We had the good fortune of connecting with Kevin van den Elzen and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Kevin, what matters most to you?
In a musical sense, trust is the most important value to me. I trust my fellow bandmembers fully, because I know we will be able to create and improvise together. That only can happen when there’s trust in each other. From a bandleader perspective, I trust my fellow bandmembers that they will prepare the music and be on time for a rehearsal or gig.

Music is a super important part of my life and has taken me to incredible places. Besides music, my family and friends are what matters most to me. I speak to my folks every week and I feel like the luckiest guy, because of my amazing girlfriend.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I moved from Amsterdam to Los Angeles to pursue my master studies at the Thornton School of Music at USC in 2015. I wanted to study with Peter Erskine. I graduated in 2017 and had a pretty good sense of what I wanted to do after school. Besides being a sideman, I also wanted to lead my own project. My first goal after graduation was to put a tour together in the Netherlands. I put a band together with three of my best friends. Adam Hersh on piano, Mike Lebrun on tenor sax and Max Kraus on double bass. The band is called the LAHO Group. We started rehearsing and gigging in LA before we hit the road. We were in Holland for about 2,5 weeks and it was an amazing experience. I learned a lot musically, but also a lot from a business standpoint. How to organize certain things better, start earlier with getting funding together etc. I organized or co organized two tours after the LAHO tour with vibraphonist Nick Mancini and guitarist Will Brahm. I’m obsessed with big band music, so I also started my own big band. It takes a lot of effort to lead a band like that, but I feel that I am spoiled with the opportunities I got and with the high level of musicianship of the members of the band. Everybody is always on point. My most proud musical moment was a tribute show to the Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra at the Blue Whale in November 2019. The band was stacked and we had Bob Mintzer on tenor sax, John Beasley on piano and John Clayon on double bass as special guests. To play the music of Thad with that kind of band was an incredible experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life. We had a packed house and everybody played their asses off.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Wow this is a tough one! LA has an underground scene with lots of hidden gems. Unfortunately a couple places that come to mind have closed since the pandemic. I have to name the Blue Whale, because I have brought a couple friends from Holland to that spot, because it was the main jazz hang in town. I’m an avid stand-up paddle boarder, so I would go to Huntington Beach where there’s a cool rental on PCH. The Huntington Harbor is amazing to paddle through. Once you’re done, you can just cross PCH and you’re on Sunset Beach. I’ve had some of the best days with my buddies doing exactly that. I’m into cocktails and one of the best places to get really good cocktails is Birds & Bees. It’s an underground bar with a very cool vibe. Another place I would go to is Lost Property in Hollywood. It’s a super mellow speak easy bar on Vine. One final spot I would like to mention is the York in Highland Park. They have jazz music there and the vibe is super easy going. LA is full of great places for a hike too. Griffith is amazing. I also like the Sam Merrill trail in Altadena. That trail can take you all the way up into the mountains. I live in East LA and I would take a friend right away to Avenue 26. Best underground taco stand in East LA! Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My Shoutout would be dedicated to my two mentors Jeff Hamilton and John Clayton. They are the reason why I made the move from the Netherlands to Los Angeles. Jeff and John are two of the most incredible musicians and people that I know. They are masters of their instrument and of the music. I wouldn’t be the musician or person today if it weren’t for these two gentlemen.

Website: www.kevinvandenelzen.com

Instagram: @vdedrums

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KevinvdElz/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/KevinvandenElzen/videos

Image Credits
Ony for the very first picture. Credit is for Gemma Kessels.

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