Cellist Ernst Reijseger became distinguished in avant-garde jazz, contemporary classical, and improvised music as the 1980s and '90s progressed. In 1985, he won the major Dutch jazz award the Boy Edgar Prijs, was the subject of a television documentary nine years later, and received the North Sea Jazz Festival's prestigious Bird Award the year after. Born in Naarden, Netherlands, in 1954, Reijseger began playing the cello at the age of eight. He began performing improvised music in the early '70s, collaborating with musicians including Derek Bailey, Martin van Duynhoven, and Michael Moore. Reijseger went on to become a member of the Theo Loevendie Consort, the Amsterdam String Trio, and the Guus Janssen Septet during the '80s; and the Arcado String Trio in the mid-'90s. Throughout both decades, he was a member of Misha Mengelberg's ICP Orchestra, and performed with Gerry Hemingway in various lineups, which included a trio with Hemingway and pianist Georg Graewe starting in the late '80s. Also around this time, Reijseger, Moore, and drummer Han Bennink -- all members of ICP -- formed the Clusone Trio, named for the Italian festival they first played at as a group. They toured all over the world, including a 1995 tour of Australia, China, and Vietnam. With the release of their fifth album (their second on the Hat label; there were others on Gramavision) in 1999, the group called it quits after their ten-year anniversary. Reijseger also left the ICP Orchestra that same year. He continued touring and recording in a variety of settings, including solo (1998's Colla Parte, on Winter & Winter); avant-garde jazz settings (Randomacoustics' releases of Graewe/Reijseger/Hemingway albums and in the Hemingway Quintet's Waltzes, Two-Steps & Other Matters of the Heart on GM Recordings, to name just a few); and even a collaboration with the Sardinian choir Tenore e Concordu de Orosei (released as Colla Voche on Winter & Winter in 1999). Reijseger has also performed with Yo-Yo Ma, Louis Sclavis, Franky Douglas, Joelle Leandre, Trilok Gurtu, Phil Minton, and more. On occasion, he gives children's cello workshops.
In the 21st century, Reijseger continued his prolific pace. While his fruitful relationship with Winter & Winter continued, he also branched out between 2000 and 2002 with recordings on Unorthodox, BUZZ-Records, and Nimbus West. He returned to Winter & Winter for 2002's widely celebrated I Love You So Much It Hurts, in duet with Italian pianist Franco D'Andrea. With few exceptions -- two collaborative dates for Leo in which he was a featured guest, and 2011's The Skopje Connection Meets Ernst Reijseger for Losen) -- Reijseger recorded for Winter & Winter exclusively over the next 14 years. His 2008 solo cello album Tell Me Everything, is among his most acclaimed. Reijseger also scored Requiem for a Dying Planet, Sounds for Two Films by Werner Herzog - The Wild Blue Yonder - The White Diamond (2006), prompting the famed director to say of him: "He is a magnificent cellist, and he can do anything, anything on his cello. He could play the civil war, the American Civil war on his cello." Reijseger's relationship with Herzog was extensive: he also scored 2005's Rescue Dawn, 2009's My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, 2010's Cave of Forgotten Dreams, and 2016's Salt and Fire (all Winter & Winter). He also worked with director Martijn Maria Smits on Anvers (2009), C’est Déjà L’été (2010), and Under the Weight of Clouds (2012). He cut two albums with the band BARANÁ in 2010: Elektro Shaman and Xenopolis.
The following year saw the release of Klaarlichte Nacht: Musictheatre through the life and work of poet Herman de Coninck in a trio with pianist Wolfert Brederode and actor and accordionist Felix Strategier. Reijseger celebrated his 60th birthday in 2014 with the release of two recordings including Feature, which offered his works performed by a large ensemble that included himself, accordionist Luciano Biondini, vocalists Mola Sylla and Ceylan Ertem, keyboardist Harmen Fraanje, Purves on percussion and four additional cellists. The following year he released the trio offering Count Till Zen, with Sylla and Fraanje. In 2016, he issued his major work, The Volcano Symphony, with Forma Antiqva under the direction of Aaron Zapico, which paved the way for a further collaboration the following year titled Walking Out. ~ Joslyn Layne