Meet Bart De Nolf

02 Apr 2021

Every two months we introduce you to someone connected with the orchestra, whether on stage or behind the scenes. Today we’re talking to Bart De Nolf (double bass).

How long have you been part of BJO?

Officially, since the autumn of 2018. That doesn’t count the times I came in to replace players in the years before then.

What do you do in the orchestra? 

Double bass and bass guitar.

Why did you choose this role/this instrument?

I got off to a bad start in the music world, taking flute lessons as a child. That was a time when the music schools still considered jazz ‘the devil’s music’. Soon I switched to the lower frequencies of the contrabass, and I’ve kept it up to this day.
By the time I rounded off my classical training, I’d already been playing jazz for a long time. In the early 1980s there were still no jazz programmes in Belgium, only some intensive courses run by the Halewynstichting in Dworp, where I had a few lessons from John Clayton. They put me on the right track.
Being a bassist as part of the rhythm section feels good. I’m not in the foreground too much but I can still play an important part musically. 

What do you do besides playing in the orchestra?

I’ve taught at the Royal Conservatoire in Brussels for the last 28 years, and since this academic year, I’ve also become head of teaching for the jazz department. I also still play with other artists and bands like Philip Catherine, the Johan Clement Trio and lots of others.


"Every production is a new challenge and it’s always – without exception – making music at the highest level, again and again." - Bart De Nolf


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

Up to now every project with BJO is an experience I look forward to. Not once have I ever felt unfulfilled or disappointed afterwards. Everything I’ve been able to do so far has given me a great deal of satisfaction. 
A few notable high points were the concert with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in Bozar in 2020, the tour with Ambrose Akinmusire and our concerts with Tutu Puoane. Definitely the one in New York, although I don’t want to disparage all the other concerts I’ve played in, like In The Pines, BREL with David Linx, Two Places, the projects with John Beasley, Enrico Pieranunzi, Bert Joris,… Every production is a new challenge and it’s always – without exception – making music at the highest level, again and again.

What's your favourite BJO memory?

The double concert with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. The experience, the music and the mutual respect that was palpable between the musicians in the two orchestras all day and evening. On top of that there was a magical atmosphere that reigned that evening, thanks to the enthusiasm of both the musicians and the audience.

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

I don’t have Spotify but I listen to Apple Music. I like to set my iPhone to shuffle and then I get everything: from Parker to Coltrane to Elis Regina to A Tribe Called Quest to Django to Bill Evans to Beastie Boys to Ahmad Jamal to …. 
The last radio hit? Hmmm. Maybe the new one by Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars, ‘Leave the Door Open’: well made and a really fun clip.

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

I’ve always been astounded by the names we’ve been able to attract to the BJO, and it only confirms what a high level this extraordinary orchestra has. If I can add a name to the list, and that’s a tough one … maybe John Scofield? But then with Hendrik Braeckman too!

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

It’s a drama. I can’t really complain too much, but I’m starting to ‘run on empty’. I’m mostly thinking about the people who don’t have the good fortune to have a teaching income, like me (and a lot of my colleagues) because it’s got to be extra hard getting through these times for them.

I’m concentrating on my job at the Conservatoire, it helps me keep the focus on music and otherwise I try to live as ‘normally’ as I can with my family and children and try to help them get through this. And like everyone, I’m really looking forward to better times, and I try to enjoy every sporadic opportunity we get to do something on a stage or in a recording studio, as much as I can, because no one else can imagine how much fun it is.