Gloomy Sunday

Highlight of all, or at least the most urgent part, is the album's title song. The classic from the thirties, applicable Hungarian, has been performed in numerous versions, remarkably often by prominent female artists such as Billie Holiday, Lydia Lunch, Iva Bittová and Diamanda Galas. Braam placed the song premeditatedly in his set (which he normally does not do), as a tribute to a deceased student. It became a charged but stunning and serene moment, dissolving in the whole of the concert. To summarize it for those who tend to quickly jump to the last paragraph of a review: 'Gloomy Sunday' is a damn good album on the seesaw between composition and improvisation, with respect for the past and a personality which continuously sprays from the speakers.

Guy Peters, Draaiomjeoren

The Dutch Earl Hines

On Gloomy Sunday – a continuous solo set recorded in Budapest – pianist Michiel Braam comes off as a sort of Dutch Earl Hines. That is not a comparison to make lightly, and we won’t push it too far. But like Hines, he’s always stood a little apart from his peers. When Hines’s buddies moved on to New York in the late 1920s, Earl remained based in Chicago, under the mob’s thumb. That’d be one explanation for why, even though he played a mean stride bass, Hines never sounded like one of the Harlem masters. There was always something more wayward in his timing and keyboard textures: he could step out of the stylistic frame and look back at it – like a few Dutch players to come.

Braam, who comes from the Netherlands’ southeast and runs the jazz and commercial music program at Arnhem, was never an Amsterdam cat. It might even be a point of pride. Not that he’s a reverse snob; he employed a few Amsterdam regulars in his now defunct orchestra Bik Bent Braam, and has had an occasional trio with Wilbert de Joode and Michael Vatcher for 25 years. Braam came up hearing distinguished countrymen like Misha Mengelberg and Guus Janssen, but Michiel’s whimsy and percussive rattle aren’t quite the same as those of his respective keyboard forbears; he can break away from the mold, the way Hines’s left hand would suddenly strike out. Like Earl he likes to break down the time and then pick it back up. And he loves a low-end racket. The opening “Opus Espresso” is all power bass runs and grumbles; “Opus Walk” has a Tristanic walking bassline under chordal cross-rhythms.

The Hines kinship is most obvious on Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” and Eubie Blake’s “Memories of You,” in the ways Braam will seem to misplace the form altogether, sprinkling upper-register confetti around, only to jump back in, right on time. On the former tune, he may use one finger of his right hand to poke you in the ear, à la Mengelberg. Many pianists play chromatic connecting runs between phrases, but rarely in a halting staccato, as Michiel does here. If you can’t always tell if he’s kidding or playing it straight, that may be because he manages to sound like he’s doing both at once. That’s about as Dutch as it gets – though piano profs like Eubie also knew how to dazzle while joking around. But Braam doesn’t sound like his sometimes serious, sometimes comic lowland elders; he doesn’t have Guus Janssen’s diamond attack, and Misha doesn’t have Michiel’s formidable chops.

Braam can jackhammer the middle range with alternating hands, playing tight clustery chords that convey harmonic direction. And on “Q1,” a riffy blues with the high drama of John Lee Hooker, there’s some of what Louis Andriessen once called Dutch wooden-shoe timing, a deliberate clunkiness, alongside vintage keyboard figurations echoing South Side Chicago and New Orleans R&B. “Pit Stop Ball Ad” roams far in seven minutes, but the melody at its core is redolent of a ‘20s Ellington funeral march.

Michiel Braam is a trickster, and one of his tricks is to show real feeling when you don’t expect it. A kind of un-Amsterdam sentimentality may intrude. His performing the so-called Hungarian Suicide Song “Gloomy Sunday” straight suggests as much. In fairness, this music was recorded in Budapest – and he dedicates the tune to a late student, for whom Braam played it at his funeral. There is a whiff of Hungarian zither in some repeated notes and swirly chords, and another plunge into the lower register, this one more ominous than irrepressible.

He also plays a Chopinesque mazurka by the Antillean composer Jan Gerard Palm, and ends with the slightly cracked “Cuba, North Rhine Westphalia,” where he flirts with habanera and clavé rhythms without pulling them all the way out of the dancefloor. Then he brings it up short without warning, leaving us wanting more.

Kevin Whitehead, Point of Departure

 

Dutch Treats

For a much more pointed engagement with Michiel Braam's music and his playing, one could hardly do better than Michiel vs. Braam (BBB5). For this solo recital, Braam picked out nine charts he'd written for the large ensemble-only one piece from Growing Pains shows up here-and, in a very welcome gesture, includes the lead sheets with the CD. Left to his own devices, Braam is a frenetic, mercurial performer. He tends to focus on crunching, airborne runs in the right hand with the occasional addition of basic stride figures in the left. He prefers declarative statements delivered in a pounding staccato. If you're imagining a maniacal descendant of Art Tatum, well, that's about right. He rarely plays his own heads straight, and his distortions run from the mild (reharmonizations, altered melodies, abruptly stretched and condensed tempi) to the obliterating (see the 15-minute, bipolar fantasy based very loosely on his own "Ballet" as the prime example). Throughout the recital, Braam seesaws between a playful regard and outright impatience for the music in a way that charms and jars in equal measure.

Aaron Steinberg, Jazz Times

Braam Reinforces his Compositional Erudition

Michiel Braam is one of the more precociously talented composers and pianists on the Dutch scene. (...) Braam reinforces his compositional erudition on Michiel vs. Braam, a solo piano set, and airs out some monster chops in the process. Braam courteously includes lead sheets on the solo CD.

Bill Shoemaker, Point Of Departure

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.

Click 'close news' at the right-upper corner to go to the menu.

Tweet June 25, 2017: Here it is. The first of two summer specials on eBraam made by Bas Andriessen, filmed before a live studio... https://t.co/oUvlHB0efm

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!

Open News