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Touring Dutch duo impressed by Canadians' response to jazz

Dutch jazz vocalist Ineke Vandoorn and guitarist Marc van Vugt have developed many ties to Canadians in the last 25 years – starting with composer Kenny Wheeler and more recently with guitarist Michael Occhipinti. The duo is touring across Canada this month, including an Ottawa gig on Friday at the Mercury Lounge.

TDutch jazz duo of vocalist/pianist Ineke Vandoorn and guitarist Marc van Vugt [photo by Jiri Büller]hey'll perform their own thoughtful and multi-layered original music – playing with different rhythm sections in each city – and also promote a book Vandoorn has written on the art of jazz singing from a very practical perspective.

Their first experiences of Canada were when they studied at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in 1991 and 1993 – “really a very important thing for us”, Vandoorn said. At Banff, they met renowned Canadian trumpeter and composer Kenny Wheeler, “and played his music and we started to be friends”.

“It was an honour to work with him. He loved Marc's music and his contributions were spot on. He was a very shy, but also witty man and we laughed a lot.”

Then when they were about to make their first CD, “we asked Kenny if he was interested in being our featured guest at the CD – and he wanted to do that, so that's how we got to know him better. So we played with him several times in the Netherlands.”

“We always kept in contact and Marc and Kenny discussed sometimes each others compositions and arrangements. Very special. He was also very generous and when he had heard us play he called us afterwards to tell us how much he loved it.”

In Banff, Vandoorn also met vocalist Norma Winstone, and “we became friends. At some point I was invited at a festival to do a special project, and I decided to invite her for a vocal duet. We did it twice at different festivals.”

In 2012, Vandoorn and van Vugt released a single, “Holysloot”, an intimate jazz song inspired by a Dutch lowlands winter scene. She agreed it was influenced by Wheeler and Winstone. “The way Kenny is composing and the way that he is treating harmonies I think that is something that both Marc and I like a lot. And I'm sure a fan of Norma's singing. And yes, you could hear that there.”

The duo has toured Canada five times, playing festivals including the Ottawa Jazz Festival in 1998. This will be their first time playing Canadian clubs, however, Vandoorn said. They've spent the last week in southern Ontario, teaching students at masterclasses and clinics (including with Christine Duncan's Element Choir) and playing concerts – and have been very happy with the response.

“I must say that all the Canadian audiences are very receptive for our music. First of all, I think that jazz is quite important in Canada. The people are much more used to listening to jazz, I would say, than maybe in the Netherlands. So we have really nice audiences, very committed. And they really love our music so so far it has been great.”

In Toronto, they've been playing with guitarist Michael Occhipinti, a long-time musical friend, drummer Mark Kelso, and bassist Sören Nissen – and through them made contact with rhythm sections in other cities they're visiting: Ottawa, Medicine Hat, Regina, Saskatoon, and Vancouver and Victoria. “They gave us some names and we listened to the music and we contacted them – and it was actually much fun!”


You can win a pair of tickets to hear the Ineke Vandoorn and Marc van Vugt Quartet at the Mercury Lounge. Enter our contest!


In Ottawa, they'll perform with local bassist Dave Schroeder and drummer Michel Delage, she said, and play their their own original music. “Marc is a composer, so he writes beautiful songs and arrangements, and I usually write the lyrics. Maybe we might play one or two standards or some Brazilian standards. But it will be mainly our original material, which is jazz music with lots of improvisation.”

The music allows Vandoorn to use her voice like an instrument, and extend her range to four or five octaves. Besides singing lyrics in Dutch and English, she also sings wordlessly and horn-like. “Sometimes it's whispering, it can be speech-like, sometimes using the Indian bols [fast and rhythmic vocalized tabla sounds].”

The show will be part of the Mercury Lounge's 20th anniversary celebrations this month.

On Friday afternoon, Vandoorn and van Vugt will lead a free masterclass at Carleton University. They'll perform, and talk about their music, how they work together, and their experiences teaching – and answer questions.

She said she was looking forward to going to Carleton University “because all schools are different and it's really cool to check that all out, to see how people work and to talk with different people about our music and how they perceive our music.”

At university clinics they taught in the last week, she said, they improvised “a lot within a song. And sometimes we will also start with the melody and sometimes getting really free and Marc might take over the melody and I might take over the accompaniment, so we change roles and all that. And we always get a lot of questions about that – how do you do that? How do you practice? How do you get this freedom to do this?”

A very practical guide to jazz and pop singing

At the masterclass, Vandoorn will also introduce her 400-page guide for jazz and pop singers, Singing From the Inside Out, whose English translation was released in January. Vandoorn has also visited France and Denmark recently to promote editions of the book there.

She said she wrote it because there was no equivalent book available. As she was learning, she said, there wasn't much information obtainable “so I had to figure out a lot by myself. And I thought that, well, one day one of my colleagues will write it all down so that there is a book that you can sometimes refer to. But that didn't happen.”

She started writing handouts for her vocal students and from there it developed. “I was writing down more and more, and I decided to put it into a book.”

Most singers, they have a very strong emotional connection with their voice and what they want to express. And in general the practical side is not so much emphasized – but of course you need it all the time! – Ineke Vandoorn

Vandoorn describes it as a “very practical book”. The topics it covers include breath control, repertoire, making the most of your microphone, making an impression during auditions, stage fright, how to dress and present yourself, and learning how to handle mistakes.

“Most singers, they have a very strong emotional connection with their voice and what they want to express. And in general the practical side is not so much emphasized – but of course you need it all the time! And, at the same time, it's also hard to find that information about, you know, how can you do a proper soundcheck? How do you practice a song in a way that you can find out what possibilities the song has for you? Yes, it is indeed a very practical book, and that's really also what I wanted to do.”

If she had to pick one chapter in the book that was most important to read, she said, it was the chapter on practicing – “because if you know how to practice, you can follow your path. You can just explore and see where you want to go.”

The lessons in the book come out of her 30+ years of experience – primarily playing with van Vugt, whom she met when she was still in high school. They've released a dozen albums together, in different projects.

She said that van Vugt is the visionary in their duo: “he always thinks of big projects, and then I think well, that's maybe a little bit too big. But in the end, it always happens!”

“Marc is really great in composing and creating opportunities in his music, to both create an atmosphere and a situation where other people can dig into his world – and at the same time add something of their selves. When he knows for whom he's going to write, he will implement the style, the approach of that person into the music he's writing. He does that very well.”

van Vugt's latest project is writing music to go with silent films by pioneering French film-maker Georges Méliès, she said. The 100-year-old films will include an adaptation Méliès made of a Jules Verne novel, which was among the very first science fiction films. When they return to the Netherlands after their Canadian tour, they will be preparing for a showing of those films, with them playing and improvising along.

   – Alayne McGregor

The Ineke Vandoorn and Marc van Vugt Quartet perform at the Mercury Lounge at 8 p.m. on Friday, November 18 (doors open at 7 p.m.). Tickets are $15 in advance.

They also will give a free masterclass at Carleton University, in the Kailash Mital Theatre (Southam Hall) from 3 to 5 p.m. on November 18.

Their tour continues in Western Canada starting November 23:

  • November 23: Ye Olde Jar Bar, Medicine Hat
  • November 24: The Capitol, Regina
  • November 26: The Bassment, Saskatoon (workshop and concert)
  • November 28: Open vocal workshop by Ineke Vandoorn in Vancouver (hosted by Kate Hammett- Vaughan)
  • November 29: Lions Bay House
  • November 30: Capilano University, Vancouver lecture/concert
  • December 1: Frankie's Jazz Club, Vancouver
  • December 2: Hermann's Jazz Club, Victoria

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