THE SOUL OF STYLE - EPISODE VIBenjamin Herman - Jazz Musician
The sixth episode of a series of personal blogs in which quirky and self-confident men together with author Onno Aerden go in search of the soul of style.
We proudly present jazz musician Benjamin Herman; hardworking living jazz legend, classical dandy, awarded best-dressed man, inspirational bandleader, but above all a loyal friend with high regard for the tailoring tradition.
Music as first love
"At our home, first in London and from the age of eight in Zaandijk, there was always music. My father, Rabbi, was once a trombonist, my mother played the piano, my brothers and my sister also made music. It was only logical that I started playing an instrument; first drumming and since I was twelve years old the saxophone. After three weeks I already had my first performance - with a band, in a youth centre in Zaandam: a wonderful kick. When I was seventeen, I moved to Amsterdam, where I graduated cum laude from the conservatory.”
“From the age of fourteen, I live with and for my saxophone. Playing, studying, learning, improving myself - every day. I think I've made about forty albums, of course with the New Cool Collective, the jazz band I am a part of for 24 years, as well as solo. And then there must be more than 100 albums where I play along. In the past year, I finished five great projects, including a punk-jazz experiment, an album with the saxophonist of the Senegalese band Orchestra Baobab and soundtrack album Project S with the music for a documentary about the Citroën SM - a French car with a Maserati engine: this album presents a combination between Serge Gainsbourg and Fausto Papetti.”
"In thirty years, of course, you'll see changes in the world of music. Digitization? I embrace Spotify. Once upon a time, the 78 rpm record was the reference for everything: but things change and I have nothing to do with conservative complainants. Much more interesting is the fact that YouTube and music vlogs in general significantly increase the quality of musicians in the Netherlands. New generations of musicians can test themselves against their examples fast, easy and everywhere; as a matter of fact, it has become more difficult to come up with an excuse not to be as good as an American top musician."
The style of Japan
"I travel as much as I can. Japan is a favourite destination and I visit the country on a regular basis. It looks like what you know, but look carefully and you see ancient codes in modern cultural expressions. The politeness too, the sense of perfection, the care for details, striving for 'meticulousness', also in music - every time I am there I learn so many new things."
"My style could best be described as 'mod': originated in the UK of the fifties. Taking care of your outfit and look sharp as a philosophy of life. Good clothing is important to me during performances - throughout life actually. Being stylish is showing respect for your surroundings. I've always wanted to dress beyond my means, I love that challenge. An original style makes you stand out, that you're different from the rest.
Remember the Sun Ra Arkestra? They came from Saturn, they said themselves: always space suits on stage. Magnificent! I have trouble with averagely dressed people. On the other hand, Misha Mengelberg seemed to make an effort in dressing the worst of everyone, which is also fine as long as you are your own, authentic, different from the rest. It shows you have guts."
"Virtuoso? No, I'm not and enjoy my spot in the shadows of the really big ones: Parker, Coltrane, Rollins. Perfection is harder to achieve than happiness. When I'm on stage, well dressed and in sync with my sax, I'm perfectly happy."
The style of Benjamin
"My eighties Casio with a calculator. I also have an IWC but the fourth time I had to pay 400 euro for a new strap I left it in the drawer for a while."
"Self-tie bowties that I find in Tokyo. Not as full as normal bowties and with a beautiful motif."
"In Tokyo, I ended up in a department store with a huge wall-covering, a four-shelf cabinet full of shirt collars. And the shop clerk who took the time to keep searching with me until we found the ultimate collar for me. ”
"In Café-restaurant Amsterdam you feel the atmosphere of the industrial revolution. The pictures at the entrance of men with heavy moustaches wearing hats reinforce that feeling."
“Rare old vinyl records and turntables from Flesch Records.”
“Senegal, one of the African countries with an awesome music scene. With The New Cool Collective, we've been touring the African continent a couple of times."
Check out Benjamin’s personal POSSEN collection.