Kevin Whitehead's 'New Dutch Swing' returns as e-book

Kevin Whitehead's 1998 study New Dutch Swing, long out of print, is back out as an expanded 25th-anniversary e-book, in Barnes & Noble/NOOK and Amazon/Kindle editions. It chronicles Amsterdam's genre-trampling jazz/improvisation/new-music scene, where even the Netherlands' national composer Louis Andriessen played the blues. DownBeat hailed it as "the first comprehensive study of such a European scene and one of the best book-length critical investigations of creative music." (Other reviews of the first edition are quoted below.)

In Amsterdam, in Whitehead's telling, improvisers and composers collaborate and influence each other's sounds; jazz and classical musicians team up in hybrid ensembles like Orkest de Volharding and the ICP Orchestra. Charles Ives, Thelonious Monk, game pieces and minimalism are major influences, and spontaneous music might be raucous, swinging, absurdly hilarious, or all three, thanks to composer/leaders such as Willem Breuker, Misha Mengelberg, Maarten Altena and Guus Janssen, drummer/trickster Han Bennink, and a host of foreign-born players who've gravitated to the scene.

Reporting on dozens of concerts, club dates, jam sessions and theatrical evenings from around the Netherlands, digging into the archives and rare recordings, Whitehead catches the whirl of a whole vibrant scene, combining history, oral history, music criticism, sociology, and tips for contemporary improvisers. He illuminates the musicians' biographies, quirks and methods, situating new Dutch developments in the larger context of the free jazz and the European improvised music which emerged in the 1960s. The more than 50 interviewees include Dutch musicians of three generations (Andriessen, Mengelberg, Breuker, Bennink, Altena, Janssen, Paul Termos, Ig Henneman, Ernst Reijseger, Franky Douglas, Ab Baars, Wilbert de Joode, Joost Buis, Cor Fuhler), expatriates (Tristan Honsinger, Sean Bergin, Michael Moore, Michael Vatcher, Curtis Clark, Tobias Delius) and international fellow travelers (Peter Brötzmann, Steve Lacy, George Lewis, Butch Morris, Evan Parker, John Tchicai, Yo-Yo Ma).

Two new chapters in the expanded 25th anniversary New Dutch Swing chart the further progress of many musicians featured in the original book, and adds profiles of expats Burton Greene, Felicity Provan and Mary Oliver.

Praise for the 1998 edition of New Dutch Swing:

Bob Blumenthal in the Boston Globe: "Whitehead's mix of enthusiasm and contrariness is just right for the subject."

Paul de Barros in the Seattle Times: "Gossipy, detailed, smart, dense, fiercely opinionated, and full of a noisy sense of the fun of language, /New Dutch Swing/ is an important addition to the jazz literature."

Dan Warburton at Paris Transatlantic: "New Dutch Swing straddles the gap between musicology and music journalism admirably…. This is a musicological document of some considerable importance and will no doubt become a reference text in years to come."

Peter Margasak in 2020: "I don't think there's a book that paints such a thrillingly accurate and vivid account of a particular musical community and aesthetic as Kevin Whitehead's /New Dutch Swing/, a masterful study that focuses largely on the deeply curious golden era of jazz and improvised music in Amsterdam during the 1960s–1990s."

Kevin Whitehead, longtime jazz critic for NPR's "Fresh Air, " has written about jazz, movies and popular culture for 40 years. In 2021 he received the Jazz Journalists Association's Lifetime Achievement in Jazz Journalism award. He moved to Amsterdam in 1995 to write New Dutch Swing, and remained a frequent visitor after returning to the US in 1999. His other books include Why Jazz? A Concise Guide (Oxford University Press, 2011) and Play the Way You Feel: The Essential Guide to Jazz Stories on Film (Oxford, 2020).

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