photo by Peter B Kaars
Bill Noertker studied with various people, including bassist Putter Smith, cornetist Bobby Bradford, and bassist Mandy Flowers, but has learned mostly on the bandstand, and by listening and transcribing what he hears on records.
Noertker played trombone in grammar school, but when he got braces, it was too painful to continue. In 1974, while at San Gabriel High School, a friend gave Noertker his first electric bass. He began attending jam sessions and playing in heavy metal groups. He was strongly influenced by the melodic/contrapuntal rock bassists John Paul Jones, Geezer Butler, and Roger Glover. In his sophomore year, a teacher gave him a Count Basie record (Montreux '77) with Ray Brown on bass. Later that year, he heard Benny Goodman's version of Sing Sing Sing while he was tripping on acid. These two events changed his listening habits entirely.
In 1978, Noertker began his studies in anthropology, sociology, and religious studies at Occidental College. His particular emphasis was in cultural syncretism. Some of his fellow students introduced him to the avant garde music of Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Also at this time he was introduced to soul music, reggae music and classical music. Again his listening habits changed.
In 1983, Noertker learned that the renowned cornetist Bobby Bradford was teaching at Pasadena City College. He went there to study with him. In Bradford's course, "Afro-American Music History," Noertker embraced the music of Jelly Roll Morton, Fletcher Henderson, Charles Mingus, and especially Duke Ellington. His listening habits became expansive and diverse.
In 1985, Noertker moved to San Francisco. In 1987 he studied composition under the tutelage of Aldo Ryzy-Ryzky while a member of the experimental art rock band, Bardo. At this time he switched from fretted to fretless electric bass.
In 1989, Bardo disbanded, and Noertker, along with other former Bardo members Annelise Zamula (reeds, flute) and Dave Mihaly (drums), formed the After the End of the World Coretet, in which Noertker was the primary composer. These three were joined by various fourth and fifth members (including Tracy McMullen - reeds, Jon Birdsong - cornet, Graham Connah - piano, Eva Festa - violin Hugh Schick - trumpet, Jim Peterson - saxophones, David Cooper - marimba/vibraphone, Tom Yoder - trombone, Mara Fox - trombone, Mike Richards - guitar ) during their heyday from 1989-1996.
In the late 1990s, Noertker traveled to Europe, to soak up the culture and play music. Upon his return he finally switched from electric to upright bass.
In 2001 he formed his own group, Noertker's Moxie, as a vehicle for his compositional ideas. He is joined in Noertker's Moxie by his long-time musical co-collaborator, saxophonist/flutist Annelise Zamula. Many other fine bay area musicians have performed with Noertker's Moxie, including Jim Peterson (saxes, flute), David Slusser (tenor sax), Yehudit (five string electric violin), Jenny Maybee (piano), Hugh Schick (trumpet), Darren Johnston (trumpet), Rob Ewing (trombone), Greg Stephens (trombone) Beth Snelling (cello), Niels Myrner (drums), Rolf Wilkinson (drums), Dave Mihaly (drums), and Jason Levis (drums).
Inspired by his travels, in 2001 Noertker composed and performed his three part suite, Sketches of Catalonia, an ode to Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, and Antoni Gaudí . He also began work on the Blue Rider Suite (inspired by the art of Paul Klee, Vassily Kandinsky, and Franz Marc) and Angels and Acrobats (a jazz ballet inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke's Duino Elegies).
Also in 2001, Noertker and saxophonist Rent Romus began producing the Static Illusion/Methodical Madness music series, which presents two creative music concerts per month at the Musicians Union Hall in San Francisco. As of this writing (2007) the series is going strong.
In 2002-2003, Noertker continued his experimentation with the jazz suite, and his interest in music inspired by the works of artists and authors. He also began trying out unusual jazz instrumentations (bassoon, violin, cello, multiple trombones).
In September 2003, Noertker's Moxie released its first CD, "Sketches of Catalonia, Vol. 1: Suite for Dalí" on Edgetone Records.
The year 2003 was brought to a rousing close (and 2004 a rousing opening), as Noertker received a commision to compose a soundtrack for six short films by sculptor David Beck. The films (and soundtrack) received acclaim as part of Beck's 2004 exhibit at the Allan Stone Gallery in New York.
In 2004, Noertker continued working with living artists. At a February happening at San Francisco's ICAN Gallery, Moxie debuted new open-ended compositions and improvisations in interactions with live painters (Tan Khanh, Liz Morton, Marinaomi, and Kyle Brunel) and a videographer (Monika Romero). See some photos of the event.
In 2005, Noertker traveled to Catalonia once again. He came back with another suite of music, "Homage to Catalunya," a series of tonal portraits of Las Ramblas, Park Güell, Girona, the Ampurdan plain, and La Manzana de la Discordia. While in Barcelona, he played music with trumpeter Guillermo Torres. He also took a trip to Claira, near Perpignon (in French Catalonia), to play with John Tchicai and Margarite Naber-Tchicai and meet their son Yolo. Back in San Francisco, this led to a performance of solos, duos, and trios with Margarite and saxophonist Jim Peterson. Also in 2005, Noertker formed an electric ensemble, the Jugglers, as a forum for his groove-oriented tunes.
Early in 2005, Noertker and drummer Dave Mihaly challenged each other to compose a string quartet to be performed in July. Noertker wrote six exercises for string quartet which he calls "Peculiar Little Creatures," while Mihaly wrote a full piece entitled "Influences of the Invisible." These were performed by the Strawberry Moon String Quartet, Sarah Jo Zaharako (violin), Linda Robertson (violin), Yehudit (viola), and Beth Snellings (cello).
In April 2007, Noertker's Moxie released another CD, Sketches of Catalonia, Vol. 2: Suite for Miró, on Edgetone Records.