Meet & Greet with Kurt Van Herck

08 Sep 2020

Every two months, we're introducing you to someone connected with the orchestra, whether it's one of the players or someone behind the scenes. This time: meet Kurt Van Herck (tenor sax, clarinet, flute).

How long have you been part of BJO?

I’ve played with the orchestra for 26 years now (and I haven’t got a statue yet!).

What do you do in the orchestra?

I play mostly tenor sax, sometimes clarinet, flute, and soprano sax. Once I operated a fog machine, but that wasn’t much of a success. The rest of the time I do my best to make life miserable for the brass players sitting behind me.

Why did you choose this instrument?

I actually didn’t choose to play saxophone, that was my mother. It could have been worse. What if she’d chosen trombone for me! The tenor sax chair in the orchestra is one of the most fun, though. There’s always a place in the music for a solo.

What do you do besides playing in the orchestra?

Trying to raise my kids takes up a lot of my time. Then there’s teaching at the conservatoire in Antwerp, and recently I started up a group called Cinema Paradiso, a trio with Willem Heylen (guitar & effects) and Eric Thielemans (drums & percussion). Our second album will come out this autumn – Cinema Paradiso volume II. With guest soloist Jozef Dumoulin.

Which of this season's projects are or were you looking forward to the most and why?

Plans for the future are quite unclear at the moment, but right before the lockdown, the performance with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra led by Wynton Marsalis was an absolute high point. Those musicians radiated an unbelievable warmth. What humanity, what a feeling!!

What's your favourite BJO memory?

After 26 years, it’s very hard to choose just one. Lichfield in the States with Kenny Werner, and the ballad that Frank played so beautifully is one. Everyone’s playing was fantastic, from beginning to end. We also had some unforgettable moments with Maria Schneider. And let’s not forget the music of Bert Joris. He really writes for this orchestra.

"Right before the lockdown, the concert with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra led by Wynton Marsalis was an absolute high point. Those musicians radiated an unbelievable warmth." - Kurt Van Herck.


What was the last CD/Spotify track/radio hit you listened to?

I recently discovered Alice Coltrane and I thought it was fantastic. I used to think that it was more about her being ‘just his wife’, but I was wrong.

Who would you like to invite to play a production with BJO and why?

I’d love to hear Bill Frisell with BJO. He’s always looking for new sounds, new combinations... and with just the right arrangements. It’s like guaranteed fireworks.

As a musician, how are you dealing with these unusual times (as a result of COVID-19)?

If you look at all of human history, this isn’t such an unusual time. I’ve been aware for a while now that we as people don’t have control over as much as we think we do. I don’t fight it, and I adjust – these are great times to practise, as long as you’re not sick of course. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve been able to practise for 4 or 5 hours a day. Hopefully within a few months you’ll hear the results.