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1963 - 1967


bebop, jazz

Biography Misha Mengelberg / Piet Noordijk Kwartet

The Misha Mengelberg Trio, featuring bassist Jacques Schols and drummer Han Bennink, regularly works with horn players like tenor saxophonist Toon van Vliet, reedist Theo Loevendie and trumpeter Ado Broodboom. But they don't enter into a regular collaboration with any of them – until Mengelberg receives a tip about Piet ...
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Piet Noordijk   altsaxofoon
Misha Mengelberg   piano
Rob Langereis   contrabas
Han Bennink   drums

Former members

Jacques Schols   contrabas
Willem Breuker   altsaxofoon, basklarinet, tenorsaxofoon
Maarten Altena   contrabas

Mentioned in the biography of

1958   Misha Mengelberg

Biography Misha Mengelberg / Piet Noordijk Kwartet


The Misha Mengelberg Trio, featuring bassist Jacques Schols and drummer Han Bennink, regularly works with horn players like tenor saxophonist Toon van Vliet, reedist Theo Loevendie and trumpeter Ado Broodboom. But they don't enter into a regular collaboration with any of them – until Mengelberg receives a tip about Piet Noordijk. He is impressed by the altoist, who is tired of playing commercial jobs, and thus the trio becomes a quartet.


The Mengelberg Trio does a short tour with multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy and learns a lot from the American. Noordijk is also impressed with Dolphy, whom he meets as a guest with Boy's Big Band. He even appreciatively calls him 'Parker II'. At the end of the year the American bassist Gary Peacock visits the Netherlands as a member of saxophonist Albert Ayler's quartet. The VARA broadcasting company organizes a studio session for the Mengelberg/Noordijk Quartet on 4 December 1964, with Gary Peacock replacing Jacques Schols. Much later (in 1981) the recordings are released by the VARA Jazz label under the title Driekusman Total Loss, supplemented with one track of a radio recording from June 1966, with Rob Langereis on bass.


Trumpeter Ted Curson, best known for his work with Charles Mingus, decides to move to Europe for a longer period of time. He performs with the quartet a number of times, including a concert at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw on 12 February 1965. At the end of the year the quartet causes a stir at the award ceremony for the Constantijn Huygens Prijs (a major literary award) awarded to poet Lucebert, himself a great jazz enthusiast. A newspaper report states: 'The stylish council chamber in the The Hague city hall was thoroughly despoiled by the way in which the members of the quartet performed the music. The invited guests often came to see the odd gestures the pianist was making. Many were obviously annoyed by the sweating drummer who let forth raw exclamations and furiously attacked his instruments with his tongue hanging from his mouth.' (quoted by Ben Zwanink in his two-part history of the Mengelberg/Noordijk Quartet in Jazz Bulletin 64 and 65).


In March the quartet, with its new bassist Rob Langereis, makes recordings at the Amsterdam Bavohuis for an LP, to be released by the Artone label. The announcement on the album cover anticipates an event that will take place later that year: a performance at the famous Newport Jazz Festival in the US. During the afternoon show on 3 July 1966 the group makes such a good impression on both the audience and promoter George Wein, that he asks the musicians to perform again that night. When Noordijk hears that he won't receive an additional fee, he refuses. Later the altoist regrets his stubbornness: 'In retrospect this was a stupid move. You should even consider paying money for such an opportunity.' Recordings are made in Newport, but the only bit that survives is a part of a Han Bennink drum solo, and the closing announcement by the presenter. In the course of the year reedist Willem Breuker appears on the scene, sometimes subbing for Noordijk, sometimes as the quartet's second horn player. Noordijk is not happy with it; he feels the equilibrium in the quartet disappear.


Rob Langereis is hardly a Breuker fan either. Moreover Mengelberg starts introducing more and more extramusical elements into the performances: fun fair toys, soap bubbles, handfuls of dried peas, and even fireworks. For both Noordijk ('A bit of fun is okay, but it just got worse and worse.') and Langereis this is the limit. Early 1967 they leave, 'with doors banging', according to historian Ben Zwanink. Maarten van Regteren Altena comes in as Langereis's replacement, thus making for a half new Misha Mengelberg Quartet, on the eve of what is to become the Instant Composers Pool.

1975 - 1978

In spite of all the emotions with which the quartet burst apart eight years before, Mengelberg, Noordijk and Bennink are available for a reunion concert at the Bimhuis on 15 February 1975. The bassist on this occasion is Ruud Jacobs, who occasionally subbed in the group in the sixties. On 1 May 1978, as a climax to a private concert organized by critic Bert Vuijsje at the Bimhuis, there is a new reunion of the quartet, with the Amsterdam based American Wilbur Little on bass.


The American saxophonist John Zorn is a great admirer of the quartet's music. During the October Meeting, in which he participates at the invitation of the Bimhuis's artistic director Huub van Riel, he wants to perform this music. With pianist Guus Janssen, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Martin van Duynhoven he does so under the title of Total Loss. The NOS radio makes recordings, and three compositions (Number One – Zorn's title for To John Hodjazz –, G-Blues and Broezimann) make it into the compilation CD October Meeting 1.


At the invitation of impresario Hanny Kracht the original line-up (i.e. with Jacques Schols on bass) reconvenes for a concert at the Beverwijk jazzclub at the Berlingh College, on 23 February 1991. There is no time to rehearse, so the repertoire consists of old favorites and standards. Mengelberg announces the concert in his own, inimitable way: 'Ages ago, 87 years to be precise, the four of us had a musical group. Tonight we're going to see whether we're still alive. We will play some golden oldies that are not completely worn out. Interference on your part won't be necessary.' (quoted in Herman te Loo's review of the concert for the IJmuider Courant). This time it is not a one-off, for the quartet also plays at the Bimhuis, on the occasion of radio man Michiel de Ruyter's 65th birthday. In the summer they perform at the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague.


On the occasion of Piet Noordijk's 75th birthday, which is celebrated on 25 May 2007 at the Bimhuis, the quartet appears as one of the groups intended to paint a musical portrait of the saxophonist. Recordings are released on the CD Jubilee Concert by the Jazz 'N Pulz label.


In March 2011 Muziek Centrum Nederland releases the CD Journey, containing the Amsterdam Concertgebouw concert from 7 April 1966. Trumpet player joins the quartet on two of his own compositions. On 8 October Noordijk dies, aged 79.

Discography Misha Mengelberg / Piet Noordijk Kwartet

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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