

Van Vugt: "Actually we are lyrical singer-songwriters to whom improvisation is of paramount importance."The lyrical facet largely originates from Ineke's poetic song texts. At the insistence of Marc, she has recently been writing lyrics in Dutch as well. "While touring Canada and the US, we noticed that the English lyrics came across much stronger than at home. Apparently people feel more personally involved with the music when the lyrics are in their own language." The "mother tongue approach" has yielded beautiful pieces, such as the calmly sensual "Ochtend" (Dawn) on their latest CD "Uncovered".

Although Van Doorn would prefer to sing ballads only, she is well aware that for moods to work, you need contrasts - with swinging experiments, for instance. "Color everything blue and you won't appreciate it anymore. Look at a white wall with something blue on it and you will think: Yoo-hoo! What a wonderful blue!"

to the top