PEAX - Ties Mellema/Barry Jurjus

PEAX was born as multi stylistic cross-over ensemble by saxophonist Ties Mellema and percussionist/drummer Barry Jurjus.
PEAX integrates all of the music that has resonated with Barry and Ties in their 20+ years career as classical and cross-over musicians.
Inspiration comes from minimal music, funk, jazz, baroque, avant-garde, drum and bass. The global Corona-crisis marked the beginning of PEAX. Barry and Ties all of a sudden had time to get together and share their ideas about music. They experienced a strong musical connection, which resulted in the creation of their own pieces.

Ties Mellema

In 2018 I took a moment to look back on my previously released CDs and I discovered a clear theme. I had gradually been returning to the reason I had once become a musician. A basic love of music I experienced growing up, listening freely without any need to classify what I was hearing. I decided to continue along the same line for my new album.
But a lot had happened before I reached this point; in 2015 I fell ill with Hodgkin’s disease, otherwise known as lymphoma. I completed my music theatre tour and the following Monday I began intensive chemotherapy. The whole process of therapy and rehabilitation took an entire year. I then decided to create room in my life for new things. Although I did not yet know what these new things should be, I did know that, if I went back to my old routine, there would be no chance of self-exploration.
But, in 2017, I fell ill again. And again, it was Hodgkin’s.
I received a stem cell transplant to reset my body, but I realised afterwards that it was not only my body that had been reset; it was also my mind.

I have been given the opportunity to start over. A hard reset on a computer means everything is erased and installed anew. And that’s exactly what a stem cell transplant feels like.
During my chemo sessions, I listened to a lot of music. I realize that the music I am currently making is what I was looking for during my illness; an extreme mix of the music that resonates with me; a condensation of all music I ever played and listened to.

What is now PEAX was initially going to be a solo project. In 2020, at the start of the Corona crisis, I wrote a number of solo pieces but when Barry asked me to play with him at the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam, it signalled a turnaround.

Barry and I hadn’t been in contact for 20 years but musically we hit it off again immediately. The concerts were a success and we decided to make our collaboration more consistent. In the months following the concerts, we developed our own repertoire, which we now present on this album. Covid-19 proved an opportunity for us both. A chance to start over and to think about exactly what it was we wanted. PEAX is the result of multiple resets in different areas. A reset that unites us in PEAX.

Barry Jurjus

I knew I had found my ideal duo partner, when I read the following quote by Ties: “I don’t play styles, I play music”. It was the summer of 2020, the world was in lockdown, the Beurs van Berlage had just opened its doors to provide the many square feet needed for a festival. It was during this series, ‘Summer at the Beurs’, that Ties and I played our first concerts together. We knew each other from years back, when we both attended the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, but our lives had since taken different turns. To find each other again, at this point in our lives, during these strange times, could hardly be a coincidence. We both felt the need to create now, and to create the music that we truly desired, without restrictions. It turned out to be the beginning of a unique collaboration.

My work consists of a wide range of styles, disciplines and line-ups. As a performer of existing pieces, it is always my objective to get as close to the composer’s intention as I possibly can. To produce an album that contained only our own work was a new experience; to work as both the composer and the performer of a piece was at the same time both an enriching and a confrontational experience.

As a percussionist, I search for my function within the context of the music. Driving, supporting with rhythm, or merely timbre; sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes it requires intensive searching. The function of the drumkit for example appears straightforward, but not for PEAX. That search gives me energy.

Electronics are a new element in my music. Discovering how to use electronics and acoustic instruments to get as close as possible to how I hear the music in my head was a long and far from straightforward process. At the same time, it brought me many new insights; listening to music gained a new dimension for me. It gave me so much energy. A whole new world literally opened up for me and it has resulted in this album.


Ties Mellema - saxophones, electronics, keys
Barry Jurjus - vibraphone, bells, percussion, drums, electronics