Jerry van Rooijen was born in The Hague, the
Netherlands. He enrolled at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague after the
Second World War as a trumpet student. In 1949, Jerry went
to New York through a student exchange program. There he
came into contact with the greats of jazz: Fats Navarro,
Charlie Parker and Clifford Brown.
emerged himself in the jazz of New Yorks vibrant club
scene, and he brought scores of LPs back to the Netherlands,
feeding the European scene with first-hand information.
Problems with his embouchure forced him to change his direction
and he quickly developed himself as a much sought-after
composer-arranger. In the 1950s, the Philips record company
offered him work in Paris as a producer. He struck up friendships
with Michel Legrand and Quincy Jones, which provided the
basis for later collaborations. He also worked with Marlene
Dietrich in this period. Jerrys collaboration with
soloists such as Fats Navarro, Stan Getz and Max Roach,
would further inform his music.
Jerry van Rooyen
According to Jerry, Paris was a magical city at that time.
There were numerous great jazz musicians. He would stay
in Paris during winters, sharing an apartment with other
musicians. Kenny Clarke lived across from him. In the summer
Jerry and a whole group would travel south to Monte Carlo
to put on lavish music shows. There he also composed for
the orchestra of Aimé Barelli. He did that for years
until the European jazz scene more or less collapsed under
the rise of rock 'n roll.
1965, Jerry was offered a position as the leader of the
orchestra of Sender Freies Berlin. He worked in Berlin as
a composer-arranger for radio and film until 1977. As one
of the more prestigious assignments in this period he wrote
the opening music for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.
It would earn him international fame. For the NOS jazz Festival
he put together a big band featuring Benny Bailey, Åke
Persson, Piet Noordijk and Tony Coe which recorded the still
highly praised LP Festival Big Band.
Rooijen was back in the Netherlands in the beginning of
the 1980s. For several years he was the artistic director
of the Jazz Department of the Hilversum Conservatory, and
he also led several radio orchestras. He returned to Germany
in 1985 to write for and conduct the renowned WDR Broadcasting
Company Orchestra, in the mean time filling engagements
as a guest instructor at various European conservatories.
1983, Jerry was the director in chief of the Dutch Jazz
Orchestra. The orchestra performed and recorded his compositions
and arrangements. Later, Jerry was seminal in his visionary
conducting of the rediscovered music of Billy Strayhorn.
Apart from his towering knowledge and understanding of orchestral
jazz, Jerry stands out because of the warm sound and impeccable
time he achieves through his idiosyncratic conducting style.