Breaking New Ground in the Vanguard of 21st Century Jazz

While making intriguing recordings with his eBraam/Wurli Trio and Hybrid 10tet, pianist/composer/arranger Michiel Braam continued to lead his longstanding Bik Bent Braam until drawing the curtain on the acclaimed big band in early 2012. The spirit of Bik Bent Braam can still be heard, however, in Lucebert, an ambitious 2013 release by Flex Bent Braam, here a septet (the lineup will change for future projects) featuring Bik Bent Braam members as well as newcomers. True to form, Braam and company explore freely and swing madly through a set of meta-jazz with more conceptual angles than an Escher staircase. The album is inspired by Dutch painter, poet, and jazz lover Lucebert, who, as the liner notes relate, once provided literary commentary via a telegram comprising only a list of jazz standards. Braam penned new arrangements for those standards, which alternate with eight of his original compositions across the album's 16-track, nearly 80-minute sprawl.

 

Flex Bent Braam take Mingus' "Better Git It in Your Soul" in five, with drummer Joost Lijbaart emphasizing the odd meter; the throwback mix places him realistically in the sound field vis-à-vis the other bandmembers, providing a classic '50s/'60s balance. And Wolter Wierbos' growling, testifying, plunger-muted trombone more than matches the original's raucous gospel spirit. Elsewhere, Braam approaches the standards with everything from a fairly straight read to an inspired mash-up to a radical revision. In Monk's "Straight, No Chaser," baritone saxophonist Bart van der Putten is seemingly the only musician maintaining a tenuous relationship with the melody as Lijbaart clanks and the other bandmembers attack their instruments in a pounding, irregular unison pulse. The ensemble theme to Miles' modal landmark "So What" serves as a structurally skewed introduction to the reharmonized Henry Sullivan chestnut "I May Be Wrong" -- with van der Putten venturing far afield from where the comparably restrained Gerry Mulligan took the tune. A fragmented melody line in Tadd Dameron's "Hot House" creates a sort of layered staccato call and response for horns and reeds wholly unlike the famous Dizzy and Bird version, while pumped-up intensity is the most significant change brought to George Russell's "The Stratus Seekers."

 

The standards contextualize Braam's originals (inspired by Lucebert Japanese epigrams), which seemingly marry Russell's "tonal organization" to Mingus' earthy modernity and the anything-goes spirit of Dutch jazz. "Spijt -- Rue" features Tony Overwater's rich arco bass in a classicist brass and winds arrangement; "Drift -- Urge" finds Braam's fingers racing across the keys in post-Cecil Taylor abandon against the bandmembers' backdrop of bursts, smears, and cacophony; the pianist comps magnificently beneath killer solo features for trumpeter Angelo Verploegen and alto saxophonist Bart van der Putten on the grooving highlight "Zorg -- Care." The comparatively spare textures and walking tempo of closer "Herfst -- Fall" provide a perfect atmospherically cool finale. There's no better place than Lucebert to hear Michiel Braam building on tradition and breaking new ground in the vanguard of 21st century jazz.

Dave Lynch, All Music Guide

Extended Lucebert Analysis

The new group of Dutch pianist Michiel Braam, the 8-piece Flex Bent Braam, is a scaled-down continuation of Braam's 13-piece Bik Bent Braam, one of Braam's main projects in the last twenty five years, a group that evolved from traditional big band to a flexible improvising unit, but it is also an attempt to challenge his skills as a composer, bandleader and musical thinker. The line-up of the new band is supposed to change on every new project, combining such experienced musicians from the vibrant Dutch scene as trombonist Wolter Wierbos and trumpeter Angelo Verploegen with young, new talents from different backgrounds such as the young German baritone saxophonist Oleg Hollman.

 

Both bands feature musicians who are well-versed with the history of jazz but do not bind themselves to any conventional interpretations of its legacy. Flex Bent Braam focuses more on iconic standards that shaped jazz as we know it today, standards that were written by Cole Porter, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Tadd Dameron, Charles Mingus and even a challenging composition of George Russell. These standards were picked because they were mentioned in a telegram from 1965 by Dutch CoBrA painter and poet Lucebert (1924-1994), a jazz lover, who commenting on the position of Dutch literary movement (De Vijftigers, who were influenced by CoBrA artists who stressed complete freedom from form). Lucebert inspired Braam to offer fresh arrangements to these standards and to tie them together with original compositions based on Japanese epigrams that Lucebert wrote. Lucebert is known for his line: "alles van waarde is weerloos" (all things of value are defenseless) from the poem "De zeer oude zingt" (the very old sings), now written on the wall of an insurance company building in Rotterdam. Accordingly Braam's arrangements of the seminal standards emphasize its passionate and playful spirit as well as its strong, melodic themes as popular songs, played in ballrooms, and often before dancing audiences. These arrangements are often faithful to the nuances of the conventional performances of the standards. But the bridging original pieces offer another perspective on jazz history, less reverent and more inclusive. Jazz as an open-ended concept, an artistic movement that constantly converses with other artistic movements, inspired and inspires, and enriches continuously its myriad musical references.

 

Lucebert suggests a wild and unwinding journey in the history of jazz and the history of music in the 20th century. There are echoes of early minimalism in "Spijt—Rue" that correspond beautifully with the irregular repetitiveness of the rhythmic core of Monk's "Straight, No Chaser," and this irreverent, free spirit climaxes in the following intense, screaming improvisation of "Drift—Urge." Braam plays with Miles Davis' modal "So What," leaving only the essence of the theme, few, brief notes that say all by now, and wraps it with a much more old-time arrangement of the standard "I May Be Wrong" that Davis used play in the Forties. The delicate arrangement of Monk's "Let's Cool One" highlights its swinging core and orchestral possibilities. Braam closes the 80-minute arresting program with an intense and wild abstraction of Russell's "The stratus Seekers" coupled with a sweet, rhythmic piece "Herfst—Fall."

Eyal Hareuven, All About Jazz

A Quick Look

A fine album that I'm especially glad to review: because it's a fine album, of course, but also because the music here is surprisingly accessible - which obviously can't hurt, right?

 

It's a "jazz album", by the way, featuring a mid-sized line-up. It presents standards and original compositions in equal number. This repertory could be filed under "Pre-Free", meaning compositions that are melodically adventurous and harmonically sophisticated, performed with a rich sound palette. The first thing that came to my mind as a point of reference were those Anthony Braxton LPs I usually file under the umbrella name "In The Tradition", but the quartet featuring just piano and rhythm - Braxton's line-up of choice for that kind of situation - is definitely not the best when it comes to those "Ellington" colours that a larger line-up can offer. Sometimes, while listening to this album, I was reminded of The Microscopic Septet, an ensemble that can read past pages in jazz very well while at the same time being quite aware of what came later. While the exuberance and vivaciousness appearing here and there on this album reminded me a bit of Chris McGregor's Brotherhood Of Breath.

 

The names of those who wrote the standards covered here - Charles Mingus, Dizzy Gillespie, Errol Garner, Cole Porter, Einar Aaron Swan, Thelonious Monk, Henry Sullivan, Miles Davis, Tadd Dameron, George Russell - are all very illustrious indeed, and so obviously well-known to those who have the whole history of jazz down cold. What about those - like me - who last listened to Errol Garner's Misty when in short pants, and who have only a passing familiarity with the work of Tadd Dameron? We'll have to go by feel, I'm afraid. With the usual doubts: I think that the end of Roes - Whirl quotes something familiar, I wonder if it's true... On the other hand, I'm certain that Rijp - Rime, an original composition, quotes the theme off Thelonious Monk's Criss Cross, unacknowledged.

 

The performers: Michiel Braam, piano; Angelo Verploegen, trumpet; Wolter Wierbos, trombone; Bart van der Putten, alto sax; Oleg Hollmann, baritone sax; Tony Overwater, double bass; Joost Lijbaart, drums.

 

I'm a bit ashamed to confess that the only performer whose work I know quite well is Wierbos, whom I first listened to about thirty years ago as a member of Maarten Altena's quartet. The leader is Michiel Braam, who arranged the pieces and composed the eight originals. With the only exception of a work for mid-sized line-up which I listened to not too long ago, and didn't seem to like very much, this is the first time I listen to Michiel Braam, the piano player - readers being of course aware of those very favourable reviews I wrote of Braam's works under the name Wurli Trio and eBraam, where he plays electronic keyboards.

 

The album's liner notes, quite useful in this case, declare that Flex Bent Braam is a new, "flexible", line-up. The album gets its name from Dutch CoBrA painter and poet Lucebert (a Web search told me there was a lot I didn't know). A pertinent anecdote is that "In 1965 Lucebert, a jazz lover, commented on the Dutch literary Fifties Movement by sending a telegram consisting of a list of jazz standards". (...) "Michiel Braam made new arrangements of these standards, and composed 8 new pieces based on the 'Japanese Epigrams', written in the fifties by Lucebert".

 

The album features fine recorded sound, with good studio work by Paul Pouwer. The whole sounding (purposefully, I'm sure) as quite "vintage": everything is clear, but just like music listened to live in concert, main parts always coming to the fore. The changing sound level of the instruments - check the double bass - reveals a mixing work done with a "compositional" logic. (In the stereo spread, trumpet and trombone are placed to the right, alto and baritone to the left; piano, double bass, and drums, all vary.) There's a lot of communication among the players - quite laudable, this, since I suppose they didn't have a long time to get accustomed to one another. The arrangements show a good degree of inventiveness, and never sound stiff.

 

Let's have a quick look at those pieces (but the real fun is in the listening!).

Better Git It In Your Soul - Charles Mingus. An exuberant start. Very fine trombone solo, with good backing by piano and rhythm. There's a vivacity that reminded me of Chris McGregor's Brotherhood Of Breath - just check the work of the winds in the closing section of the piece.

Rijp - Rime. Drums, double bass, piano - it's Criss Cross! There are short solos by trombone, alto, baritone, quite swingin', then the trumpet, piano traveling parallel.

Dizzy Atmosphere - Dizzy Gillespie - and Misty - Errol Garner. Vivacious, joyful, the trumpet to the fore, with appropriate wind counterpoint. Fine solo episode by baritone, then it's back to the theme, for trumpet.

Roes - Whirl. One of the best tracks here. It starts slowly, with unison for piano and double bass, then winds explode. There's an alto solo which starts tense and slow, then growing in intensity, the winds joining, with a Gospel-like, "preaching" tone. Baritone solo with a "rarefied" backing, quite "bluesy". Theme for baritone, then "tutti".

Get Out Of Town - Cole Porter - and When Your Lover Has Gone - Einar Aaron Swan. Mutes, brushes, for a "cool" mood, an "Ellingtonian" treatment. The alto plays a solo, with fine piano backing. One can almost hear the clarinets.

Spijt - Rue. Reeds blowing, slow intro. The double bass played arco has a long, melodic, episode, almost a "Blues Tango". Excellent double bass performance. Then, an Intermezzo. A snare drum - like a funeral? - takes us to a "Dirge"-like mood. A fine arranging touch, a lonely piano note, which ends the piece.

Straight, No Chaser - Thelonious Monk. There's an annoying cymbal, sounding almost like an anvil. Theme for baritone, with fine counterpoint by the whole ensemble. There's a solo that sounds quite "modern", a sharp cut, then...

Drift - Urge. A piano that sounds very "Taylor-like" is in the background, a rhythmic pulse, winds. A swingin' wind section is paired with a modern-sounding piano - quite incongruous! Fine double bass solo, dark piano arpeggios, then a rarefied close.

I May Be Wrong - Henry Sullivan - and So What - Miles Davis. Winds, a piano trio, a baritone solo which definitely reminded me of some rhythmic moves by Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet. A piano solo, theme. A track that really sounds quite elegant.

Oord - Place. It blooms, then there's a trombone solo, with counterpoint. A fast piano solo - maybe reminiscing of mid-'60s Herbie Hancock on Blue Note? But it's the whole track - trumpet solo, fast trombone, drum solo, double bass - which reminded me of that era.

Let's Cool One - Thelonious Monk. A more swingin' version than the arrangement of the other Monk piece featured here. Joyous theme, then the double bass plays a thematic solo, with the snare drum played brushes, and the piano "comping". Ensemble, and a performance quite rich with inventiveness.

Zorg - Care. A "cool" start, trumpet with mute, trombone, alto sax, baritone. There's a fine theme, quite Mingus-like. Trombone solo, then it's an alto solo plus rhythms which reminded me of the mood of The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady. Piano arpeggios. A quite "knotty"-sounding swing theme.

Hot House - Tadd Dameron. Theme, a fine pounding piano solo, theme. With a pinch of Microscopic Septet.

Plek - Spot. A "hushed" theme on a pedal by piano and rhythm. The piece gets progressively more lively, with a touch of Rhumba. Baritone and trumpet come to the fore, a "Latin" theme. There's a vivacious solo by trombone and piano. In closing, interlocking winds. I'd call this track "cerebral swing".

The Stratus Seekers - George Russell. Very fast, with a fast double bass, a shrilly theme, unison, piano, trumpet and trombone. A very fast alto sax solo.

Herfst - Fall. A perfect album close, and one of my favourite pieces here. A swingin' start, quite cool and slow, fine rhythm section, then a theme appears sounding halfway between Mingus and The Art Ensemble Of Chicago - it reminded me a lot of the AEOC piece titled Charlie M. A cool alto sax solo, a trombone solo, winds bloom. There's a false ending. A strange-sounding piano appears, almost sounding like a sample - with effects? Enter the winds, it's Mingus time again, the cymbal signals the end, then the piano "turns off" the piece, with fine use of the pedal, playing high on the keyboard.

Beppe Colli, Clouds and Clocks

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Tweet February 13, 2017: Take five to hear and watch this Take Five. https://t.co/4Lh8EQM86p

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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