Jasper Blom on winning the Buma Boy Edgar Prize 2019 and more

20 June 2020

One year ago during inJazz, saxophonist and composer Jasper Blom was announced as the 2019 winner of the Buma Boy Edgar Prize. After celebrating with a concert night at BIMHUIS in December, Jasper’s plans, like everyone else’s, had to be shelved due to covid-19. In this inJazz exclusive interview, Jasper gives his thoughts on the prize, the lockdown, his current projects and why he will keep following the artistical path that he chose a long time ago.

What did the Buma Boy Edgar 2019 Prize bring you, besides that beautiful concert at BIMHUIS?
“I was very honoured to receive the prize and I was very motivated to try to maximize the effect of the Buma Boy Edgar Prize. Between the announcement in June and the Buma Boy Edgar Award night at BIMHUIS, I worked hard, booked concerts, wrote subsidy applications and worked on my online presence. I was happy with the Foundation Boy Edgar Prijs and BIMHUIS for organizing the award night. Dorothée van Hooff did a fantastic job as producer. Sadly, some of the plans that I had, fell apart due to covid-19: I would have loved to appear at the Transition Festival as a guest soloist with Jamie Peet and Niels Broos. I was also looking forward to do the first part of my Buma Boy Edgar tour with the Jasper Blom Quartet with guest soloist Pablo Held and record a new live album, POLYPHONY 3. That all didn’t happen. For the rest of the time I found myself to be more or less on my own, organizing concerts, applying for subsidies. It was actually business as usual. I was working double as hard on non-musical issues, whereas I don’t think it’s a good thing to concentrate too much on all these thing as an artist, because it takes energy away from the music itself, and from your artistic development.”

What is your idea about awards and prizes in music, and in jazz specifically?
“The Buma Boy Edgar Prize is a great annual publicity boost for the Dutch jazz in general and for the award winner especially. In my opinion, most organizations promoting Dutch jazz abroad are not pro-active, they will not initiate extra activities to promote the musician abroad. I would like to propose to the Foundation Boy Edgar Prize to raise the award money of the most important national jazz award. Also, I would recommend to increase the budget of the foundation, so it can provide even more professional assistance in all possible ways. It was great to see how television, press, festivals, funding, PR agents and clubs can work together in order to achieve maximum importance for the Buma Boy Edgar Prize. Thanks again, Dorothée van Hooff. I hope more organizations will jump on the bandwagon, allowing the artist to focus on his music.”

Has Dutch jazz from the era of Boy Edgar, or earlier on, played a role in your life as a musician?
“I’ve had the privilege to study and play with Cees Slinger, John Engels, Ruud Jacobs, Han Bennink and many other great players of the post war generation and their inheritance is an inseparable part of my musical foundation and my teaching.”

How do you look back on the last three months? What stages did you go through, mentally but also creatively?
“Mentally, one realizes how fragile life is, how vulnerable our society is, how little politicians understand of art in this country and how culture and music can be of comfort in times of hardship. I was happy to work on a couple of musical concepts and to write some new music for my quartet. I put together some teaching clips and a rap video. Together with some great players, whose opinion I hold in high esteem, I started listening through Zoom to everyone’s favourite music, which opened up a lot of new music to me. It was great to take life at a slower pace, I enjoyed staying at home, instead of being on the road all the time. But… playing in front of an enthusiastic and grateful audience after three months was very moving and made me realize how much I had missed this.”

Did the crisis change the way you will approach your future work? What are your plans?
“I think the path that I chose a long time ago, highlighted at the award evening (‘Music connects Generations’) will be relevant in the future too, because it is one of the things that holds society together. Iit’s about the transition that everybody makes in life. I love playing, teaching and sharing musical experiences with different generations, both younger and older. Because the outlook of the crisis changes every week, I think it’s hard to tell the future at this time. I am looking forward to picking up where I left, with a Tribute to Misha Mengelberg, together with Han Bennink, Joris Roelofs, Benjamin Herman and Ian Cleaver in September, and the Buma Boy Edgar concert tour in October with the Jasper Blom Quartet featuring Pablo Held. Next to composing new songs based on Emily Dickinson poems for the Jazz Orchestra of Concertgebouw Amsterdam featuring Anna Serierse.”

You are at the heart of the Dutch jazz scene for many years now, but your network stretches across the globe. How did you start developing artistic relationships internationally?
“I started going to inJazz and jazzahead! a long time ago, realizing that the world where people are deciding which band to book was a completely different one than the one I was used to. I do not consider myself to be a great networker, but steadily going there has helped me a lot to understand this world and to develop contacts. Also it has taught me to define my music in a way that might interest promoters. I am still very critical on a development where musicians that are spending more time on self promotion and online visibility than on their art, are considered to do the right thing. The funding of art and selling a band is becoming more and more a question of ticking the right boxes that do not necessarily carry any artistic value. Perhaps I am old-fashioned, but I think a lot of musical talent is wasted this way. Musicians should concentrate on their art.”

As a saxophone teacher at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, can you name some good and bad practices among your students? (And what do you do about the bad ones?)
“This generation has a lot of potential. I am teaching some fantastic new talent. The general level at age 20 years is much higher than it used to be, and still rising. There is a lot of information out there which can be very confusing at a young age. Some students have trouble to focus on one thing for a longer period and of course there is also a lot of distraction. But I’m very optimistic about the level at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. It’s a beautiful artistic community of incredible talents that are constantly inspiring each other to aim for the highest.”

What would you like to say to the next Buma Boy Edgar Prize winner?
“Congratulations and give me a call, I can help.”

Photos inJazz 2019 by Maarten van Haaff