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Michiel Braam


19-05-1964 - current


instrumental, jazz, jazzrock


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Michiel Braam

As a conservatory student pianist and composer Michiel Braam (Nijmegen, 19 May 1964) already starts making a name for himself as a piano virtuoso ('a piano lion’ to quote some early reviews), band leader, and idiosyncratic composer. From 1986 onwards he has been leading his Bik Bent Braam, which is ...
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componist, piano

Mentioned in the biography of

1980   Wolter Wierbos
1988   Ad Peijnenburg
1988   Frans Vermeerssen
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Biography Michiel Braam

As a conservatory student pianist and composer Michiel Braam (Nijmegen, 19 May 1964) already starts making a name for himself as a piano virtuoso ('a piano lion’ to quote some early reviews), band leader, and idiosyncratic composer. From 1986 onwards he has been leading his Bik Bent Braam, which is an improvisation collective rather than a traditional big band. He encourages his band members to contribute as much as possible to the proceedings, and the ability to do so is an important selection criterion for assembling the band, much like it was for Ellington, Mingus and Mengelberg before him. His compositions are characterized by a sense of adventure and humor, which keeps them from getting stuck in impenetrable abstraction. As a pianist he regularly performs solo and in the Trio BraamDeJoodeVatcher, which started its life in 1989.

1985 - 1986

During his studies at the Arnhem Artez Conservatory Michiel Braam starts De Fortunato's, a dance band with four horns, a rhythm section and three girl singers. It is here that he learns the art of orchestration and he can express his fondness for songs. 1986 sees the start of his Bik Bent Braam, originally with fellow students and local musicians from the Arnhem and Nijmegen area. Later they are successively replaced by nationally and internationally renowned musicians. A smaller version operates as Bentje Braam. It continues to perform in a quartet line-up until 1994, featuring trombonist-tubist Peter Haex, double bassist Ton van Erp and drummer Fred van Duynhoven.

1987 - 1989

Braam graduates from the conservatory in 1987 and forms the duo Two Penguins in the Desert, with saxophonist-violinist Frank Nielander. He receives recognition for his work in the form of the Podiumprijs (1988), a stimulation prize awarded by the SJIN (Dutch Jazz Foundation). In the same year the NOS broadcasting company commissions Michiel Braam to write a composition for the Meervaart Festival. This yields Koeien en Beesten, scored for four clarinets (Ab Baars, Michael Moore, Louis Sclavis and Theo Jörgensmann) and piano (the composer himself). A year later Braam makes his recording debut with the solo album Oeps!, which he releases himself.


The Trio BraamDeJoodeVatcher, which he started in 1989, performs at the Groningen Jazzmarathon at the invitation of the NPS broadcasting company. He presents a program with interpretations of Thelonious Monk compositions, entitled Monk Materials. Bentje Braam makes its recording debut with the CD Wat Heb Je Zelf In de Hand/Eet Smakelijk, released by BVHaast.

1991 - 1995

In addition to his ongoing work with Bik Bent Braam (which releases its debut album Howdy in 1993) and the Trio BraamDeJoodeVatcher Michiel Braam is now also an in demand sideman in saxophonist Frans Vermeerssen’s quartet (1991), drummer John Engels’s Flextet (1994-'95) and singer Peggy Larson’s band (1994-'95). In 1995 the NOS commissions the composition Getijden for the Klap op de Vuurpijl festival in Amsterdam, which he performs with a septet.

1997 - 1999

Michiel Braam is awarded the VPRO/Boy Edgar Prijs (the major Dutch jazz award) in recognition for his work as a pianist and a composer. At the award ceremony a new version of Bentje Braam performs music from Het Tweede Koelboek, inspired by Lennie Tristano and written as a commission from Birmingham Jazz. BVHaast releases a recording of the performance a year later as a double CD, combined with the Monk Materials. In the same year saxophonist Bo van de Graaf asks him to be the pianist for his Bo's Art Trio. With drummer Fred van Duynhoven the threesome performs arrangements of tunes from the 1960s children’s television series Ja Zuster, Nee Zuster. Broadcasting company VPRO releases the music on its EigenWijs label. Michiel Braam now writes a completely new book for Bik Bent Braam every year, such as Verzoeknummers (1997), Zwart Wit (1998) and Alle 13 Goed (1999).

2002 - 2004

Together with saxophonist Frans Vermeerssen Braam assembles the sextet All Ears, which makes its recording debut one year later with the double album Foamy Wife Hum/Line. Bik Bent Braam performs the program Bik Bent Braam Goes Bonsai, in which he introduces and improvisation procedure which the group will continue to use for a number of years. Each band member is given a number of pieces which may employ at will in the course of a concert. With the use of gestures all members contribute to the development of the improvisation process. The traditional set list thus becomes a thing of the past. In 2004 Braam introduces another new procedure for the Trio BraamDeJoodeVatcher: Change This Song, in which the same notes are used in different constellations, thus producing new tunes, which sound familiar, but somehow both are and are not.

2005 - 2006

To express his love for the Wurlitzer electric piano (which he once played at the Nijmegen music school where he took his first lessons), Braam starts his new Wurli Trio, featuring the bass guitarist Pieter Douma and the German drummer Dirk-Peter Kölsch. With his older Trio BraamDeJoodeVatcher, plus the Zapp String Quartet and three vocalists (Lucia Meeuwsen, Vera Westera and Sean Bergin), he performs his Nopera, an absurdist concertante musical theater piece, with a libretto in a self-concocted language (Nogniets - Nothingyet).


The Chicago Umbrella Festival invites the Trio BraamDeJoodeVatcher for a Bik Bent Braam Chicago Version, with ten local horn players. The perform a version of the program Extremen which, as the title already suggests, concerns itself with extremes in pitch, dynamics, rhythm, etcetera.


To celebrate its 20th anniversary the Trio BraamDeJoodeVatcher tours and invites a different guest at every venue they perform. Braam writes special series of compositions for these combinations, the so-called Q Book. The guests determine which pieces are to be performed. The tour is documented on the double CD Quartet, released in 2010 on Braam’s own BBB label. Later this year the album Quintet is to follow, featuring recordings from Budapest, where the trio performed with two Hungarian guests: violinist-trumpeter Ferenc Kovács and cimbalom player Miklós Lukács.


Michiel Braam was one of the guests for vocalist Greetje Bijma's 25th stage anniversary in 2008. The collaboration was such a success that a new outfit is formed in 2010, the Bijma Braam Sextet. In addition to bassist Wilbert de Joode and drummer Michael Vatcher it features horn players Wolter Wierbos (trombone) and Frank Gratkowski (reeds).

2011 - 2012

The Hybrid Tentet is Michiel Braam’s unusual combination of his own Wurli Trio, the (classical) Matangi String Quartet and three internationally renowned brass players: the American Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet) and the Germans Nils Wogram (trombone) and Carl Ludwig Hübsch (tuba). For every venue in the tour Braam writes a special composition, a characterization of the club in question.

Discography Michiel Braam

In the discography you will find all recordings that have been released listed chronologically. We restrict ourselves to the title, the type of audio, year of publication or recording, label, list of guest musicians, plus any comments on the issue.

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