Dutch guitar player Jan Akkerman (1946) did almost anything a musician could possibly do. He worked with many different musicians like BB King, Charlie Byrd, Cozy Powell, Claus Ogerman and Ice-T, besides being a former member of such international acclaimed bands as Brainbox and Focus and made more than a dozen solo records that showed his versatile playing without any boundaries or limitations. Whether it’s Tabernakel (1973), the famous guitar-in-bed album Jan Akkerman (1977) or one of his most recent studio outing CU (2003), he explores and combines elements of rock, jazz, blues, classical or modern dance music and give those his own signature.
On stage, Akkerman has been touring all around the world. Besides several appearances at the Swiss Montreux Jazz Festival, the Dutch North Sea Jazz Festival, his countless tours around theatres and different stages, the guitarist also performed far beyond Western Europe, in countries like Japan, Russia, Brazil and Indonesia. He also has a long-time fan base in many parts of the world. In his own country, Akkerman received a Golden Harp in 2005 for his complete oeuvre and again gained recognition and sympathy for his distinctive role in guitar music by many people. His latest CD/DVD-set Live in Concert at The Hague shows the many sides of the guitarist: with his band during The Hague Jazz Festival in May 2007, a solo gig at the Output Festival in the Amsterdam Bimhuis and at a workshop “for all ages” in 2006 in Roermond.
A new Jan Akkerman album is always a revelation, not least because he is not the most prolific of players in terms of album releases.
Minor Details (2011) is the follow-up to 2003’s C.U. and has been produced “virtually” via the Internet together with his regular band mates and germinated whilst on tour in Brazil last year. The production doesn’t suffer at all for this.
In terms of Akkerman’s hallowed guitar-ing, the Focus days do seem as distant a memory as Thijs van Leer with hair and this 70minute-plus offering continues the jazz fusion vibe of his late 1980s albums and indeed that of its immediate predecessor.
Guitarophiles may debate the man’s current “tone” and technique, even the familiar motifs, but there is no denying he has never lost his way with a melody or an intriguing song title.
In places there is a definite Steely Dan-thing going on (notably “Dinner Time”) and a Santana-esque “Searching for Angela”. “Joy” - with Akkerman deploying wah - features one of two guest appearances from Dutch jazz trumpeter Eric Vloeimans in a Miles Davis-fueled funk romp. But only on “Mena Muria” is there anything approaching a Focus vibe (as in Focus I and Focus II).
It’s just a pity that, again, Akkerman has failed to interrogate his hard drive and offer up some arguably superior fusion work that he brought to the UK back in 2000. There may be a lack of killer melodies on this album aka “Cotton Bay” on C.U. (although the broody “Kharmah Chantalah” comes close) but overall it smacks of a good groove and well suited to warm weather and late nights.
In that context there is nothing really of revelation here, just plenty of examples of Akkerman’s good taste and his cohorts’ fine musicianship. It will mostly appeal to his loyal fan base. Job done.
Seeing Jan Akkerman live in concert is always a refreshing and fascinating never-to-be-repeated experience. Being an authentic improvisator he shows his maximal capability and, during band gigs, shares his affection on guitar with band members Coen Molenaar (keyboards), Wilbrand Meischke (bass) and Marijn van den Berg (drums).
What will be his next challenge?