25th Anniversary Magazine: interview with Huub Van Riel
Tam Tutta Un' Altra Musica - Eventi SCRL | Various articles | 2012-05-17
Are you aware of experiences of European jazz networking before the foundation of EJN in 1987?
Of very few only, and those would be pretty much confined to regions and/ or radio circles. An obvious example in my area being Belgian and Dutch radio co-operating somewhat in the festivals in their own countries. Not too much more. EJN meant revolution.
What was your impression after the first meeting you took part in, at the formal establishment of the EJN in 1987 in Pisa?
That of having met an inspiring group of people in wonderful (while fairly lengthy - what has changed since?) discussions. I have to admit to not remembering all that much of what was going on in detail, after all I was entering a discussion that had been going on for a little while among our Italian friends, where I had just read some drafts (that I found fiercely fascinating) on the flight in. I left sensing great potential (and had picked up some Italian).
Was the use of the new technologies a relevant aspect of the attraction towards EJN?
Of course. The tool to make it work: sharing information and ideas, and consequently being able to co-operate and co-produce. Simply meeting such a group of people had great value in itself and led to lots of great, even fantastic ideas. None of which – without the technological tools – would have got anywhere.
From your point of view, what was the motivation behind you joining the network and how can you describe the benefits?
Bimhuis, by its nature, was made for the EJN experience. One afternoon (probably in 1989) in Filippo’s house in Rome, he, Roger Spence and I reorganised the original basic information about the EJN into the format that was printed in four languages on those paper sleeves that we have been using for many years. That text says it all. For a long time now, working internationally has been a daily practice. When I need information about a specific scene or country, I call my friends in EJN. Come to think of it, many of my current collaborations have their origin in EJN, even if not labelled as such. The same is true for loads of ‘regular’ gigs and I’m sure many colleagues will say the same. I’m convinced that EJN and the EJN way of thinking will remain a wonderful tool and a great inspiration for the experienced and the newcomer alike. Happy birthday to a great idea!
Is there such a thing as European Jazz, in other words is EJN the network for European jazz or the jazz network of Europe?
Yes and no. Of course there are and have been distinctive European sounds and attitudes from the 1960s onwards, producing some of the best music of the respective periods. But even 20 years ago, when the market was still much more oriented to American Jazz than it is now, the then-board accepted North American memberships. I myself never felt at home with the ‘jazz moved to Europe’ thinking which I found just as embarrassing as silly. Many of the great bands and projects these days are mixed American and European (or Asian, African) anyway. EJN’s obvious interest and involvement in European cultural policies need not be in the way of a broader view. Let’s look at the “Europe” in EJN as we look at the “jazz”.
How have relationships with European institutional bodies changed during your tenure?
Memory... I wish mine was half or a quarter as good as Filippo’s ... What happened when? We linked up with IETM, became member of EFAH, got involved with Conseil de L’Europe (and learned why we should not have organised a congress for them). We participated and got project funding through the EU’s Kaleidoscope programme