Kris Defoort biography

Kris Defoort is a major figure in the European jazz music scene. He created a highly individual musical language that redefines musical traditions in an original way. His music is characterised by the encounter between classic and jazz music, and between written compositions and improvisation. He also teaches composition, arrangement and free improvisation at the Brussels Royal Music Conservatory.

He studied early music and recorder at the Antwerp Conservatory (Barthold Kuijken, Koen Dieltiens, Jos Van Immerseel, Balderick Deerenberg) and jazz piano, composition and free improvisation at the Liège Conservatory (Dennis Luxion, Frederic Rzewsky, Garrett List, Philippe Boesmans).


1987 - 1990

During this period Kris Defoort lived in New York. He followed master classes with Fred Hersh, David Berger and Paul Bley, but his main activity was as a jazz pianist. He performed with the Lionel Hampton Big Band (guest Dizzy Gillespie), Jack de Johnette, Adam Nussbaum, Reggie Workman, Mike Formanek, Barry Altschul, Vince Herring, Judy Niemack, Tito Puento, Lee Konitz, Hannibal Peterson, and many others.

1991 – 1997

After his return to Belgium he continued on his musical odyssey, as a composer, pianist and improviser, and leader of the sextet KD's Basement Party, his trio KD's Decade, Octurn, Dreamtime and Sound Plaza (with Mark Turner, Nicolas Thys and Jim Black). Thanks to the support of De Werf (Bruges), all of his projects were recorded on cd. Kris Defoort also worked with performers and ensembles in the contemporary jazz scene (Jim Black, mark Turner, Aka Moon, Vegetable Beauty, Garrett List, Paul Rodgers, Han Benninck,…)


Since 1998 Kris Defoort is a resident composer at LOD (Ghent), a production house for contemporary music theatre. Together with Fatou Traoré he created the dance piece Passages (2001) which was performed at several leading European festivals (Festival d’Avignon, Salzburg, Charleroi Danse,...)


Kris Defoort was commissioned by LOD, Ro theater,deSingel, La Monnaie and others, to compose his first opera The Woman Who Walked into Doors, based on Roddy Doyle’s book of the same name. This ‘opera for actress, soprano and video screen’, directed by Guy Cassiers, was shown about 50 times all over Europe (Duisburg, Ruhrtriennale, Paris, Strassbourg, Brussels, Dublin, Zürich, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp,…) and was received with great enthusiasm by both press and public.


Kris Defoort created Conversations with the Past, a work for wind instruments, piano, harp, double bass and percussion, commissioned by the Filharmonie (Antwerp). In the same year he presented Sound Plaza, a jazz cd with saxophonist Mark Turner, bass player Nic Thys and drummer Jim Black.


Kris created his String quartet n°1 together with ConVerSations/ConSerVations, a project based on Renaissance music. Together with soprano Claron McFadden, Dreamtime and Quatuor Danel, Kris Defoort sought once again a synthesis between old and new, classical and jazz.

2004 - 2007

In 2004 Kris Defoort received the Music Award of the Flemish Community. As an artist in residence at the arts centre BOZARin the 2006-2007 season, every aspect of his musicianship has been shown: as an improvising jazz pianist and as a composer. For example, Jan Michiels created his piano cycle Dedicatio (nine musical letters) in December 2006. Kris Defoort also has been commissioned by the 2007 Queen Elizabeth Competition to write the compulsory contest piece for solo piano: Dedicatio 6; Treasure of Emotions (to Keith Jarrett).


Kris Deoort composes his second opera House of the Sleeping Beauties (production LOD, Toneelhuis, la Monnaie,…). On the 8th of May 2009 the world premiere of this ‘Opera in three Nights’, directed by Guy Cassiers, took place at La Monnaie Brussels. This opera as well toured successfully across Europa.


In 2010, Kris Defoort worked on The Brodsky Concerts, a piece based on the writings by Joseph Brodsky, in which he was on stage together with the actor Dirk Roofthooft. In 2010 Kris also launched his new jazz trio - Kris Defoort Trio, with Nicolas Thys (electric bass) and Lander Gyselinck (drums). In February 2012 Kris Defoort simultaneously released three albums at the W.E.R.F. label: Kris Defoort trio Live in Bruges, Kris Defoort solo piano Live in Tokyo, andNew Sound Plaza, a new version of his quartet with Mark Turner,Nicolas Thys and Jim Black. In July, during the Gent Jazz festival, Kris Defoort receives the Sabam Jazz Awardin the category "established value"and at the end of September, during the 34th edition of Jazz Hoeilaart he wins the prestigious Jazzmozaïek Award 2012for his triple CD releases, for the creation of a new jazz trio with young talents and for the ability to integrate classical music with jazz.In November of the same year premieres the sold out concert-performance AN OLD MONK accompanied live by Kris Defoort Trio. Inspired by Thelonius Monk, famous actorJosse De Pauw performs a piece he wrote himself, with music composed by Kris Defoort, about getting old and wanting to live at all costs.


Kris Defoort has been invited to compose two pieces. The first one is an orchestra piece for the Concertgebouworkest Amsterdam. Conducted by David Robertson and under the theme of privacy, it will be premiered on the 13th of March, 2014. The second invitation is to compose a circus opera for the company Feria Musica together with the Opera House of Limoges. Premieres in September 2014.

In 2015, Kris will embark on a project as a composer and pianist improviser with B’rock: a young rising Belgian baroque orchestra. It will be a full concert program mixing music by baroque composer Franz Biber and original compositions. Soloists will be the soprano Claron McFadden and Kris Defoort on piano.

In 2018 a new opera will be created at La Monnaie/De Munt based on the novel “The Time of our Singing” by Richard Powers. Stage direction will be in the hands of Ivo van Hove.

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