Tenor-and soprano-saxophonist Dick de Graaf debuted 1986 with his acclaimed LP HOT, HAZY and HUMID (Limetree Records). Earlier he had won the Dutch Jazz Competition in 1981, and he had presented himself as a striking soloist in the Amstel Octet, in John Clayton’s Tribute Big Band, Jeff Reynold’s Maiden Voyage Big Band and in the Frank Grasso Big Band.
Dick has performed at many national and international jazzstages ever since. He played with a.o. Chet Baker, Misha Mengelberg, Kenny Weeler, Tom Harrell, Benny Golson, Billy Hart, Toumani Diabaté, Erkan Ogur, and Jasper van ‘t Hof. He toured festivals and clubs in Europe, South and West Africa, the USA, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, New Zealand, USA, Taiwan and Canada.
As a bandleader, composer, arranger and self-managing artist dedicated to jazz – in his definition “acting as a guesthouse in which elements from the surrounding musical world are welcomed with curiosity”– Dick de Graaf recorded and produced more than 25 CD’s that received positive response by both public and press. His Challenge Records awarded CD’s SAILING and NEW YORK STRAIGHT AHEAD got enthusiast critics and four stars in the important music magazine Down Beat.
His project THE BURNING OF THE MIDNIGHT LAMP: Dick de Graaf plays Jimi Hendrix’ also appeared to be successful. The Dick de Graaf Septet that he managed to keep touring from 1987 until 2002, drew full houses in Holland, Germany, Austria, Ireland and Finland.
An example of his broad musical horizon was the project he recorded in Mali with a group of young musicians from Bamako: the CD DJIGUI: LES SOFAS DE BAMAKO featuring Dick de Graaf’. June 2000 this group made his European debut during the Festival Mundial in Tilburg. On the CD FO4R WINDS, he continued his tracking of multicultural music. On this CD a sextet with a.o. Inga Juuso (Samiland), Moussa Diallo and Mamadou Diabaté (Mali) plays a handful of Dick’s originals.
2001 Dick released his internationally acclaimed album SOUND ROOTS: Dick de Graaf meets Peter Martin, Roland Guerin and Adonis Rose Trio in New Orleans. As a follow-up of this recording he initiated his EUROPEAN SOUNDROOTS QUARTET with which he toured Europe, Indonesia and Singapore.
In june 2003 the CD SCHUBERT IMPRESSIONS FOR JAZZ QUINTET was presented at the Northsea Jazz Festival, followed by an international concert tour. As a follow-up to these arrangements of Schubert’s themes, Dick presented A TOUCH OF BELA in Hungary during the Esztergom Bela Bartok Festival in july 2005. June 2007 he was commissioned to write and play his BACH REFLECTIONS for a jazz quintet performance at the well-known Bach Feste in Leipzig, and in 2014 he wrote his suite DNA BACH for a performance by his CLAZZ ENSEMBLE during the Bach Festival in Dordrecht.
In 2006 Dick founded his record label Soundroots Records to release TRIO NUEVO: JAZZ MEETS TANGO (2006-2009), his acoustic jazz quartet MOVING TARGET(2007-2009), his powerjazz quartet CRY BABY! (2009-2010), his solo improvisations with Bach’s cello suites (from 2010 on) and his trio project OUT OF THE BLUES: Celebrating the Music Of Oliver Nelson (2012-2013).
As a guest-soloist, December 2012 Dick performed with the acclaimed Rotterdam Doelen Ensemble. He was commissioned by its artistic director Peter-Jan Wagemans to freely improvise the flute parts of J.S. Bach’s second orchestral suite on the tenor and soprano saxophones. September 2013 he was invited by Dutch composer Jacob TV to participate in the Dutch Wind Ensemble (Nederlands Blazers Ensemble) and perform the multi-media opera THE NEWS. From november 2014 on, De Graaf performed as a guest soloist with the Dutch Marinierskapel playing arrangements of his some of his own compositions.
As a co-founder, artistic director and composer of the hybrid 12 piece CLAZZ ENSEMBLE, De Graaf co-produced a variety of projects of which ADVENTURES (2009) and FEDERICO ON BROADWAY(2012) were recorded live in the Amsterdam Bimhuis, and DELTA SUITE (2010) in Concertstudio Middelburg. The Clazz Ensemble’s final project was Monk Inside Out, performed at the main jazz stages of the Netherlands (2014-2016). The CLAZZ ENSEMBLE’S most intriguing project HIS MASTERS CHOICE (2011) with a.o. Dick’s arrangements of compositions by Louis Andriessen is still waiting to be released on CD.
November 2017 Dick obtained a PhD in the Arts at the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts (ACPA) at Leiden University, after a presentation concert and the public defense of his doctoral dissertation Beyond Borders: Broadening the Artistic Palette of (Composing) Performers in Jazz, an online exposition of his research into the employment of 20th century compositional techniques in advanced improvisational techniques. In the context of this research he released his saxophone quartet CARILLON (2013) and his project BIRD BUZZ (2017) of which the release was part of the doctoral defense.
At the occasion of his 40-year anniversary as a jazz musician, August 2021 Dick de Graaf’s new album FESTIVE was released by ZenneZ Records. This album came on vinyl, together with an album book containing de Graaf’s biographic notes about his journey as a performer from the early 80-ties until the covid lockdown in 2020/21. Dick composed 8 new pieces for his jazz quartet, again highlighting his unique eclectic musical approach. Once again, in his own words: “I consider my music as a guesthouse in which elements from the surrounding musical world are welcomed with curiosity.”
Another remarkable cd SPLIT LEVEL was released in april 2022. It features Dicks duo collaborations with church organist Hayo Boerema. Recorded at the same spot where they once started their collaboration back in 2009: the Laurenskerk in Rotterdam where, in the words of a dutch jazz critic “the two flutter like birds through the church.”
As a follow-up of his long time association with Codarts University of the Arts in his hometown Rotterdam, he is currently active as an expert jazz educator and master research coach for advanced students and young jazz professionals.