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Piet Noordijk


26-05-1932 - 08-10-2011


altsaxofoon, bebop, Boy Edgar Prijs, Edison, jazz, klarinet, sopraansaxofoon

Piet Noordijk

Piet Noordijk (Rotterdam, 26 May 1932 - Hellevoetsluis, October 8, 2011) is considered to be one of the top alto saxophonists in Europe. At the age of fifteen he is already playing in Rotterdam bars and nightclubs. In the early fifties he graduates with honors from the Rotterdam Conservatory majoring ...
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altsaxofoon, klarinet, sopraansaxofoon

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1950   Joop Korzelius
1951   Chris Dekker
1952   Frans Poptie
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Biography Piet Noordijk

Piet Noordijk (Rotterdam, 26 May 1932 - Hellevoetsluis, October 8, 2011) is considered to be one of the top alto saxophonists in Europe. At the age of fifteen he is already playing in Rotterdam bars and nightclubs. In the early fifties he graduates with honors from the Rotterdam Conservatory majoring in clarinet. But his heart is with the alto saxophone, which he teaches himself to play. With his bright, emotional and accessible way of playing he wins all possible Dutch jazz awards. For many years Noordijk is lead altoist with the Metropole Orchestra. When he retires from this post at the age of sixty he can 'finally' do what he has always wanted to do: play jazz, just for fun. His most famous quote is: 'Scheppers heb je hier niet, wel opscheppers, daar sterft het van.' ('There are not many creators here, but lots of braggers.' - the pun is untranslatable)

1944 - 1946

Noordijk himself claims his career started in the cot. As a baby he had been 'rocking to Coleman Hawkins with a diaper full of poo.' Both of his considerably older brothers play jazz records continuously. He is not in the least bit interested in school. After primary school he doesn't know what he wants to do. It is the period of the hunger winter of 1944-'45. To keep him off the streets his brother Kees gives him a clarinet. After a year and a half Piet Noordijk decides to take lessons from Huib Steendijk, who has just graduated from the conservatory. Noordijk gets his first chance to play in the Rotterdam Chamber Orchestra, which consist of unemployed veteran musicians, under the baton of Piet Ketting. At night he also plays with his brother Kees, a tenorist and accordionist, in a bar on the Rotterdam Diergaardesingel. Besides the clarinet he has now also mastered the alto saxophone. The brothers earn Hfl. 7.50 for a Saturday or Sunday night. This makes them the breadwinners for the poor Noordijk family.


When conductor Piet Ketting hears of Piet Noordijk's nightly jazz activities in nightclubs, he kicks him out of the Rotterdam Chamber Orchestra. Noordijk is then fifteen years old. His other brother Tonny, knows of another club where they can earn some money. In an interview with the Volkskrant Noordijk has this to say about it: 'I started there with my brother Tonny, who was a fantastic drummer. It was a little dive in the town of Schiedam, only frequented by Norwegian sailors who wanted to get drunk. '

1950 - 1954

Noordijk goes to the Rotterdam Conservatory, where he graduates with honors, majoring in clarinet. During the fifties he takes on any opportunity to play: with popular stars like pianist/singer Pia Beck and guitarist/singer Eddy Christiani, in all possible styles, from Dixieland to country, from tangos to bebop. He plays for dance school Meyer et Fils in Rotterdam and in all important Dutch jazzclubs. As a typical working class lad he doesn't shy away from any job. His motto: 'Of course it's nice when people listen, but it shouldn't be that everybody has to shut up because we're playing jazz now. They should listen because they like what we're playing.'

Eddy Christiani Pia Beck


Noordijk has to do eighteen months of national service at an army barracks in Ossendrecht. He also goes to Germany to play for the American troops.


Drummer Wessel Ilcken asks Piet Noordijk to play in his All Stars on the third LP of the Jazz Behind The Dikes series (reissued in 1991 as two Philips CDs). As a clarinetist he can be heard with Frans Poptie's Swing Specials and the Storktown Dixie Kids. He replaces Kees Bruijn as saxophonist in the Ger van Leeuwen Quartet, which regularly performs for the radio. In the same period he has a quintet with his brother Kees, pianist Loek Snoek, bassist Jo Haans and drummer Fons Limberti, which plays nightclubs in The Hague and Rotterdam. 'That band played anything,' Noordijk remembers. 'Tangos, in which I played the violin and Kees accordion. Jazz pieces, where our bassist Jo Haans played trumpet. In other tunes he would sing; we had a hillbilly show, which would bring down the house.'

Frans Poptie Ger van Leeuwen Wessel Ilcken

1958 - 1959

For two years running Noordijk wins the readers' poll of Rhythme magazine on alto saxophone.


On the night their father dies, Piet Noordijk and his brother Kees play in a nightclub. Piet decides to cut down his work in nightclubs. The quintet played form nine o'clock until 4 AM, with two twenty minute breaks at most. In this period Noordijk also decides to quit his drinking habit. He sees too many jazz musicians go down because of drugs and booze.


Pianist Misha Mengelberg, who is seeking a style between bop and experiment, receives a tip on an interesting altoist, Piet Noordijk. He goes to check him out at the Etoile nightclub in The Hague. Mengelberg is especially impressed with Noordijk's sense of rhythm. The altoist accepts Mengelberg's invitation to come and work with him. In the beginning he only wants to play with professional drummers, and not with a self-taught percussionist like Han Bennink, but eventually he gives in. The Misha Mengelberg/Piet Noordijk Quartet features Han Bennink on drums and Jacques Schols, Ruud Jacobs and Rob Langereis as the consecutive bassists. It becomes one of the most important combos in Dutch jazz history. Mengelberg, Noordijk and Bennink are each other's opposites, which gives the quartet its unique, exciting character, on the fault line between bop and freer improvisation. 'It was at least highly original,' the altoist reminisces. 'I called it the Golden Triangle. We played off of each other.'

Han Bennink Misha Mengelberg


Noordijk becomes the lead altoist in Boy's Big Band, pianist Boy Edgar's large jazz orchestra, which has started in December 1960. In the fall of 1964 tenorist Albert Ayler's quartet is in the Netherlands for a number of concerts and a recording session in the VARA radio studio. Gary Peacock is the quartet's bassist. The VARA broadcasting company takes the initiative to hook him up with Misha Mengelberg, Han Bennink and Piet Noordijk. On 4 December 1964 the foursome make a radio recording, which will be released twenty years later on the LP Driekusman Total Loss. Ben Zwanink has thoroughly researched the history of the quartet, and writes in Jazz Bulletin: 'Piet is a highly energetic, high-tension bop altoist, with a faultless architectural intuition for the construction of long solos. His musical stream of ideas can always be traced to its familiar bebop source, but this never leads to strings of standardized formulas. He speaks a dynamic musical language, in which he always tells his own story, and never the same way twice.'

Boy's Big Band


Piet Noordijk is awarded the Wessel Ilcken Prijs (the major Dutch jazz award at the time). The jury report quotes his impressive contributions to collaborations with prominent Americans like Gary Peacock and trumpeter Ted Curson. The jury also praises his solo performances with Boy's Big Band. The latter orchestra's concert at the Juan-les-Pins Jazz Festival earns him praise and recognition from the foreign press.


The Misha Mengelberg/Piet Noordijk Quartet receives an invitation to play at the Newport Jazz Festival, early July 1966. The Dutch press calls it a milestone, a first. This is the first time a Dutch band plays Newport, which in that year also features Stan Getz, John Coltrane, Count Basie and Duke Ellington. The band receives a government subsidy and KLM sponsors a number of tickets. The afternoon performance is such a success that Newport promoter George Wein asks the band to play again in the evening program. Noordijk refuses to play a second time without getting paid, and the deal is off. Later he calls this 'an enormous blunder'. He says that he should have played even if they had to pay the organization. In the course of time the controversy between the bop guys Noordijk and Langereis and the experimentalists Mengelberg and Bennink is on the increase. And Noordijk isn't very happy with the new band member, the musically very dominant Willem Breuker, either.

Willem Breuker


In 1967 Noordijk and Langereis quit Misha Mengelberg's group. Later Noordijk says to the Volkskrant: 'For a while I did participate in the direction jazz was taking then, but I didn't feel like continuing on this road. I had to light fireworks and things like that. Those were the days of the Vietnam protests, and they played weird music, which I wasn't in favor of. Misha and Piet, it has always been a love-hate relationship, but if we have an argument now it's always resolved within an hour.' The band reconvenes a number of times for a reunion, in 1975, 1978, 1991 and 2007 at the Amsterdam Bimhuis.

1976 - 1978

The audience either follows avant-garde jazz or pop music now. There is little interest in mainstream jazz any more. Noordijk makes a living doing studio work, and produces a series of commercial records. The repertoire for these includes songs by Gilbert O'Sullivan and Stevie Wonder. In 1978 Noordijk has a modest hit with his rendition of Lou Reed's Walk On The Wild Side. On his commercial years he has this to say to De Tijd magazine: 'I never had any regrets about it. It was not my music, and I may be a musician out of love for the art first of all, but I also have to make a living somehow.' His first commercial album, Prototype (1978), sells well. The Dureco record company therefore immediately asks Noordijk back in the studio. That's okay, says Noordijk, but I want to be backed by an orchestra - this is what he gets. 'It was a total flop, and didn't sell at all,' Noordijk tells the De Tijd interviewer. 'They made a third and fourth album, but these were never as successful as the first one.'


Noordijk becomes the regular lead altoist with the Metropole Orchestra, where he is also an in demand soloist, first under Dolf van der Linden's, later under Rogier van Otterloo's baton. For nearly his whole career as a professional musician Noordijk has played in orchestras: with the Skymasters, the Ramblers and the Metropole Orchestra. But he always keeps a quartet on the side, with pianists like Cees Slinger, Rob Madna and Rob van Bavel, with which he keeps the bop tradition alive.

Metropole Orkest Skymasters The Ramblers


In October 1980 Piet Noordijk records his first jazz album as a leader: Loverman. Together with Cees Slinger, Rob Langereis and drummer Evert Overweg he does a live radio show at Nick Vollebregt's Jazzcafé in Laren, and an album is made of the broadcast. In the liner notes for the LP Rogier van Otterloo writes: 'It's really preposterous that we had to wait for a quarter of a century for the Dutch ace on saxophone, Piet Noordijk, to make his first jazz LP. He did make jazz related records, with Misha Mengelberg, Boy Edgar, Louis van Dijk, the Metropole Orchestra, etcetera, but always as a member of the ensemble, and never as a leader.' Then follows an ode to Noordijk's passionate playing.

Rogier van Otterloo


Noordijk is the winner of the Bird Award, presented at the North Sea Jazz Festival. The jury calls him 'an alto saxophonist and clarinetist who is unrivalled in the Dutch post-war jazz.'


At the age of sixty he retires from the Metropole Orchestra. He can finally do what he has wanted to do his whole life: Play jazz just for fun.


Jan Kelder's documentary 'Piet Noordijk, 50 Jaar Sax' is released. Kelder paints an intimate portrait of Noordijk. The saxophonist tells about his coming out, among other things: 'I had feelings that seemed to be taking on a gay turn. But I didn't want to bother my parents, who were of a different generation, with it. This is why I never expressed those feelings.' It isn't until 1971, when his mother has died, that Noordijk comes out of the closet. He meets his friend Bas in 1972, and has been living with him ever since. When Kelder asks him about his musical style, Noordijk says: 'I play just like I am, emotional, really quite sensitive, sometimes even sentimental. You can call that a style, if you like, but isn't really a style, it's Piet Noordijk.'


Noordijk is made a Ridder in de Orde van de Nederlandse Leeuw (a Dutch knighthood). In the same year he celebrates his 65th birthday.


Noordijk is the only European musician to play at the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in New York.


With his quintet – Jesse van Ruller on guitar, John Engels on drums, Hein Van de Geyn on bass and Rob van Bavel on keyboards – Noordijk plays at the Cape Town North Sea Jazz Festival.

Hein Van de Geyn Jesse van Ruller John Engels Rob van Bavel


Piet Noordijk is the first jazz musician to be awarded the Blijvend Applaus Prijs (an award for Dutch performing artists). The jury report describes him as 'a versatile musician, a gentleman, a warm band leader, a devoted teacher, an ambassador for jazz, a virtuoso on the alto saxophone and a jazz cat in heart and soul.' In the same year he receives a lifetime achievement Edison (Dutch Grammy).


For the Jazz Impuls agency Noordijk does a tour of the Dutch theaters. His Boptet consists of four considerably younger musicians: Rik Mol on trumpet, Peter Beets on piano, Marius Beets on bass and Joost Patocka on drums.

Joost Patocka Marius Beets Peter Beets Rik Mol


In 2009-'10 Noordijk plays frequently in Dutch theatres with the Beets brothers and Eric Ineke. As 'advocate of Dutch bop' Noordijk is being starred in the second episode of the series Pioniers In De Polder (Pioneers In The Polder) by the television programme Netwerk. Influenced himself by Charlie Parker and others, he's now an influence himself on younger Dutch musicians like Benjamin Herman, who is also interviewed for the programme. The two alto players are playing together on 7 August at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw during the summer concerts organized by Robeco.

Benjamin Herman Eric Ineke


In 2011 MCN releases the CD Journey by the Misha Mengelberg/Piet Noordijk Quartet featuring Ted Curson. The album contains the previously unissued 7 April 1966 concert at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. Early October Noordijk is diagnosed with cancer. On 8 October he dies in his hometown of Hellevoetsluis, aged 79.

Discography Piet Noordijk

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.

Photos Piet Noordijk

Audio/Video Piet Noordijk

Video Piet Noordijk

Piet Noordijk Boptet - Pe...
Piet Noordijk Boptet - Pete's Groove
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Piet Noordijk Boptet - Pete's Groove

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