Han Bennink (The Netherlands)
Han Bennink has attended art school, his sculptures appear in galleries and his drawings grace the covers of numerous CDs and LPs, but this is not the reason why he is being awarded this year's European Jazz Prize. The artistic capabilities of this drummer from the Netherlands are yet further proof of the special sensibilities and creativity that he has demonstrated ever since his earliest days when his first percussion instrument was a kitchen chair. His curiosity with regard to sound has led him to engage in successively more exciting explorations with wood and wind instruments and collaborations with other musicians, expanding the jazz context in the direction of European improvised music. Today more than ever before, Bennink thus understands how to swing in the traditional way and to master the free jazz sound, as well as to generate collective gusto for playing with his musical partners. Following in the footsteps of his role model, Kenny Clark, he has played drums for Sonny Rollins, Eric Dolphy, Dexter Gordon and, occasionally for Johnny Griffin.
Along with Misha Mengelberg, Willem Breuker and Peter Brötzman he has played a vital role in the genesis of European free jazz and, through his work with Clusone 3 and his duos, has produced surprising insights into the jazz experience and improvised music. In 2007, his ICP -- Instant Composers Pool -- Orchestra conducted a USA tour which confirmed and highlighted Bennink's special role as an ambassador for European jazz.