Brandt Corstius Folia, September 1999
Crea Big Band in concert with music celebrities.
of the Crea Big Band has a name that fits his profession perfectly:
Armando Cairo. He also dresses for the part: green trousers, a cheerful
red jacket, decorated with a button of Lisa from the Simpsons
like Cairo an enthusiastic saxophonist - and his saxophone-case is also
Conducting a big band is totally different from, for example, conducting
a classical orchestra. Cairo doesnt really use his hands, let
alone a rostrum; he uses his arms. Two arms above his head pointing
one way means: stop. At least, thats what it looks like, but for
laymen his directions are completely incomprehensible. Most of the time
Cairo doesnt use his arms, but lets the musicians blow freely,
drum and pluck (on bass); he is very keen on improvisation. When everything
runs smoothly, he just taps his feet a little.
Moreover, the ensemble doesnt resemble a traditional orchestra.
During tuning, they smoke a cigarette, the conductor moves around or
writes down things. Well start with number one he
announces, and then leaves the room for a few minutes.
The musicians also appear to be relaxed. When the others play, you can
easily have a talk amongst one another. They play so loud, they dont
even notice. So loud, that an innocent visitor blinks her eyes when
hearing the first rumbling roar. One of the band members quickly leaves
the room to answer his cell-phone. Our second trumpeter is about
to become a father, Cairo explains. A few minutes later the trumpeter
returns: No problem, keep playing.
There is nothing as boring as a band that only plays steady arrangements
with short solos, according to Cairo. I always want
to open up the arrangements for the solos. This means
that when a soloist is on the roll, Ill give the others the cue
to continue later.
And the soloists do roll away. A trumpeter in the back, that gets a
lot of solos from Cairo, is blowing away like theres no
tomorrow. Sometimes even a bit too long. Oops, sorry, I accidentally
played one too many, he says at the end. Cairo: I like to
give every every musician a solo. Some bands use guests soloists, who
solo on everything. Its a lot more fun when there is an interaction.
So even the shy girl on saxophone gets her solo, and plays bravely.
Especially brave, considering the fact that in front of her is
Hans Dulfer, next to his daughter Candy, the most famous Dutch saxophonist.
Dulfer is very easy going. Could you start with The A Train?,
Cairo asks. I would love to start with a break, Dulfer answers.
was asked to perform with the big band on their first concert this year.
The saxophonist is blowing away happily, characteristically pinches
his eyes and moves his head up and down. His saxophone is tarnished
by excessive use, the instruments of the girls on the first row are
still bright and shiny.
Dulfer plays beautifully, but it doesnt intimidate the band members.
When he asks the pianist which chord he plays, the simple answer is:
There are professional musicians in 'vital places' in the big band.
According to Cairo this is pure necessity. "There's nothing worse
than a big band with a bad rhythm-section. That's the reason we have
a professional bassplayer and drummer. The first trumpeter is also professional,
the conductor tells us.
Especially this year that was necessary, because the big band started
their performances rigth away in September. Usually we can rehearse
the first three months, but this year we immediately start performing.
Reason is, that Meander has big band nights on Monday, and we were asked
for those nights. The first concert is with Hans Dulfer, trumpeter
Saskia Laroo joins them for the second, and pianist and composer Piet
Kuiters for the last concert of the month. We play Kuiters
own work, which we have rehearsed especially for the concert. Ive
just written it down, Cairo explains.
The band members arent really intimidated by all those celebrities.
They almost ignore Dulfer, as he walks in on the rehearsal. They check
their music, or the humidity of their reeds. They enjoy playing
with well known musicians. It motivates them to try harder". Of
course there is a price-tag attached We wont discuss
money , but according to Cairo, its worth it. Moreover,
they charge an entrance-fee.
The soloists dont think theyre too good for an amateur-band.
Cairo: The people in the band are enthusiastic, and that reflects
on the guest-soloist. The big band has a repertoire of around
seventy pieces, from which the guest-soloists can pick their favorites.
There are a lot of band-members that stay for a few years, and
this way we can create stability. In earlier years I was glad when we
could find somebody. But that has changed in the thirteen years
hes been conductor of the band. Now we have people that
stay for seven or eight years. The majority of the band also appears
to be a little older. And exceptionally for a Crea-course
the men/women-ratio is almost even; not a surplus of ladies.
According to Cairo, the popularity of the big band is not a hype or
temporary fashion. In my opinion that is a lot of rubbish. OK,
Herman Brood has just recorded a record with a big band, but there have
always been big bands.
Can he explain the fun of a big band? Cairo: Its one big
music-machine, that can leave a huge impression. Because of the enthusiasm
of the players it doesnt have to sound cumbrous, it can be as
flexible as a small ensemble.
And indeed, the band-members act on the directions from Cairo. Every
once in a while he picks up his own saxophone and joins them, with visible
But is it dance music?. Considering they are performing in Meander,
not really the place to solemnly still listen to the music. Up
to the 70s, people danced to jazz in the United States, Cairo
claims. He states that the New
Cool Collective Big Band is an example of present-day, modern music.
When they perform, everyone is swinging. We also play a few numbers
that are fit to dance to. And if its possible, I love it when
the audience dances.