The BIMHUIS is widely acknowledged to be one of the most important venues for jazz in the world. Alongside jazz and improvised music, however, it is also a platform for other forms of music. The common attributes that link everything it programs is the emphasis on live music, on music that breathes and takes risks, and on musical development.
In its programming, the BIMHUIS places great emphasis on artists at the forefront of musical developments, who include established names and pioneers of earlier movements. Innovation is key, whether in relation to jazz, ensemble music, world music or electronic music.
The BIMHUIS is a venue for pioneering musicians of all generations, both local and international, and one of its main objectives is to recognize, foster and showcase noteworthy talent from the early stage of their career.
The BIMHUIS hosts a whole range of educational activities, sessions and workshops. It also functions as a laboratory for music, regularly hosting carte blanche concerts and Monday Matches (monthly improvisation sessions featuring dancers and musicians).
The BIMHUIS was founded in 1974, three decades prior to the completion of the current building. The former furniture showroom on the Oude Schans, nearby Amsterdam’s Red Light district had been acquired by few musicians who had just become members of the recently founded Beroepsvereniging voor Improviserende Musici (BIM), such as saxophonist Hans Dulfer and pianist Misha Mengelberg . It was a time of new, enthusiastic initiatives in jazz, with a conscious choice to depart from traditional approaches. In the Netherlands this led to the formation of such progressive ensembles as the Instant Composers Pool and Willem Breuker Kollektief.
The BIMHUIS quickly achieved the status as the premiere Dutch venue for improvised music and the hall became a favourite spot for such renowned international bandleaders as Charles Mingus, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, Pharoah Sanders and Sun Ra. The space was simultaneously made available to new Dutch initiatives, conservatory students and apprentice orchestras. To this very day the BIMHUIS continues to be a spot where new bands and projects are formed in which local and international musicians collaborate.
In 1984 the building underwent drastic renovation, whose most important feature was a hall in the shape of an amphitheatre. This allowed for an intimate atmosphere near the stage, while still allowing the audience to circulate at the back of the space to the adjacent bar. A professional recording system was installed which resulted in many concerts either being recorded for LP and CD releases or radio broadcasts. By the nineteen eighties and nineties the revolutionaries from the initial years had become internationally respected band leaders.
The present-day BIMHUIS opened in 2005. The characteristic ‘black box’ protruding from the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, was designed with the old BIMHUIS in mind. The lay-out of the stage and access to the bar have remained the same, but now everything is more spacious, comfortable and technically advanced. The BIMHUIS annually receives twice as many visitors now as the old venue did in its most successful year ever. Everyone plays there now, from stars to amateurs, from mainstream to avant-garde. In essence, the BIMHUIS has basically remained the same: an important junction in the international network of improvising musicians.