For Dutch pianist Michiel Braam jazz is part of a broader musical platform that allows (him) to expound upon extramusical concerns. The record is a success at articulating its appointed vision. Braam's biggish band Bik Bent Braam uses a combination of skeletal composition and structured improvisation to posit a thrillingly optimistic vision of democracy in action. His tunes and set lists are merely suggestions: each member of the band can, by signalling one from a set of prearranged cues, call a new piece or recommend a different approach at any time. Since the other members might or might not take the signaller up on their suggestion, you never know how a song might turn out. The instability of Bik Bent Braam's approach is potentially messy and this, along with their readiness to draw on anything from Cotton Club antics to freely improvised chatter, leads to surprises and some uneasy listening. But they embrace unpredictability with a spirit of infectious fun, and leaven their chaos with a heaping measure of discipline, which insulates the music from impulsive acts of sabotage. With players like trombonist Wolter Wierbos and saxophonist Frank Gratkowski on board, you can be sure there'll be some bracing solos; what's impressive is the way that ensemble's commitment to collective coherence makes a potential trainwreck like “Michaelx' – with its jump cuts from subterranean reed tangles to mad swinging to near-rock rollick – seem elegant.

Bill Meyer, Downbeat

A Big Band with an Unmistakable Dutch Accent

Pianist Michiel Braam runs a big band with an unmistakable Dutch accent, as its mock-phonetic bandname suggests. The music's a galloping mix of swing and Monk and neoclassicism and complete insanity, liberally seasoned with a spry sense of humour, yet somehow it sounds completely unlike the venerable (and similarly-inclined) ICP and Breuker ensembles. Like Misha Mengelberg, Braam is constitutionally averse to "leading" the band in any usual sense of the word, but he's too sunny a character to go in for Misha's stubborn perversity. Instead, he's developed a genial musical philosophy – "system", if you like, though that sounds starchy – which he calls "bonsai". Tunes are assigned to each member of the 13-piece band (to call whenever they like – even in the middle of another piece!) and there's also a large menu of miscellaneous cues to pick from. In this way, everyone gets to be a conductor and instant composer/arranger. There are parallels to Braxton's collages and Zorn's game pieces, but BBB doesn't sound like them either: best to think of bonsai as the logical conclusion of Shelly Manne's dictum that a jazz musician is someone who "never plays the same thing once".


Extremen catches the bik bent in typically rumbustious and unpredictable form, in a concert at Amsterdam's Bimhuis. Pieces like "Michaelx" and "Erix" make conventional swing sound like you've never heard it before, reinventing it from chorus to chorus, and Braam's compositional ingenuity is evident in pieces like "Frankx", in which, as he remarks in the liners, "something like 10 different metres are played simultaneously." The players seem to take the CD's title to heart with some genuinely ferocious playing: saxophonist-clarinettist Frank Gratkowski is in particularly fiery form – listen to him tear dementedly through the south-of-the-border fantasia "Franxs" in the company of trumpeter Angelo Verploegen – and Wilbert De Joode is as always a dab hand at drawing forth elegent grotesques from his bass, taking a completely off-the-wall solo on "Wilx" that sets it alternately squealing and feebly muttering. My favourite moment, though, is saxophonist Bart van der Putten's feature,"Puttex": on the surface, the piece is a conventionally lush, emotive ballad, but the band turns it inside out, until the atmosphere becomes oppressively thick and dangerous. And though Braam might be diffident about the limelight ("apart from the fact that I make the announcements you can hardly tell I am the band leader at all"), his stamp is all over the music, not least his ability to suggest the champagne sparkle of 1930s pianists like Teddy Wilson even when he's on a rampage at the keyboard. It's a pity that Braam has never done an Anthony Braxton and put out a box set of Bik Bent Braam's performances: it'd be fascinating to hear how this most mercurial of bands refashions the material over a series of concerts.

Nate Dorward, Paris Translantic

A Memorable Set

Another memorable set came from one of Holland's finest ensembles, Bik Bent Braam's big band, which presented a set that deservedly had the audience on their feet demanding more. Their range, by contemporary standards, is remarkable, signifying on every era of jazz without condescension or incongruity. Traditional big band fare of antiphonal riffs dissolved into sandstorms of amplified huffs and puffs through their instruments, then, as if guided by some unseen hand, a powerful blues episode rose up and climaxed in a spectacular cascade of splintered motifs. Through it all, the inscrutable figure of Braam sat at the piano, immaculately groomed and a study in nonchalance. His most extravagant gesture during the whole performance was to sip a mouthful of water from a plastic bottle. With moments of Willem Breuker-inspired humour it was wonderful theatre. The late Spike Milligan, a devoted jazz fan and arch humorist, would have loved it.

Stuart Nicholson, Jazz.Com

Welcome to the website of Dutch pianist / composer / band leader Michiel Braam. You can find information about his groups and projects, listen to music and buy CDs in the shop. If you are interested in being informed a few times a year you can subscribe to our News Letters.

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Tweet December 13, 2018:

New Album Penguins Too Out Now!

January 2018, a new album, "Crime", by Penguins Too was released. The duo formerly known as "Two Penguins In The Desert" was founded in 1987 to play at Frank's and Michiel's finals at the conservatory, more specifically to play the Lennie Tristano tune "Wow". The cooperation felt very comfortable and the duo continued to play for 16 years, specializing in cool jazz and the "hotter" bebop tunes, resulting in its first album "Jazzs". After a sabbatical between 2003 and 2017, the duo currently focusses on music written for or associated with crime films and television series, such as the twelve tone music from the 1974 movie "The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three", Ennio Morricone's music from the television series "La Piovra", the main title of "Narcos", Duke Ellington's "Anatomy of a Murder". All these pieces, plus a Chopin prelude, a Misha tune and several duo improvisations will be issued as a suite. Visit our shop page to hear samples of the mentioned tracks.

The Curaçao Experience Released!

October 13th Nos Otrobanda's first album, The Curaçao Experience, arrived. 18 tunes were recorded at ACEC Apeldoorn, where we could, thanks to the friendly cooperation of orkest de ereprijs, use a fine recording space for three days. The album is a typical DIY product; we recorded the music ourselves with some advice from Rein Sprong, we did the art work on our own, using a band photo and beautiful macro picture as front image by Marjan Smejsters and some final advice from Pascale Companjen and were along the process of learning the tunes helped in several ways by Joop Halman and the Palm Music Foundation. Joop has also written the liner notes, which you can find below.

We are yet to plan the release concerts, but one of them is already set: December 18 we will play the Uterelease Concert and present the album in a concert at the very same place where it was recorded. We would be glad to welcome you! Free entrance!


Check out the Nos Otrobanda pages for more info and samples of the music.


The Liner Notes


Otrobanda: the cradle of the Curaçaoan waltz, danza, mazurka and tumba.


It is in colorful Otrobanda where elements of European, African, Caribbean and Latin American cultures influenced each other and where Curaçao’s music culture emerged in the mid-19th century. Since then It manifested itself lively in the streets and squares and in the houses in Otrobanda. A home party in Otrobanda was unimaginable without the playing of music and dancing. 


Jan Gerard (Gerry) Palm (1831-1906) is generally considered the father of the Curaçaoan waltzes, mazurkas, danzas and tumbas. He is also the patriarch of the musical Palm dynasty which includes composers such as Rudolf Palm (1880-1950), Jacobo Palm (1887-1982), Toni Palm (1885-1962), Albert Palm (1903-1958) and Edgar Palm (1905-1998).  All the members of this musical family were born and lived in Otrobanda.


By his piano performances and the recording of numerous LPs and CDs, maestro Edgar Palm succeeded in keeping the rich musical heritage of his family alive. Two of Edgar Palm’s albums, ‘Otrobanda’ and ‘Music of the Netherlands Antilles’, have inspired jazz pianist Michiel Braam to start to work on a new musical journey. He transcribed all the tunes of both albums and  formed with Antillean bassist Aty de Windt and percussionist André Groen their trio ‘Nos Otrobanda’. On this journey, Michiel also discovered something special that he has in common with Edgar Palm: although with a time span difference of some decades, he and Edgar Palm had the same music teacher, Rudi Feenstra.


Nos Otrobanda succeeded in creating an authentic, vivid and catchy performance of Curaçao’s music. This CD may be considered as a most welcome and creative addition to the variety of interpretations of Antillean music.


Joop Halman

Chairman of the Palm Music Foundation

The Aye performed in South Africa

THE AYE, a stage show adapted from Ana Isabel Ordonez's internationally acclaimed book, THE EXTRAORDINARY LOVE STORY OF AYE AYE AND FEDOR, was performed to celebrate the 85th birthday of Nobel Peace Laureate Monseigneur Archbishop Desmond Tutu as a part of the Sixth Annual Desmond TutuInternational Peace Conference in Cape Town on 7 October.


THE AYE is a dance theatre extravaganza that depicts a beautiful love story between two endangered animals: Aye Aye, a lemur, Fedor, and a white lion. Each defines the term "opposites attract" in a fantastic universe called the Musical Forest. While Aye Aye was free to run wild and enjoy the forest, Fedor was stuck in a zoo. The two meet while he is in captivity. They strike up a friendship that helps them both make some important discoveries and launches them on a journey to places they never thought they would go. Inspired by her love for Fedor, Aye Aye helps the animals at the zoo, who have had a difficult time in captivity, to escape and reunite in the Magical Forest where they are finally free, allowed to celebrate who they are. A happy ending is in store for everyone, thanks to the courage and quick thinking of Aye Aye and Fedor. Aye Aye and Fedor's journey is a great example of friendship and cooperation between friends who on the surface seem to be very different from one another, but who have similar goals and a desire to share their lives together.


The world premiere of the dance theatre adaptation in South Africa will feature a fantastic set, a jazz-rock score by Michiel Braam, inspired choreography by Sifiso Kweyama and mischievous masks handmade in South Africa by La Carla Masks. The magical show will bring together a sparkling fusion of music (in a definitive recording by eBraam which includes drummer Dirk-Peter Kölsch, guitarists Pieter Douma and Jörg Lehnardt and harpist Ulrike von Meier), dance (by Jazzart Dance Theatre) and amusing narration (by New York based singer Dean Bowman). THE AYE was performed by Jazzart Dance Theater company dancers Adam Malebo and Tracey September, joined by Abdul-Aaghier Isaacs, Amber Jodie Andrews, Darion Adams, Gabriella Dirkse, Ilze Williams, Keenun Wales, Luyanda Mdingi, Lynette du Plessis, Mandisi Ngcwayi, Paxton-Alice Simons, Siphosethu Gojo, Tanzley Jooste, Thandiwe Mqokeli and Vuyolwethu Nompetsheni.


An album with both music and Dean Bowman's narration as well as an album with longer instrumental version of the composition only are available at Amazon.

Click here for The Music & Narration version or here for The Music only version.

New Solo Album Released!

Last December I played a solo set at Opus Jazz Club in Budapest, which was organized by Budapest Music Center. The set was recorded and now issued under the title "Gloomy Sunday" on the BMC label.


For me, doing a solo concert doesn’t involve any preparation in terms of a set-list or anything concrete about pieces I will be playing. I simply start and see where everything leads me to.

At this concert, I made an exception to this custom. Not only would it be nice to play one of the many famous Hungarian compositions in Budapest, but also the very night of the concert, students of the ArtEZ University of the Arts, where I am head of Jazz & Pop, organized a concert in remembrance of our student Robin Cornelissen who had died exactly two years earlier. I had played ”Gloomy Sunday” at his funeral and playing it in the Opus Jazz Club connected me to Robin, as well as to the great Hungarian music tradition.


Check out the webshop for details, samples of all 10 tunes inclusive.


Recordings Nos Otrobanda July 2016

Beginning July Nos Otrobanda will, one and a half year after its premiere concert and hopefully 20 degrees warmer, finally make real recordings of 21 songs the trio is playing at the moment. We'll make an album with those recordings. The album will be including (in alphabetical order) Ana Maria/Antillana, Azucena/Otrobanda, Canto De Los Angeles, Casino, Cocktail De Sjon Jan, Dandie, Eliza, Erani ta Malu, Ina, La India, La Inspiración, Lo Bello, Manina, Maria Cecilia, Mosaico de Tumbas 2, Ramillete Venezolano, Sabrosita, Sorpresa Inesperada, Teleraña, Tumba Cocktail y Salza 1 and Winy.

New album by Olanda In Due out now.

We issued the first album of our duo Olanda In Due, with Bo Van de Graaf on saxes. Including tunes by musicians such as Guiseppe Verdi, Nico Haak and Billie Holiday. Recorded live at the NovaraJazz Festival this summer.

Click here to find out how to order and hear samples of the tunes.

First performance Nos Otrobanda!

February 5, 2015, at BReBL, Nijmegen, this trio played its first concert. You can check out several tunes of that concert on SoundCloud.


In this brand-new band I play together with bass player Aty de Windt and latin percussionist André Groen. With Nos Otrobanda we concentrate on Antillean music, especially waltzes. I hear this music for like 26 years now and all of those years I wanted to do something with the music myself. It took me this long to grasp the nettle. I transcribed the music from 2 elpees of Curaçao pianist Edgar Palm and we are also very grateful to Joop Halman of the Palm Music Foundation for his contributions. I find especially the constant danceable friction between binary and ternary rhythm in this music very intriguing.This year (Bas Andriessen filmed our somewhat ill at ease first rehearsal) we worked on the material, in which process Aty not only provided a relaxed swing in his role as our bass player but also learned us about the essentials of Antillean music. It has been quite some time ago since I played Latin-American music. We must go way back to 1997, when I played, after being a member of that band for eight years, my last gig with the European Danzón Orchestra. It is truly delicious to play Latin music again, this time with Nos Otrobanda.

New Website Online

Welcome to our new website! About 10 times faster now, and working not only on competers but also on tablets, telephones and so forth. Info, reviews, concert dates, photos, videos, music samples, a shop, news items and how to contact us is all included. Thanks to Sjors of &Braam Super Sexy Web Development!

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