In Memoriam: Clarence James Becton (1933 – 2022)

Clarence James Becton (Eghosa), 1933 – 2022
Former Teacher Jazz Drums at the Royal Conservatoire, from 1983 until 1998

On June 24, 2022, our former colleague and teacher Clarence Becton passed away. He was a very dedicated teacher and has influenced many Dutch and international Jazz students at the Royal Conservatoire. We would like to express our deep condolences to his family and friends.

Former colleagues and students remember Clarence Becton:

Wouter Turkenburg, former Head of the Jazz Department
Clarence Becton was een uitstekende drummer, een sympathieke collega en een toegewijde docent. Zijn brede speelervaring bracht hij in tijdens zijn lessen. Een man van weinig woorden. Voor zijn studenten stond hij altijd klaar. Onze gedachten gaan uit naar zijn familie, nabestaande en vrienden.

Our Main Subject Teacher Jazz Drums Stefan Kruger wrote a musical tribute to commemorate Clarence James Becton. He named it Um côco pra Clarence

Joshua Samson, Clarence Becton’s student
Clarence or, as he liked to be called the last few years, Eghosa, was quite a remarkable person and musician. We met in room 501 when I was 18 years old. I walked in to be informed about the possibilities of studying drums at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague. He put down his drumsticks, told Ad, his student, that the lesson was over and asked me why…

That became the leading question in his classes, why the coordinated independence exercise , why learning the melodies of ‘standards’, and in my case why learning about Brazilian percussion. When I came in with a lame excuse that I didn’t study for his class, the why was followed by “But don’t you want to learn it”?
We stayed connected and even became friends, played a few concerts together, from time to time he came over to eat at my place, and often called me.
Just the day before he passed away, there was a post on social media from record label ECM, celebrating and remembering the very first Jazz release on that special and groundbreaking label. It is the trio album of pianist Mal Waldron, with Clarence on drums.
I loved Eghosa very much and when we met at his house, a month before his passing, I came by with bags of food as he could’t find the strength to leave the house. We spoke for hours in his mini kitchen where he sat down cooking, talking about his plans of moving to the States living in a camper van at a warm place. I saw him feeble, old and frail however with glistering eyes and so loving and happy to see me.
I left (it was really late and hard to go), got in the car, called my girlfriend on the drive home. When she asked me how it was, I could only tell her that I don’t think I would ever see him again.

Unfortunately I was right.