Han Bennink

drummer, percussionist, graphic artist, Zaandam NL 1942.



Drummer and multi – instrumentalist Han Bennink was born in Zaandam near Amsterdam in 1942. His first percussion instrument was a kitchen chair. Later his father, an orchestra percussionist, supplied him with a more conventional outfit, but Han never lost his taste for coaxing sounds from unlikely objects he finds backstage at concerts. He is still very fond of playing chairs.


In Holland in the 1960s, Bennink was quickly recognized as an uncommonly versatile drummer. As a hard swinger in the tradition of his hero Kenny Clarke, he accompanied touring American jazz stars, including Sonny Rollins, Ben Webster, Wes Montgomery, Johnny Griffin, Eric Dolphy and Dexter Gordon. He is heard with Gordon on the 1969 album “Live at Amsterdam Paradiso“ (on the Affinity label) and with Dolphy on 1964’s “Last Date“ (Polygram). At the same time, Bennink participated in the creation of a European improvised music which began to evolve a new identity, apart from its jazz roots. With fellow Dutch pioneers, pianist Misha Mengelberg and saxophonist Willem Breuker, he founded the musicians collective Instant Composer’s Pool in 1967. Bennink anchored various bands led by Mengelberg or Breuker, and appeared in their comic music – theatre productions


In 1966, Bennink played the US’s Newport Jazz Festival with the Mengelberg quartet. From the late 1960s through the ‘70s Bennink collaborated frequently with Danish, German, and Belgian musicians, notably saxophonists John Tchicai and Peter Brotzmann, guitarist Derek Bailey and pianist Fred van Hove. Bennink, Brotzmann and van Hove had a longstanding trio well documented on FMP Records. There Bennink also showcased his talents on clarinet, trombone, soprano, saxophone and many other instruments, also featured in a series of solo albums he began in 1971.


Benninks‘s many recordings from the 1980s include sessions with Mengelberg’s ICP Orchestra (where he remains), South Africa bassist Harry Miller, soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, trombonists Roswell Rudd and George Lewis, and big – bandleaders Sean Bergin and Andy Sheppard.


From 1988 to ‘98 Bennink’s main vehicle was Clusone 3, with saxophonist and clarinetist Michael Moore and cellist Ernst Reijseger, a band noted for its free-wheeling mix of swinging jazz standards, wide – open improvising, and tender ballads. Clusone played Europe and North America, West Africa, China, Vietnam and Australia, and recorded five CDs for Gramavision, hat Art and Ramboy.


A conspicuous feature of Bennink’s musical life since the 1960s is the spontaneous duo concert with musicians of many nationalities and musical inclinations; in the ‘90s he recorded in duo with among others pianists Mengelberg, Irene Schweizer and Myra Melford, guitarist Eugene Chadbourne, trumpeter Dave Douglas and tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin.


Nowadays he is frequently heard with tenor saxophonist Tobias Deliu’s quartet and in a trio with pianist/keyboardist Cor Fuhler and bassist Wilbert de Joode, and he still collaborates occasionally with jazz luminaries such as Johnny Griffin, Von Freeman and Ray Anderson. He also performs in Holshouser/Bennink/Moore with Michael Moore and accordionist Will Holshouser, and has recently started his own Han Bennink Trio with pianist Simon Toldam and clarinetist Joachim Badenhorst.



Han Bennink was presented with lots of international awards One of the most important is the European Jazz Prize of 2008. A biography about Han Bennink and a film documentary was released in September 2009.


Graphic artist

Bennink attended art school in the 1960s, and is also a successful visual artist in several media, often constructing sculpture from found objects, which may include broken drum heads and sticks. He has designed the covers for many LPs and CDs on which he appears. A book covering all his art work for LP and CD covers was voted one of the best packaged editions of 2010. Bennink has the subject of several one–man shows, including Ravenna, Kongsberg, Antwerp, Sarajevo, Calgary and many more. Han Bennink is also a versatile visual artist and has exhibited his work in Canada, Norway, Belgium, Bosnia and Italy. His next national exhibition starts February 25th at the Museum Belvédère in Heerenveen, the Netherlands. His next international exhibition is slated for November 2012 in Beijing.


Updated January 2012