|Jazz orchestra Bik Bent Braam occupies a unique position internationally. Composer and pianist Michael Braam started the 13 piece band in 1986 and ever since the concerts have become harder to pin down beforehand. Bik Bent Baam is now at the point where it perfoms without a playlist. "I want to play as freely with Bik Bent as with a trio", says Braam. "Decisions that I usually make while writing, over solo's, orchestration and background, are made by the musicans on the spot."
Thanks to the longstanding collaboration within the orchestra and the top notch Dutch improvisers, Braam's free approach never leads to a cacophonous anarchy but rather to a wonderfully homogenous and supple whole. Lightfootedness and overwhelming surges flow effortlessly into each other, parts of one effervescent organism.
Michiel Braam writes his material with his musicians in mind, thus getting the best out of each orchestra member. His love of instrumental boundaries is characteristic. He'll let the tuba play really high for instance and the trumpet extremely low, giving the orchestra its unique sound. According to Braam this sound really comes into its own when heard unamplified, which is why the orchestra always plays totally acoustically, even the double bass and drums.
Earlier projects include Xyz - with a composition for each letter of the alphabet, Verzoeknummers (Requests) - with each piece tailored to the wishes of a band member - and Alle Dertien Goed (13 Good Ones), featuring idiosyncratic covers ranging from Deep Purple's Child in Time to Jacques Brel's Ne Me Quitte Pas. Bik Bent Braam Goes Bonsai is the group's latest programme. The CD of that name was 'the best jazz release of 2002' according to newspaper critic Koen Schouten from De Volkskrant.
In 2004 Bik Bent Braam is once more 'bonsai-ing' in their new programme, 'Growing Pains'. This is a tested recipe for excitement and improvisation that originated with the last programme 'Bik Bent Braam Goes Bonsai'. No playlist, no bandleader, no set tempi; anyone can begin an improvisation at any time and see if the others will play along. How it will turn out is a surprise every time.
In the last programme the group 'bonsaid' with 26 pieces - two per band member. This time each person has four bonsai pieces and Michiel Braam is busy composing another two pieces per musician. He writes with the person in mind, taking into consideration their style and personality. But he has no intention of making it easy - it is well known that Braam asks the utmost from his band members. Now they have to go that extra distancet to help the bonsai tree to grow. Whether that goes hand in hand with heavy growing pains each concert will reveal.
Jan Willem van der Ham (altosax and bassoon), Bart van der Putten (altosax and clarinet), Frans Vermeerssen (tenorsax), Frank Nielander (baritonesax), Angelo Verploegen (trumpet), Eric Boeren (cornet), Hans Sparla (trombone), Joost Buis (trombone), Peter Haex (tenortuba), Patrick Votrian (basstuba), Michiel Braam (piano), Wilbert De Joode (double bass), Joop van Erven (children's drum)