has largely escaped notice in the United States, but in Holland and elsewhere in Europe he is a major figure who has made considerable waves leading the outstanding
big band for 25 years; he is an original jazz pianist who leads other noteworthy ensembles, too. Having performed with many leading European jazz improvisers,
has forged an innovative approach as a composer and arranger, and he infuses his group writing with an
marches to swing to the most modern free and avant-garde elements.
There is a remarkable attention to detail in his large-scale works that manifests itself in highly inventive, twisted melodies and complex harmonies, not to mention humor, with which he creates new ways of interpreting a venerable tradition. Given his combination of the challenging and the accessible, Braam
has appeared often on Dutch, Belgian, and German television and radio, and Bik Bent Braam
has been the subject of a television documentary. He is the recipient of major Dutch awards as well, including the Podium Prize, an award that he describes as "the most important Dutch encouragement award," and the Boy Edgar Prize, which he calls "the oldest and most important jazz award in the Netherlands."
Outside of Bik Bent Braam
's piano playing and work with smaller groups also combines a healthy respect for the past with forays ranging from modern abstraction to funk. Braam
has excelled in the quartet setting of Bentje Braam and the even more intimate setting of Trio BraamDeJoodeVatcher, the latter also featuring bassist Wilbert de Joode and drummer Michael Vatcher, and he doesn't shy away from an infectious groove with his Wurli Trio, the leader funked up on his Wurlitzer 200A electric piano with solid support from electric and semi-acoustic bassist Pieter Douma and drummer Dirk-Peter Kölsch. Braam
's sly approach to his trio repertoire was ably demonstrated in the mid-2000s with the release of Trio BraamDeJoodeVatcher's Change This Song and its companion volume by the Wurli Trio, Hosting Changes; the latter title is an anagram of the former, and in fact many of the same tunes are included in alternate arrangements on both discs, with titles that are all anagrams of Change This Song.
In 2011 a new Braam
ensemble named the Hybrid 10tet made its first recorded appearance with the release of On the Move, a disc whose compositions were intended to reflect unique aspects of various venues where the group played during a recent tour. Marking yet another direction for Braam
, the Hybrid 10tet featured the Wurli Trio's bassist Douma and drummer Kölsch, a trio of improvising horns (tuba, trombone, and cornet), and a classical string quartet. Around the time On the Move was released, Braam
announced that the Bik Bent Braam
saga would come to a close in 2012, after a quarter-century run. Braam
planned a farewell tour for early 2012, featuring a set of new composed/improvised pieces under the program title Exit
. "You could state that now it is time to take a next step," Braam
said. "To let go of yet another certainty. I have the intention to keep performing with an ensemble of this size but in a more flexible setup. The pool of musicians will change with every new program. It is a choice to add more flexibility and more openness." At the very end of 2011, Braam
also announced that the Wurli Trio would henceforth be named eBraam, reflecting his change in keyboard from the Wurlitzer 200A to a Nord Stage Ex, an instrument allowing a wider range of voicings, including not only the Wurlitzer but also the Rhodes electric piano and Hammond organ.Braam
's music in all its facets is reasonably well documented on disc, most recently on the BBB label, with earlier releases on Bvhaast. His recorded works are well worth seeking out even if somewhat difficult to find, as he has produced outstanding and unusual -- not to mention entertaining and accessible -- compositions for diverse ensembles incorporating myriad influences.