Jazz tasting at North Sea Jazz 2013

The great North Sea Jazz Festival for me is like a wine tasting – all the great names are there and one gets a bit of everything .. and walks home a little tipsy with Jazz.

Friday – I started with Medeski, Martin & Wood, which were as powerful and inventive musically as ever, then went on to see a bit of Laura Mluva, which did disappoint me. Laura got a great voice, but the live performance lacked in power. She did a Bob Marley tune when we walked in, but the audience didn’t sing along as she wanted, it was probably too early in the show to do so – then she followed that with two ballads with her on electric piano. Nothing special and then two more up-tempo songs, which actually were pretty good. Next on the same stage Hiatus Kaiyote and that was a great show – powerful and edgy modern soul and full of surprises. A band to watch and a singer with huge talent. We followed this up with the European Sunrise band, which are the participants of Take Five: Europe II (see my earlier blog) and it turned out to be the best gig of the day: the group of musicians has formed into a proper band, played tight and with fun. The compositions by each of the members now sound really great and have developed in the 3 previous performances into music all are identifying with. Especially the pieces by pianist Marcin Masecki and trumpeter Arielle Besson stood out in a performance of very high quality. Had a quick chat with Diana Krall before moving on to another OKeh act performing: A great show to end the night was the Quartette Humaine by Bob James and David Sanborn, featuring Steve Gadd and James Genus – a beautiful acoustic jazz concert with some incredible soloing and great ensemble play – this project has developed from a recording concept into a great live show.

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Saturday – a more relaxed day with less shows to attend and therefore a chance to listen to the full concerts – like with E.S.T Symphony, which are orchestral arrangements of the music by Esbjorn Svensson. Beautiful and interestingly performed by the The Hague Royal Conservatory Orchestra with ex-e.s.t. members Dan Berglund and Magnus Ostrom and several special guests. It showed how great the compositions actually are, how easy to remember some of the melodies and how great Hans Ek’s arrangement are. Amazing!. As Chick Corea will perform as well in Vitoria, the next stop in the summer festival journey, I passed on him this time and went to see the unique Kat Edmonson, who performed for the first time at North Sea, but surely not for the last, as her audience sat mesmerized by her great performance and amazing voice and the really good interplay of the band. A great debut at the festival which was given a standing ovation at the end.

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Then off to Dee Dee Bridgewater and Ramsey Lewis – Dee Dee as always in stunning form and singing faultless and full of emotions. Ramsey plays the piano still like the master he is, but … the rest was a bit …cheesy might be the right word. Why on earth did they bring a keyboarder with them to fill in spaces with brass and other sounds .. unnecessary. Besides for Dee Dee a disappointing show. Last on Saturday were Michel Camilo & Tomatito and as usual they didn’t fail to give the audience great music and a great show and kept them in the packed room until the end- around 1:30 am! Their understanding and musical harmony is so amazing, no wonder people didn’t want to go home.

Sunday – we started with seeing a friend of ours, Javier Limon who performed with local act Nynke, as he produced her last album and played guitar on it as well. A Frisian language performance act with strong world music influences – Interesting, but not really my cup of tea. Said Hi to Herbie Hancock after that, who was performing with the Metropol Orkest under Vince Mendoza, who had arranged some of Herbie’s music for Orchestra …. Vince is the best and it showed! A little bit of Calexico (jazz/rock.folk mix) and then off to Marcus Miller, who is always worth checking out and his funky jazz group raised the roof again .. then Branford Marsalis whose quartet is probably one of the best jazz combos around nowadays – his set was powerful, improvisational and fun – all a jazzhead can ask for! Jose James is one of the most exciting young male vocalists and he showed in his gig why: great soul and r&b influenced jazz songs, a great voice and a great performance with a band that is getting better and better – a well deserved full house and standing ovation at the end.Then the Robert Glasper Experience – as much as I like the album, the show was not good – thanks to the drummer it had some amazing grooves, but the rest was a bit old fashioned in sounds and didn’t really get me. Pity, I had looked forward to that one … So it came to Sting to save the day …but the venue was so packed and hot that I passed on going inside, even so Branford was going to perform with him. I do like Sting and his music, but after 3 days of running around it was just a bit too much asked ….

North Sea Jazz 2013 – a great three days of jazz tasting …. happy for some discoveries, content with the known and exhausted … all in all a success.

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