Smooth JazzNotes

Candy Dulfer
in the
"Candy Store"


When you mention Candy Dulfer to people many of them will tell you that she is the first artist they ever heard play Smooth Jazz. In a genre dominated by men, Candy holds her own, usually being the solo female onstage. Her funky style is unique and refreshing. She wails on the saxophone, using it as her voice, and she has strong vocal skills as well. If one could only play the saxophone and sing at the same time!

Candy Dulfer was born into a musical family. Her father, Hans Dulfer, a renowned Dutch saxophone player, started his daughter on the saxophone when she was just six years old. Aided by her father, she learned to play the saxophone without any formal lessons and began to play in his band while still a child. Candy has always possessed a musical maturity that is truly impressive for someone her age. At 11, she recorded with her father and at 12, she performed at the famous North Sea Jazz Festival with Rosa King, as a member of her ladies horn section. Candy credits Rosa with teaching her a lot about playing, as well as teaching her about being a bandleader and about the music industry. She started her own band, “Funky Stuff” when she was only 14, but turned down record deals for years.

In 1987, Candy opened for Madonna in what was a much-talked about performance that led to her revamping “Funky Stuff”. They played sold out dates through the Netherlands for over a year before being hired as the opening act for Prince’s three gigs in the Netherlands. At the last minute, the opening act was canceled, prompting Candy to send a note to Prince telling him he missed the opportunity to see a girl “play her ass off” on the sax. Prince apologized and invited her to join him on stage. Incredibly impressed, he asked her to record with him and accompany him on a world tour. She recorded with him and several other artists while in the states, as well as performing with Prince on Saturday Night Live, but declined a world tour in favor of pursuing her own solo career.

Meanwhile, a song Candy had recorded with Dave Stewart from The Eurythmics was gaining in popularity giving Candy international exposure. “Lily Was Here” gave her the confidence to accept a record deal and record her own album. Grammy nominated, one and a half million seller, Saxuality was released in 1990 to rave reviews. Funky Stuff toured worldwide, appearing on several high profile American TV shows, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Good Morning America, and Arsenio Hall.

Candy’s impressive mastery of the saxophone got her noticed by high profile artists like Van Morrison and Pink Floyd. On June 30, 1990, she joined the legendary Pink Floyd in front of 130,000 fans fighting heavy winds and drizzling rain at the Renowned Knebworth Festival and was featured on their DVD, “The Event”, immortalizing the festival.

1993 saw the release of her platinum CD, Sax-A-Go-Go with guests Tower of Power and Maceo Parker cementing her as a superstar. The release of her third CD, “Big Girl”, preceded by a high profile appearance for the 50 th anniversary of the liberation of Europe at the World Liberty Concert in Arnhem, The Netherlands. The show was attended by over 100,000 fans and broadcast worldwide, giving Candy more exposure internationally. “For The Love Of You” was particularly well received in the United States spending over 40 weeks on the charts.

Candy continued recording her own CD’s every couple of years and performed with or recorded with many of the superstars of the music industry. In October of 2000, she released her long-awaited live album that was released on DVD, as well as CD, “Live In Amsterdam”, a mixture of her old classics and a couple of new songs, one of which, a collaboration with Dave Stewart did well, “Synchrodestiny”.

Candy continued playing large venues as well as small intimate clubs like the infamous Paradiso, in Amsterdam. She toured extensively with Prince, enjoying his spontaneous aftershows and joined Van Morrison for a few shows. “Right In My Soul” released in 2003 included a track, “Finsbury Park Café 67” which became a instant hit in the United States, reaching #1. She performed at the 2004 Grammys with Prince and Beyoncé and played with Prince in New York when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Prince’s new CD “Musicology”, featuring Candy on saxophone and vocals was released and Candy accompanied Prince on a nationwide tour performing 90 shows to 1.5 million fans, making it the #1 tour of 2004.

Candy has played all of the top jazz festivals in the world, Montreux, North Sea, Berks, Newport, as well as the Catalina JazzTrax Festival. She is huge in Japan. Her crossover style is popular with a wide range of people with different musical tastes. Watching her in person is always a treat because Candy always has great stage presence. She’s having fun and it is infectious. Catch Candy on one of her US tour dates in October. Smooth Jazz Notes caught up with Candy while she was wrapping up her Japanese tour.

SJN: You have a new CD that has just been released in the US, “Candy Store”. Please tell us about it?  

Candy: Candy Store is a collection of songs that we’ve written the past two years while we were just creating and having fun. I didn’t have a record company so there were no immediate plans to release a new album. Then I got to meet Dave Love of Heads Up, the director of Heads Up, and he was very interested in the material that we already had written so I sent him the demos and he loved it so much it became the album. It was really nice, I thought we would have to start and make a whole album and he was so happy with the stuff we already had that we could just put it together and finish it up. That’s the album, what I like best about that is that it’s become a very diverse album, very relaxed and fun. I applaud Heads Up for taking that step, because, especially in the states it’s very hard to make an album that has so many different styles on it, it’s very hard to place, but they went for it and I love that, I’m very happy with it.  

SJN: Obviously, your father was a great influence on you, but you have played with many renowned artists. Which of these artists do you feel influenced you the most?

Candy: Well, Prince first of all, Dave Stewart and the way he mentors his career, he’s always renewing himself. And then there is Chaka Khan who influenced me with her voice and a lot of her licks I play on the saxophone, a lot of her vocal licks. There’s so many. Maceo Parker has been a really big influence, playing wise, the way he conducts his gigs. So I think I took something from everybody I’ve played with, it’s such a great thrill to play with them on stage and you learn so much from that, that they were all big influences on me.

SJN: You were only a teenager when you played with Madonna, Prince, and Van Morrison. Their influence must have been monumental?

Candy: Yes

SJN: You played on the Pink Floyd video, “The Event” in 1990. Please tell us about that experience?  

Candy: Pink Floyd was great, I went on first and actually the biggest gig I’ve ever done, I played live in front of 130,000 people and it was for a charity concert. The great thing about that was that I had to play the famous saxophone solos, Shine On You Crazy Diamond, and they were so nice to me and it was a nice way to get to know the world of that caliber of stars. While we were rehearsing, all these big stars were walking around, Elton John, and guitarist Eric Clapton, so it was really neat for me, being so young and being around those people. I noticed that they were all so nice and relaxed, it was really incredible. I’m still proud of that performance.

SJN: You have played at so many prestigious festivals and events, from Prince’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to frequent appearances at Montreux and the North Sea Jazz Festivals. Which shows were the most memorable for you?

Candy: For me, The North Sea is always very special, first of all because it’s in my own country, but it’s also one of the biggest jazz festivals in the world, so you’re watched there by a really big, very fun audience. At the same time, all your peers and the people you look up to are standing backstage watching you so it’s always very scary and if you pull that one off it will last you a year or so. It always makes me very happy if we play well there because that is really the happiest crowd you can play to. At Montreux, it’s very special but also the performances I do in America, even if they’re small gigs or big festivals, for me to play in the U.S. is so important and so special because I play American music basically. When I started out in the beginnings of my career I never thought or even dreamed that I would go to the states, let alone have success there and play there for fifteen years already. If you play music, if you’re not from that country but you play the music that has that heritage, the American style, it’s so scary and official if you play it in front of that audience, because you think someone will stand up and say, ‘Hey, You can’t play that kind of music, you’re from Holland and that’s not your roots. You can’t do that.” Nobody, of course ever does that, but the fact that they come to you and love your music, along side people like, I don’t know, my heros are Miles Davis, David Sanborn, and Maceo Parker, it’s such a big honor. It was a surprise for us when we first went to the United States and that’s still special. Any gig I do in the U.S. is always very dear and very special to me.  

SJN: You have played at concerts with 100,000 in attendance to small clubs like the infamous Paradiso in Amsterdam. Which type of venue is most satisfying for you?

Candy: It’s a kick to play big stadiums or theatres that hold 2 or 3000 peoples, that’s great for your ego, feels good, and is good for your career because it lets people know that you are on top of things, but to be really honest, I love a club that holds 500 or 700 people, that’s always the best for me because it feels really intimate. At the moment, I’m doing the Blue Note and the Billboard Live Clubs in Japan and they are much smaller, they only hold about 2 or 300 people and I just love that because I get the feeling that the crowd is there. I can see everybody’s faces, I know what they’re thinking, I know what they’re feeling. It’s just so much more fun. Plus the sound is always so much better then you are playing a small club, it’s much more subtle and you can feel the affects of what you are playing, so I’d rather play a small club every day, but it’s good sometimes to play the big places to show people you can still attract a large audience.

SJN: You cruised in 2006, how did you like it and will you be doing that again?

Candy: Yes, I was asked for next year by Dave Koz to do his cruise. The cruise we did at the beginning of this year with Brian Culbertson was amazing. I really liked Brian, the way he puts all of these different artists together and able to mix the whole program on the boat which is very extensive with so many artists playing and so many different happenings, and still have fun himself and be fantastic and be at all of the jams. You need somebody with that type of energy is real important, otherwise it would be just another gig, and this made it a very special gig. I’m thinking the same of Dave Koz, I’ve never been on his cruise, but he has the same type of personality, so I’m really looking forward to that. What I like about the cruises, the same in a small club, you play, but you can’t get away from your audience, which is fine by me, because you can talk with everybody and they can tell you what they thought about you. It’s a much more intimate contact with the people you play for than at a festival. So yea, I had a great time and I am really looking forward to the Dave Koz Cruise.

SJN: Being a woman in a man’s profession, has that ever been an issue for you?  

Candy: Well, an issue, but a positive issue. Fortunately, I have almost never had any bad experiences. Like people saying ‘you’re a girl, you can’t play with us’. The occasional frown, and people saying who is she. But when I start playing, most of the time, people react with acceptance, like ‘wow, you play so great.’ Then it’s more of a thing like coming in and conquering the whole place. That’s what I really like! So, it’s never been a real issue. Sometimes I feel as a woman having to do business with men, that’s sometimes a little bit more difficult. I notice that once you get real business like or really heavy on them, some of them don’t like you as much anymore and it can really interfere with their egos. It’s mostly when you have to do the negative stuff, when you have to be really tough business wise, or when you have to make tough decisions in the band, you can feel that they would rather have you as the nice girl who is sweet, instead of the professional woman. But still, it’s too rare to make it an issue for me. On the other hand, I called my first album ‘Saxuality’ because I think that it is an asset. There aren’t many women playing music yet, so I use it to get the attention I need to forward my career, and so far it has really worked. The great thing about the saxophone is if you don’t play it well people notice immediately. It is a terrible sound when you are an amateur on the saxophone. No pin-up girl or model can have a career playing the saxophone without being really good at it. In vocal music that’s sometimes different. You can do so much in the studio to perfect those vocals that sometimes people who don’t deserve the recognition get it. But I’m not really that strict with all of that. If I like an artist and he’s not that good of a singer, I really don’t care. I can like the concept, or I can like the personality of the person.

SJN: On a personal note, we understand that you are dating your keyboard player, Thomas Bank. Please tell us a bit about your relationship with him?

Candy: We are still dating, but he has asked me to marry him. We have been together 13 years and for me that’s good enough. It’s not something that I would advise other musicians normally because a lot of people don’t have the character to go so well together like we do or have so much restraint to not have fights in front of the whole band. We happen to be able to do that and to live together for 24 hours a day. We don’t have a lot of arguments, so in our case it works really, really well. It’s a gamble. It can be really tough on bands. We tried to keep it really quiet at first. My Mother is my tour manager, so it’s easier for me to go on the road because I have half of my family with me.  

SJN: And your Father, Hans, as well is a saxophone player and you frequently play with him. Do you have any siblings?  

Candy: No, I am an only child.  

SJN: Do you have any other projects planned with your father?

Candy: We might go to Japan together next year and we do a lot of gigs in Holland. That’s all we have planned for now, but anytime we can play together we always do because it is so much fun.  

SJN: We understand that you have moved to a farm in Holland. Please tell us about it?  

Candy: I grew up in the countryside and I wanted to go back because I love the fresh air. Between playing in clubs and living a night life, I wanted to go back to fresh air and a more grounded life. I really love the combination. When I travel I am in planes and buses and when I come home I see the animals again. I have two sheep, a pony, five cats, and two dogs. It makes me so happy I don’t need anything else. And also, it relaxes me much more. I used to have a house in Amsterdam, which is a really cool place, but it just didn’t relax me enough. I would just go out again and there’s no fresh air or real relaxation time. So, that’s why I really love it. For me, it’s a lot of fun, and how I was brought up. I think that this is a perfect way of living.

SJN: How do you spend time when not on road?  

Candy: Well, I still have a lot of things always on my plate. Together with my Mom I do a lot of the business side of things and I’m always playing in Holland when I’m not on tour. For instance, I have a TV series coming up where I interview my heroes, Maceo Parker, Sheila E, Van Morrison, Dave Stewart, Mavis Staples, and my Dad, Hans Dulfer. And I produced the series myself. So, there is always something to keep me busy, besides hanging out on the farm, relaxing and taking care of the animals. It’s kind of a busy life, but I enjoy it. I notice that I have become such a work-a-holic that I can’t sit still anyway, so it’s always good to have projects. I find it relaxes me more when I work along steadily, instead of taking whole weeks off and just laying around. It just depresses me, I don’t know why. For me, it’s nice to have different things going on at the same time. As long as it’s not too crazy I really enjoy it.  

SJN: Do you have any hobbies?  

Candy: I do love reading, and I can do that while waiting in airports. I love the Internet. I love shopping which I can do everywhere. Also catching up with my friends socially.  

SJN: The Dutch are known for speaking multiple languages. One of our editors would like to know how many languages you speak?  

Candy: English and Dutch of course, German pretty good, and French, not so good, but I can get away with it.  

SJN: We have one last question, who is Lily?  

Candy: (Laughs) Lily is the main character in a Dutch movie that Dave Stewart was asked to write the score for and I was invited to play on it. She’s a girl who has an inter-racial relationship with a black guy, she becomes pregnant and her whole family is against it. She runs away, has to rob a bank to get money, and her boyfriend gets shot. It ‘s a real bleak movie, and in the end she has her baby in the subway. That was the first time I met Dave and that single became one of my biggest hits. Lily has always been a good name for me! The funny thing, Lily was the second choice when my Mom was naming me when I was a baby. She called me Candy, which I like more.

SJN: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.

Candy: Thank you!


Candy at the Catalina JazzTrax 2007
Find More Photos on the Catalina JazzTrax 2007 Page

Candy's US Tour Dates
  October 5 Hyatt Regency Newport Beach, CA

Catalina JazzTrax Festival

Avalon, CA
    7 Thornton Winery Temecula, CA
    8 Boulder Theatre Boulder, CO


Thanks to the Candy Dulfer website and please find out more at

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