North Sea Jazz 2015

North Sea Jazz 2015

Looking back, the 40th anniversary of the North Sea Jazz Festival was a truly great one – big names, new faces and first of all: lots of great music. As always I tried to arrange my program in a way that I could see my acts (OKeh recording artists, of which 9 were performing this year) and then some others I personally know or wanted to discover. The Friday already gave me a dilemma: at the same time Sergio Mendes performed as well as a tribute to Paco de Lucia – so I went to say Hi to Sergio and listened a bit to the great show with his new band… as always a summer party on the highest musical level!

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Then rushed over to the other stage to see a bit of the guys doing the Paco de Lucia tribute … members of the various incarnations of his band, lead and kept together by Jorge Pardo, who as well told many touching stories of the great man, supported by short video snippets and of course the music- fantastic!

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Then I wanted to see a bit of Chick Corea & Herbie Hancock, but had to run to catch Jose James – Chick and Herbie I will see this weekend in Vitoria anyway – and Jose was simply amazing: his Billie Holiday tribute is not only by far the best of all the ones I have heard, live it is touching, engaging and powerful. Jose can do anything – but his jazz singing is becoming something truly special.

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After that I walked to the next stage and sat down to enjoy the trio of Bugge Wesseltoft, Dan Berglund and Henrik Schwarz. Wow these guys were great! What on the album is more of an ambient affair, turned live into a groovy and still at times contemplative performance. Given that it was after midnight, probably the right move. Impressive!

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On the first day I not only missed Herbie and Chick, but as well singers Jarrod Lawson and Ntjam Rosie, which I both wanted to see live, as well as Jef Neve solo, Indra, Lizz Wright or Cassandra Wilson …. There is just not enough time….

The second day of the festival started for me at 2 pm in the Sint-Laurenskerk with a fantastic solo performance by Branford Marsalis – using the room almost as a second instrument, this performance was even better than the first I heard live in Hamburg last year – beautiful melodies, perfectly played on his various saxes and the pick of the repertoire as usual spot on … from the pieces I hadn’t heard him doing The Peacocks by Jimmy Rowles stood out – melodic birdlike calling, sound travelling through the huge church, hugging everyone … sublime! There is a version of this song recorded with Herbie Hancock and Buster Williams on Branford’s album Renaissance.

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Back to the Ahoy right after this experience and off to see David Sanborn performing with his new and young band the music of his latest album Time and The River – groovy with top level sax artistics by David Sanborn .. a huge crowd simply loved it.

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Right in the middle of that show another change of venue to see Dee Dee Bridgewater for the first time with Irvin Mayfield and his New Orleans Jazz Orchestra …. And did they got everyone up and dancing!!!! Power on all levels and a gorgeous Come Sunday on top. Dee Dee is the best!

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A quick chat with Jamie Cullum before going to see Somi performing at the North Sea Jazz Café within the festival and the place was packed and she was great as always … with Nir Felder in the band! Somi is a great talent and it was good to see her in a festival, but she should be on a bigger stage – she can hold her own and has an amazing stage presence and her vocals are immaculate. African jazz soul groove at its best.

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Then Theo Croker, who got the bigger room and made the best out of it with his band DVRKFUNK – groovy and swinging modern jazz, with respect to the history of the music and a desire to move forward – the young musicians are all on top of their game and Theo the star and born leader! One for the future!

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And I finished the second night with heavy legs and The Bad Plus Joshua Redman – the reason that there is no & between the group name and Joshua’s is that they are a unit and not the Plus + and whoever wasn’t clear about this at the beginning, was surely convinced quickly – these guys played so tight and communicated so well, performing music from each member of the group and got an audience screaming and giving a long standing ovation. Deserved!

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What I missed on Saturday: Wayne Shorter band, even so I catched up for a chat with the guys in the band later backstage, Thomas Encho and sax player Guillaume Perret. Pity.

Sunday and proceedings started for me with Kurt Elling, who performed his Passion World album with Richard Galliano as a special guest. Kurt is always great, a singer of the highest quality and got his audience here as well.

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Bill Frisell played in a packed smaller venue his outstanding Guitar in the Space Age program… songs from the 60s, The Byrds, Beach Boys, The Kinks … to a knowing audience, which enjoyed every single tone. A unique figure on his instrument and in improvised music.

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The Branford Marsalis Quartet started right at the end of the Frisell set, so off I was and couldn’t get into the venue … people queuing … so I tried from back stage – no chance to get into the venue … listening from the side of the stage (with a cold beer) wasn’t too bad, but the noise in the room told me that they had the power and intensity of this improvisational performance full force ….not many better bands around in jazz than this one. Then a quick stop at the jazz club to see a few minutes of Theo Croker performing there … and off to Melody Gardot, another of the great jazz singers performing at this festival and as usual she created a tight and intimate atmosphere, drawing people into her songs and make them feel she is singing for them alone …. Currency of Man, her current album, is great song writing and she had a great band to do the songs justice. I loved every minute of it.

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And I closed the evening and the festival with Roy Hargrove and his band… one of the favourites of the North Sea Jazz crowd and he gave them what they wanted: hot jazz with great soli and good grooves. Thanks.

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What I missed on Sunday: clarinettist Oran Etkin, Tigran and singer Ester Rada.

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