Han Bennink

Han Bennink

Han Bennink at the HotHouse in Chicago on 3 November 2004. Photo by Seth Tisue.
Background information
Birth name Han Bennink
Born (1942-04-17) 17 April 1942
Origin Zaandam, the Netherlands
Genres Free jazz
Avant-garde jazz
Occupation(s) drummer, percussionist
Instruments drums, percussion, saxophone, clarinet, violin, banjo, piano
Associated acts Irene Schweizer, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins and Eric Dolphy

Han Bennink (born 17 April 1942) is a Dutch jazz drummer and percussionist. On occasion his recordings have featured his playing on clarinet, violin, banjo and piano.

Though perhaps best known as one of the pivotal figures in early European free jazz and free improvisation, Bennink has worked in essentially every school of jazz, and is described by critic Chris Kelsey[1] as "one of the unfortunately rare musicians whose abilities and interests span jazz's entire spectrum." Known for often injecting slapstick and absurdist humor into his performances, Bennink has had especially fruitful long-term partnerships with pianist Misha Mengelberg and saxophonist Peter Brötzmann. Han is a brother of saxophonist Peter Bennink.

Early life and education

Bennink was born in Zaandam, the son of a classical percussionist. He played the drums and the clarinet during his teens.

Playing career

Han Bennink awarded (1967)

Through the 1960s he drummed with a number of American musicians visiting the Netherlands, including Dexter Gordon, Wes Montgomery, Sonny Rollins and Eric Dolphy (he can be heard on Dolphy's recording, Last Date (1964)).

He subsequently became a central figure in the emerging European free improvisation scene. In 1963 he formed a quartet with pianist Misha Mengelberg and saxophonist Piet Noordijk which had a number of different bassists and which played at the 1966 Newport Jazz Festival, and in 1967 he was a co-founder of the Instant Composers Pool with Mengelberg and Willem Breuker, which sponsored Dutch avant garde performances. From the late 1960s he played in a trio with saxophonist Peter Brötzmann and Belgian pianist Fred Van Hove, which became a duo after Van Hove's departure in 1976. Through much of the 1990s he played in Clusone 3 (also known as the Clusone Trio), a trio with saxophonist/clarinetist Michael Moore and cellist Ernst Reijseger. He has often played duos with Mengelberg and collaborated with him alongside other musicians.

From the late 1980s through the early 2000s, Bennik collaborated closely with Dutch post-punk band The Ex, appearing on their 1995 album Instant and travelling and playing with them on their first tour to Ethiopia.


As well as playing with these long-standing groups, Bennink has performed and recorded solo (Tempo Comodo (1982) being among his solo recordings) and played with many free improvisation and free jazz luminaries including Derek Bailey, Conny Bauer, Don Cherry and Alexander von Schlippenbach, as well as more conventional jazz musicians like Lee Konitz. In 1983 he collaborated with boogie-woogie pianist and vocalist Little Willie Littlefield for his album I'm in the Mood.[2]

Han Bennink in Austin, Texas, April 2006


Bennink's style is wide-ranging, running from conventional jazz drumming to highly unconventional free improvisation, for which he often uses whatever found objects happen to be onstage (chairs, music stands, instrument cases), his own body (a favourite device involves putting a drumstick in his mouth and striking it with the other stick), and the entire performance space—the floor, doors, and walls. He makes frequent use of birdcalls and whatever else strikes his fancy (one particularly madcap performance in Toronto in the 1990s involved a deafening fire alarm bell placed on the floor).


The following is a partial list of recordings by Han Bennink.[3]

Solo albums


As leader
With Eric Dolphy
With Paul Ruys
With Willem Breuker
With Peter Brötzmann
With Evan Parker
With Don Cherry
With Paul Bley and Annette Peacock
With Misha Mengelberg
With Kees Hazevoet
With Steve Lacy
With Misha Mengelberg
With Dudu Pukwana
With Keshavan Maslak
With Roswell Rudd
With Pino Minafra
With Sean Bergin
With Little Willie Littlefield
With Steve Beresford
With Pino Minafra
With Cecil Taylor
With Ray Anderson and Christy Doran
With Irene Schweizer
With Myra Melford
With Cor Fuhler and Wilbert De Joode
With Ellery Eskelin
With Terrie Ex (and others)
With Eugene Chadbourne
With Michael Moore
With Spring Heel Jack
With Simon Nabatov
With Daniele D'Agaro
With Kenny Millions
With Kenny Millions
With Kazuo Imai
With Rik van Iersel
With Guus Janssen
With Mikko Innanen and Jaak Sooäär
With Alessandra Patrucco
With Mark O'Leary
With Keshavan Maslak
With Frode Gjerstad
With Will Holshouser and Michael Moore
With Aki Takase
With Armen Nalbandian
With Eric Boeren
With Uri Caine
With Jaak Sooäär


  1. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/p6096
  2. Olderen, Martin van, I'm In The Mood, Linernotes OLCD 7002, 1993
  3. "Han Bennink". EFI.Group.Shef.ac.uk. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
  4. "Four in One – Misha Mengelberg Quartet | Releases". AllMusic.com. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
  5. "Han Bennink". Discography. Discogs.com. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
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