Jury report on the winner of the Buma Boy Edgar Prize for 2020

The Dutch jazz scene is often celebrated for its rebellious spirit, and for the local pioneers of musical improvisation who pushed against the establishment in the 1960s and 1970s. But beneath these familiar accounts and recollections lies a rich but largely neglected history of studio broadcasting orchestras featuring artists whose radio and television performances and studio recordings provided a daily diet of swing, improvisation and musical artistry to a wide audience of charmed listeners. 

The Buma Boy Edgar Prize is awarded each year to a musician with a solid track record of distinguishing themselves in the creative arena, and in so doing has made or continues to make a valuable contribution to the Dutch jazz and improvised music scene. In previous years, the award has been bestowed in recognition of the recipient’s body of work or as a ringing endorsement of what they’re doing. This time, in light of the fact that younger artists still have many years in which to enrich the world with their efforts, the jury has decided to celebrate Dutch jazz in all its glory by awarding the prize to an artist who embodies the local scene’s history in many respects: the flugelhorn and trumpet player Ack van Rooyen (The Hague, 1930).

Van Rooyen has left his mark on seventy years of jazz history at home and abroad both as a soloist and as an instructor, on everything from the rise of Dutch studio broadcasting orchestras and bebop combos to the development of jazz studies at the conservatories. And while the modest Van Rooyen rarely stakes a claim to the role of bandleader (“too much organizational bother”), he nonetheless remains one of the pioneers of American bebop in the Netherlands. After graduating with honours from the Royal Conservatory in The Hague in 1949, Van Rooyen set sail for New York on a passenger ship, travelling as a member of the ship’s dance band. Upon arrival, he began soaking in performances by the jazz greats who would end up having a lasting influence on the young musician: Louis Armstrong, Fats Navarro and Stan Getz. Shortly afterwards, he joined the pianist Rob Pronk’s Boptet, along with his brother Jerry van Rooyen, and began experimenting with the latest sounds and styles.

Van Rooyen’s credits as a featured soloist in Dutch jazz orchestras reads like a roll call of big bands defined by tradition and consummate artistry: the Ramblers, the Skymasters, the Netherlands Concert Jazz Band, the Dutch Jazz Orchestra and the Metropole Orchestra. His international career is just as impressive. Leading orchestras he has performed in include the Aimé Barelli Orchestra, Peter Herbolzheimer’s Rhythm Combination & Brass, the Boyd Bachman Orchestra, the Bert Kaempfert Orchestra, the WDR Big Band, the SFB Big Band, the Clark Terry Orchestra, the Gil Evans Orchestra, the Clarke-Boland Big Band and the Süddeutscher Rundfunk Orchestra.

He also performed in smaller formations, most notably as a long-standing member of the Paul Heller Quintet and in the duo he formed with the pianist Jörg Reiter. In 1974, he co-founded the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, a tentet featuring some of Europe’s finest avant-garde jazz musicians, including the trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff, the saxophonist Charlie Mariano and the pianist Wolfgang Dauner. The group enjoyed a hugely successful run that included 14 album releases until it disbanded in 2002. In recent years, Ack van Rooyen has channelled much of his efforts through his duo with the pianist Juraj Stanik, a partnership notable not just for its performances but also for its almost forty-year age gap. 

The jury is enamoured of Van Rooyen’s artistry and lyricism on the flugelhorn, the instrument he has devoted himself to since the early days of his career. The instrument’s warm, soft and mellow tone seems fitting for a man of such modesty. His playing, like that of the legendary trumpet player Clifford Brown, a key source of inspiration, reveals a yearning for “truth”, without tricks or gimmicks, with carefully selected notes and a beautifully rounded tone taking precedence over showmanship. He weaves his distinctive, subtle lines to great effect, creating musical miniatures that enchant listeners and remain with them long after he has left the room.

Last but not least, the jury commends Van Rooyen for his decades-long contribution as an instructor and for his ability to inspire new generations of musicians through his music. His wealth of experience, keen insight and theoretical knowledge have helped refine the skills of students at conservatories in Hilversum, Amsterdam and The Hague, and he is, to this day, often to be found on stage with musicians several decades his junior.

Amsterdam, 15 April 2020
On behalf of the jury,
Loes Rusch

The jury of the Buma Boy Edgar Prize 2020 consists of:

Norbert Kögging, chair (Managing Director of Jazz Maastricht)
Loes Rusch, secretary (Musicologist at Utrecht University, the Amsterdam Conservatory and the Royal Conservatory in The Hague)
Rudie Kagie (Journalist and writer, Amsterdam)
Liesbeth Beeftink (Marketing Communications Manager at LantarenVenster, Rotterdam)
Wijnand Honig (Head of Arts and Culture at NTR, Hilversum)