“A sensitive and knowledgeable musician who has much to share and a very natural and confident
performer.” Gary Karr, world renowned bass soloist
“If you have a man like James Oesi, then you know it’s there, it sounds good, and the bass is a solo
instrument.” Hans Haffmans, host of Dutch NPO Radio 4
“Here was a young musician of uncommon intelligence and insight, clearly destined, given the right
encouragement, to contribute to the world of music not only as a player but a creative force.” Geoffrey Simon, acclaimed conductor and record producer
Since his arrival in The Netherlands in 2009, double bassist James Oesi has become a well known face in the classical and contemporary music world. As one of the few concentrating on the bass as a solo instrument, he has performed solo programmes (including works by Bach, Beethoven and Rachmaninoff, among others) in prominent venues such as Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Concertgebouw Brugge, Utrecht’s TivoliVredenburg, The Oosterpoort in Groningen, festivals such as Huddersfield Music Festival (UK), November Music, CrossLinx Festival and at festival Wonderfeel (where his concert was later named by Dutch National Public Radio 4 as one of the festival’s highlights). James has toured South Africa and France and played with South African Jazz Legend Abdullah Ibrahim at the North Sea Jazz Festival.
James has appeared on numerous occasions on Dutch National Public Radio stations NPO 4, Belgium’s Klara and NPO Radio 1 where he was also the subject of a radio documentary. He has also had numerous appearances on Dutch National Television programmes Podium Witteman and Vrije Geluiden. Classic FM UK featured James’ video of Luciano Berio’s Psy.
James is the founder and artistic leader of the Dutch Double Bass Festival – the only festival of its kind in the world.
Alongside his solo activities, James is also an in-demand chamber musician and on special occasions can be seen performing with Asko|Schönberg, Ives Ensemble and Ensemble Modern.
During and after his studies, James followed masterclasses and received coaching sessions from double bassists Gary Karr, Leon Bosch, Klaus Trumpf and Thomas Martin, cellists Anner Bijlsma and Michel Strauss, and conductor and producer Geoffrey Simon. From September 2023, James took up the position of guest professor of Double Bass at Utrecht Conservatory.
In January 2023 James played a sold-out solo concert in Concertgebouw Brugge performing two Bach suites and two pieces written especially for him by Calliope Tsoupaki.
Internationally acclaimed string magazine The Strad named James one of five “up and coming bass players
committed to bringing forward new music for the instrument” in their October 2022 edition.
In August 2020, together with Olympic speed skater and neuroscientist Beorn Nijenhuis, James completed a case study into how a professional musician can most effectively organise their practise time. This was done during preparation for James’ first solo album – a recording of his transcriptions of Bach’s six cello suites. The album was recorded in 2021 and 2022 at the Doopsgezinde Church in Haarlem and is set to be released in 2024.
In the autumn of 2019 James premiered four new works especially composed for him by four young composers as a part of the New Notes initiative. New Notes is a collaboration between three of the Netherlands’ most important music festivals; Grachtenfestival, Gaudeamus Music Week, and November Music where James premiered all four works. As a result of this project James was invited to perform a solo concert at the prestigious Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in the UK.
In the production “Sharp Thinkers” with Asko|Schönberg in October 2019, alongside playing the double bass James was asked to sing a new arrangement of Y Despuis by Louis Andriessen. James’ performance was called “heart wrenching” by the Eindhovens Dagblad.
August 2019 saw James as a guest teacher at the Mittenwald International Double Bass Masterclass in Germany and in July and August of the same year James toured through South Africa with his duo partner Andrea Vasi performing recitals in 5 different cities. Online culture magazine Artsmart said in a review: “He can be described as a true artist in his evocation of mood.”
In July 2019, at the request of South African Jazz Legend Abdullah Ibrahim, James performed a few pieces with Ibrahim’s band, Ekaya at the North Sea Jazz Festival.
February 2019, James announces a collaboration with neuroscientist and former Olympic speed skater Beorn Nijenhuis. The two will be researching what the most effective and efficient methods of study are for a professional musician, using James as a case study for this research.
June 2018, James joined the Asko|Shönberg ensemble to perform at the renowned National Arts Festival in
Makanda, South Africa. In a review from the Business Day: “My favourite part of the show was
undoubtedly James Oesi playing Tom Johnson’s Failing: a very difficult piece for solo string bass.”
For their recording, ‘Gyorgy Kurtag – Complete Works For Ensemble and Choir’ (ECM), James joined the
Asko|Schönberg ensemble led by Reinbert de Leeuw. This recording was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Classical Compendium in November 2017.
At the beginning of 2016 James performed the soundtrack (written for him by Wilko Sterke) for the theatre
piece Waiting For the Barbarians (based on the novel by J.M. Coetzee) produced by Toneelschuur Haarlem,
which toured the Netherlands.
In the summer of 2015 thanks to a generous grant from the Prins Bernhard CultuurFonds, James was able to purchase a fine double bass made by Giuseppe Baldantoni in 1872. A grant from the Stichting Eigen
Muziekinstrument made possible the purchase of a fine bow by Jürgen Krussig in 2016. James uses gut-core strings custom made by Gerold Genssler.
In May 2012 James graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of The Hague, receiving a mark of 10 (out of 10) with distinction. Later on James was awarded the Fock Medaille for best solo exam of the year. James’ study was a first in that he was the first double bass player to graduate from the Masters in Solo performance. For his Masters’ study James was awarded the prestigious Huygens Scholarship from the Netherlands and a grant from the Countess of Munster Musical Trust in England.
In 2009 an audition for the Swiss Global Artistic Foundation (now Arts Global Artistic Foundation) in Montreux, Switzerland, led to James’ relocation to the Netherlands and allowed James to spend a summer with world-famous solo bassist, Gary Karr where James had the opportunity to perform with Gary Karr in concert.
In 2005, aged sixteen, James travelled from Johannesburg to Moscow to pursue studies at the acclaimed Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatoire under professor Lev Rakov. James was at the time the youngest student at the conservatoire and the only foreign double bass student. This study was made possible by the support of the Apollo Music Trust, and later also the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust and the National Arts Council of South Africa.
In 2005 and 2006 James was selected as one of two bassists worldwide to attend the Perlman Music Program in New York. The programme, led by violinist Itzhak Perlman, his wife Toby Perlman and faculty from the Juilliard String faculty, gives a very select group of young musical talent intense training in solo and chamber playing.
James began playing the double bass at the age of 12 in 2001 having previously played the piano and the violin.