The jury of the VPRO / Boy Edgar Award 2008 has the pleasure of awarding this year’s prize to drummer, composer and band-leader Pierre Courbois.
The jury is of the opinion that Courbois has impressively distinguished himself in the past fifty years as a melodious and musical drummer – always on perfectly tuned drums – with a style of playing in which the theme and chord progression of the pieces could always be heard. His use of irregular time signatures derived from other cultures has considerably enhanced the rhythmic vocabulary of Dutch jazz and improvised music. In this country, he is the undisputed master of the underrated art of playing with brushes, which he has personally learned, in his younger days, from Kenny Clarke.
Courbois has always shown himself to be an innovator in other areas as well. In the early Sixties he was one of the first Dutch musicians to start with free improvisation, in collaboration with kindred spirits such as Gunter Hampel and Willem Breuker, and ten years later he was one of the pioneers of jazz rock, with his group Association P.C., even before famous American acts like Weather Report. During this period, his ingenious and tasteful use of electronics blossomed.
Thanks to a continuous curiosity about possibilities to make the percussion set more expressive, Pierre Courbois has enriched the instrument with one of the first drum synthesizers, and other inventions such as the double bass drum pedal. By deploying Balinese gongs and Asian keys, he was making world music avant la lettre as early as the Nineteen Eighties.
With his powerful and virtuoso playing he has contributed strongly to the development, in our country as well, of jazz as a genuine group music, in which nobody plays a subservient role. His eloquent contributions to collective improvisations are still an indispensable part of formations such as the Waterland Trio and the duo with pianist Polo de Haas.
Even after his return to acoustic, more highly structured jazz in the Nineties, Courbois has always remained a great and unique stylist, as shown by his current Vijfkwarts Sextet (5/4 Sextet), in which all the possible ways of swinging in that time signature are used to the full in fresh, original and compelling compositions.
In short, Pierre Courbois is one of the most important musicians who shaped modern Dutch jazz, a prominent ambassador of it abroad, and a personification of the creative spirit that characterizes the music. The jury wishes him many more years in which he can convey his infectious joy of playing to the listener.
On behalf of the jury of the VPRO/Boy Edgar Award 2008, Walter van de Leur, chairman and Frank van Herk, secretary.
The jury of the VPRO/Boy Edgar Prize 2008 consisted of: Dineke Bogchelman (programmer, Hot House Leiden), Frank van Herk (critic, De Volkskrant), Walter van de Leur (professor of jazz and improvised music, University of Amsterdam), Jacques Los (critic, Draaiomjeoren.com), Frank Slijpen (head of publicity, Bimhuis).