“French-born, Amsterdam-based clarinetist Joris Roelofs has built his career balancing intense discipline and deep commitment to post-bop tradition with a measured exploratory streak.” DownBeat magazine

Joris Roelofs is a bass clarinettist and composer based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He began to study classical clarinet at the age of six, and he added the alto saxophone at age twelve. At sixteen, Joris performed the clarinet introduction to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with the Orkest van het Oosten. He played lead alto saxophone in the Jazz Orchestra of the Concertgebouw (2003–2018), and for five years he was a member of the Vienna Art Orchestra. He has also performed with Brad Mehldau, Lionel Loueke, Meg Stuart, and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, among many others.

After completing his master’s degree at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam (2007), Joris moved to New York City. His debut album, Introducing Joris Roelofs (2008), features Ari Hoenig, Matt Penman, and Aaron Goldberg. The next two albums, Chamber Tones (2010) and The Ninth Planet (2012), feature Jesse van Ruller and Clemens van der Feen. Joris has also released two albums with his trio, featuring Matt Penman and Ted Poor: Aliens Deliberating (2014) and Amateur Dentist (2015). In 2018 Roelofs released Icarus (2018), a duo album with legendary Dutch drummer and artist Han Bennink.

Rope Dance: Light-Footed Music for All and None is Joris’ latest release. The music is based on Nietzsche’s parable of the rope dancer in Thus Spoke Zarathustra and features Bram van Sambeek on bassoon; the album received a five-star review in De Volkskrant and in BBC Music Magazine.

As a composer, Joris has written for solo piano; bassoon; big band; symphony orchestra and big band; as well as four clarinets andrhythm section. Last year he received a Composition Grant from the Performing Arts Fund (FPK) of the Netherlands to write two works based on Nietzsche’s philosophy: the chamber music Nietzsche Serenade, for tenor voice, bassoon, cello, and French horn; and the duets Truth and Lies, for bass clarinet and bassoon.

Joris currently lives in Amsterdam and chairs the Clarinet Department (Jazz) at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. He teaches a master’s course on music and philosophy, “Freedom and Improvisation.” Joris’s lecture “Nietzsche’s Muses” also explores the relationship between music and philosophy.

Joris writes philosophical essays and articles, gives lecture performances and presentations on improvisation-related topics. His piece “To Lie Beyond Good and Evil: A Musical Question of Truth,” was published in the peer-reviewed journal Tijdschrift voor Filosofie. Joris is a member of the International Nietzsche Research Group in Stuttgart, Germany.

In addition to teaching and playing music, Joris is a PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam. His dissertation is on the political dimension of improvisation.

(Joris Roelofs, full résumé)


2001: Pim Jacobs Prize

2003: First non-American to receive the IAJE Stan Getz/Clifford Brown Fellowship Award in the US

2004: First prize, Deloitte Jazz Award competition, the Netherlands

2019: Composition Grant from the Performing Arts Fund (FPK) of the Netherlands


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