Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Leo Cuypers - Same -1972- (LP, BASF/BIM), Netherlands

Leo Cuypers (Maastricht, 1947) is one of Holland's most inventive and important pianists in the improvisation and Jazz world. He started out as a drummer but soon moved to the piano. As a pianist he developed a unique jazzy playing style by which he improvised many songs just by feeling, mostly in a rhythmic way based on moods and imagined titles. He was frequently playing with Dutch impro Saxophonist Willem Breuker (founder of the Instant Composers Pool and Willem Breuker Kollektief).

Leo Cuypers is probably most famous for his Zeeland Suite from 1977 also with Willem Breuker and others. Throughout the decades of the last century he did many scores and other soundtracks with Willem Breuker. Cuypers was the only person Breuker would trust with his opinion when showing new scores. Their work together keeps a unique place in the Dutch jazz and impro history. On the verge of the nineties Cuypers stopped collaborating with Willem Breuker. By then he had built a decades-long reputation as an impro pianist in a 'jazz world' of women, booze and other nightly endeavours. You can see a short documentary in Dutch with Leo Cuypers here. I love when he basically concludes that he didn't learn shit(!) during his time at the conservatory. This first album he made came out on BASF in The Netherlands, just like the Theo Loevendie Consort (of which Leo Cuypers was a member) as well as the Indonesia inspired experimental Jazz prog band Banten. Also he played on the most psychedelic album by Dutch cult singer Ramses Shaffy from Amsterdam, called Sunset Sunkiss.

From the original 1972 liner notes:

"Maastricht was a beautiful city to live in. People from the Conservatory, the Academy of Arts, painters, sculptors - they all made it a nice scene. But then the hippies from the western part of Holland moved in and things changed so much that many of the artists left." This is pianist Leo Cuypers Talking. Born in Heemstede (near Haarlem) on December 1, 1947 (his parents originally came from Amsterdam) he moved to Maastricht with his family when he was about nine. And he always wanted to study at the Maatricht Conservatory. But after three years he quit; in fact he was chased away after four months of absence. "I was frightened, you know. What was going on there at the time (1962-1965) had nothing to do with making music. One was trained to play one's part in a symphony orchestra - not to play too much out of tune - not to play too well - just to do the job. And nobody was really interested in that kind of music. After lessons the kids ran to their favourite drinking place to listen to pop music, that's what they loved. And besides that, I played jazz, I wanted to become an arranger. I played drums, piano was at first only an obligatory second instrument. I started on drums when I was six. We had a piano at home, but I liked the drums better. It was only when I had learned to play enough piano that I discarded the drums. One day my set was stolen. Or rather, I hoped someone would steal it. Which they did. So I just had to go on with piano. Anyway, at the Maastricht Conservatory the scene finally changed too. Two years after I was chased away I made a guest appearance there."

As for many musicians in this country, the competition that's been held every year since 1958 at the lakeside resort of Loosdrecht meant a big change for Leo Cuypers as well. He entered the 1969 competition, playing solo. It was the percussion element, an echo from his playing the drums. As Maastricht is way down south in holland and the music scene - or anyway the jazz scene - is in the west, by being at Loosdrecht and winning this competition he was heard. Drummer Pierre Courbois liked his playing and when working at the festival of contemporary jazz in Baden-Baden, Germany, he advised Joachim Ernst Berendt to let Leo Cuypers replace Joachim Kühn, who had had a car accident. It was there that Leo Cuypers met composer and reedman Willem Breuker, founder member of the Instant Composers Pool, and it was through Breuker that Leo got his first gig in Amsterdam. Where a little later Theo Loevendie heard him and asked him to play with his consort. So, today, with Misha Mengelberg and Kees Hazevoet, Leo Cuypers is one of the three most foremost pianists in the contemporary music scene. He lives in Amsterdam. - 1972

Get it HERE


  1. Leo Cuypers was born in Heemstede, near harlem, Amsterdam. He passed away on 5 September 2017 in Maastricht.