If I remember correctly, this year’s festival was probably my 25th time at the North Sea Jazz Festival and as always it was difficult to make sure that I could see and hear all the artists and music I wanted …. But as every year it was worth being there!

We started the Friday with a backstage visit to John Zorn’s Bagatelles Marathon, a 4-hour event of adventurous music, featuring many wonderful artists, including Julian Lage and John Medeski, whom I came to say Hi to. Then off to Rymden, the amazing trio of Bugge Wesseltoft on piano and keyboards, Dan Berglund on bass and Magnus Öström on drums. Their set was modern jazz with rock elements, ambient sounds and groovy moments. Impressive ensemble play as well as outstanding individual performances made this concert one of the highlights of the festival for me. The repertoire was mainly from their first album together but has developed a lot during their extensive tour and is more open for improvisation and collective excursions by now. Top jazz from Europe.

Next on was James Brandon Lewis, the young saxophonist with whom I did 2 albums on Okeh and who came with his new group to present the music of his new album ‘An Unruly Manifesto’. In the group he had the trusted sidemen from his trio, Luke Stewart on bass and Warren ‘Trae’ Crudup III on drums, plus the amazing Jaimie Branch on trumpet and Ava Mendoza on guitar. James Brandon is a very powerful and fiery player, exploring with his group the melodic side of free jazz – always open to improvise and lead the group to new musical territory, but never without a melodic anchor. His sidemen and -women are some of the best young musicians around and are perfect to bring his compositions to life. Powerful next to Lewis were Branch with some incredible soli and Mendoza with a heavy guitar display, fitting perfectly into the overall sound. Challenging, wild and wonderful!!

What I didn’t see and hear on Friday: Diana Krall, Jose James (as he will be coming to Madrid soon), Makaya McCraven, Nik Bärtsch and Melissa Aldana.

Saturday started with beauty in sound: Becca Stevens, Camila Meza and Lizz Wright, together with the Dutch Metropole Orkest, under Miho Hazama performing songs from all three singesr latest recordings. Camila Meza started proceedings with a song from ‘Ambar’ her new album and her vocal delivery and guitar skills were impressive. Then the two other ladies joined to perform ’Old Man’ with Lizz Wright. This song from her album ‘Dreaming Wide Awake’ and ‘Grace’, the title song of her latest recording, were sublime and Wright sang her heart out … Becca performed a few songs from her album ‘Regina’, especially ‘Mercury’ stood out here. Meza did another 2 songs from ‘Ambar’ singing during her performances in English, Portuguese and Spanish and adding some colourful guitar to the rest of the concert. What a great and emotional tribute to the art of song by 3 very different and exceptional vocalists. Sensational!!

Next on was Dee Dee Bridgewater, revisiting her 2005 album ‘J’ai Deux Amours’, with the original band of that album, featuring Marc Berthoumieux on accordion, Louis Winsberg on guitar, Ira Coleman, her musical director on this project, on bass and Minino Garay on drums. Dee Dee is such a force of nature, such an energetic performer, that it really doesn’t matter what she does, as she will always give 100 % … and this show was not different: her singing immaculate, the communication with her musicians perfect and the stories in between excellent – and the audience had a wonderful time .. and so had I hearing this repertoire again after so many years. Songs like ‘La Mer (Beyond The Sea)’ or ‘Mon Homme (My Man)’ sounded fresh and done in 2 languages more interesting and ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’ or ‘Avec Le Temps’ were done brilliantly and touching. Top!

This was the night of seeing and hearing good friends, as next on was Michel Camilo with the horns of the Dutch New Cool Collective performing music from Camilo’s new big band album ‘Essence’. NCC is an award-winning ensemble of groove and Latin music and includes saxophonists Benjamin Herman, Efraim Trujillo, Wouter Schueler, David Kweksilber and Miguel Martinez, trumpet-player David Rockefeller, Jan van Duikeren, Joe Rivera, Randell Heye and Wim Both and trombonists Frans Cornelissen, Kees Adolfe, Pablo Martinez and Andre Pet. Camilo’s bass player Ricky Rodriguez, percussionist Eliel Lazo and drummer Ernesto Simpson completed the band. The horns of NCC, under Camilo’s direction, grooved amazingly and got all the Latin rhythms and fireworks going throughout a burning set, that included Camilo classics as well as lesser known compositions like the wonderful ‘Mongo’s Blues’. And hanging with Michel and Sandra afterwards was as much fun as always. Perfect!

What I didn’t see and hear on Saturday: Jamie Cullum (got about 10 minutes of his show and he sounded amazing), Arild Andersen Trio (just had a quick chat with Arild but couldn’t stay for the show), J D Allen Quartet and the Perez, Cohen, Potter Quintet ….

Sunday had a slow, but beautiful start with Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya, performing new music from the recently released album ‘The Balance’. Opening his show with a gorgeous piano solo which had a taste of South Africa in it, the band then got into his new compositions, which seem to be influenced by Duke Ellington’s jazz writing. Beautiful melodies perfectly performed, swinging or grooving or balladeske. He surely got the balance right!

Off to hear a bit of Kamasi Washington then, who performed with Patrice Quinn on vocals, Ricky Washington on flute and soprano saxophone, Ryan Porter on trombone, Brandon Coleman on keyboards, Miles Mosley on bass and Tony Austin and Ronald Bruner Jr. on drums to a capacity crowd in the big Maas hall. Unfortunately, the sound in the venue was so bad, that all one could hear were the two bass drums and the bass, swallowing up the rest of the band. Pity, as the band seemed to really get into their version of ‘Truth’, a multi-layered melodically interesting piece, but the finer side of the music was simply drowned in the bad mix. So, I left ….

Next on was Chick Corea with is Spanish Heart Band featuring Jorge Pardo on saxophone and flute, Michael Rodriguez on trumpet, Steve Davis on trombone, Niño Josele on guitar, Carlitos Del Puerto on bass, Marcus Gilmore on drums and dancer Nino de los Reyes. ‘Antidote’ is the new album and it provided most of the repertoire for the concert, with Chick and the band in incredible form – Josele with some impressive solo guitar work, Jorge Pardo especially on the sax and dancer de los Reyes with astonishing energy and movements. The band as well paid with the song ‘Zyryab’ a tribute to the great Paco de Lucia, with whom Chick and of course Jorge and Josele had worked for many years. Overall a wonderful concert, with a clear and well-balanced sound and outstanding performances from all musicians. Chick never fails to impress!

The listened a bit to artist in residence Robert Glasper and his tribute to Miles Davis, Everything Is Beautiful, featuring the wonderful singer Ledisi. Music from and in the spirit of Miles – you can’t go wrong with that! But, as I wanted to see Still Dreaming, I rushed to get to the next stage to hear them perform. Joshua Redman’s tribute to the band Old And New Dreams features Ron Miles on trumpet, Scott Colley on bass and now Dave King on drums, replacing Brian Blade. The music is still a great mix of captivating originals and music Old And New Dreams used to play – mainly Ornette Coleman’s compositions. King brings a different rhythm concept to the band, more rooted and so pushing the other guys to new highs. Redman and Miles communicating wonderfully and Colley keeping it all together. A great band, amazing musicianship and the perfect way to end this year’s North Sea Jazz Festival!!!

What I didn’t see or hear on Sunday: Bobby McFerrin, Lauryn Hill, Jacob Collier, Ambrose Akinmusire, Henry Threadgill, Youn Sun Nah …..

A bit THANKS to Michelle, Anne Marleen, Frank and Sander for making this festival and our trip most enjoyable. See you next year!

jazz life

The loss of friends, family members, important musicians is always difficult to deal with and hard to move on from  … beside the wonderful Paolo Vinaccia, the music world lost in the last few weeks as well Karlheinz Miklin, the amazing Austrian saxophonist and flautist, whose musical expeditions reached as far as Argentina and Brazil and who as well was a respected and loved educator. Miklin was the first jazz musician I ever signed, and we released 3 recordings together between 1986 and 1989, classics of European Jazz like ‘Echoes of Ilyria’, which was re-issued in 2001. Joao Gilberto, the father of Bossa Nova, passed away on July 6th, leaving a massive legacy for future generations to enjoy. I was lucky to see him once joining Caetano Veloso on stage at the Umbria Jazz Festival – an unforgettable and magic moment!!! May they all Rest In Peace!

It feels sometimes out of place to say ’the show must go on’, but it is the harsh reality, exactly that will happen ….. so we went out to see and hear local sax player and singer Antonio Lizana with top pianist Arturo O’Farrill plus bassist Yarel Hernandez and drummer Shayan Fathi at the Bogui Jazz Club in central Madrid. 3 times Grammy winner O’Farrill is a powerful pianist with incredible technique, and he felt straight at home in Lizana’s flamenco infused compositions, with Fathi and Hernandez pushing the two soloists into amazing performances. Lizana showed what an incredible sax player he is and what control and emotional power he has as a singer – O’Farrill got the audience going with fast and melodic Soli and beautiful support of Lizana’s voice. A sensational combination of which I hope we will hear more, than just this outstanding concert.

Some new music I like to recommend:

Song Dynasty / Searching – This is a real unique recording, putting together Canadian guitarist Ben Holt and Taiwanese singer Li Liu plus another 16 musicians, all together from 9 countries.  Most songs were written by the pair as well and all lyrics are by Li – plus classics from the jazz repertoire reworked on influences from the Far East and an ethnic Hakka folk song by Yu-Wei Hsieh. These are swinging and entertaining songs, extremely well done and immaculate sung. My personal favourite is ‘Ai Tai’, a groovy little affair that keeps your body moving – well arranged with brass and beautiful vocals. Great music!

Mike Lorenz & The Witherbees – This self-titled debut album by Mike and his group is a cool mixture of originals and covers, as he says, ‘an exploration of a 21st century songbook’. The Witherbees are Mike on guitar, Jacqui Armbruster on vocals and viola, Justin Sekelewski on bass and Zach Martin on drums and the covers they recorded include ‘Are You Here’ by Corinne Bailey Rae, ‘Waterfalls’ by Paul McCartney and a wonderful version of Sonny Sharrock’s ‘Blind Willie’. Armbruster’s voice is hauntingly beautiful and her vocal performance impressive, so is the guitar playing of Lorenz. A surprising record with tons of variety and quality. Check this out.

Jacques Kuba Seguin / Migrations – Trumpeter Kuba Seguin wrote the 7 tracks for his new album based on interviews with people from various cultural backgrounds in Quebec, Canada, telling their stories. The album was recorded with Yannick Rieu on tenor Saxophone, Olivier Salazar on vibraphone, Jean-Michel Pilc on piano, Adrian Vedady on bass and Kevin Warren on drums. The compositions are beautiful, melodic and easy to listen to – the performances by all musicians excellent, lead by Jacques Kuba Seguin with his warm tone on the trumpet.

Shawn Myers / The Silent Life – New Orleans drummer Shan Myers composed for his debut album  music influenced by Hazrat Inayat Khan and his book The Mysticism of Sound and Music. To record the album he brought together some young and new talent as well as some special guests: MaeDea LadylaRose reading on Invocation, Mckenna Alicia on vocals, Matt Booth on bass, Andriu Yanovski on keyboards, Sam Dickey on guitar, Bryce Eastwood on alto saxophone, Steve Lands on trumpet, Damas “Fanfan” Louis on petro drum and Edward Petersen on tenor saxophone (Lake Solitude). The compositions are a mix of all that is New Orleans and more: there are the sounds of Black American Music, Haitian Voodoo, West African Voodoo and Electronic Ambience. Vocalist Mckenna Alicia is one of the rising stars in New Orleans and she shows on this album why – great vocal delivery within the outstanding arrangements of Myers. One to watch!



Paolo Vinaccia      March 27, 1954 – July 5, 2019

Many wonderful words have been said and written about Paolo since his untimely death yesterday. Words that can not catch the greatness of the man, not only as a musician, but as well as a humorous, gentle and caring human being. I have never met a man with such an appetite and love for life, a generous and always supportive gentleman. Musically there were no rhythms this drummer extraordinaire couldn’t find within himself and/or a song … having been the driving force on numerous recordings of all genres of music, always serving the composition and performance, never putting himself forward when it wasn’t his time.

I met Paolo the first time in 1997, when I made his first album ‘Mbara Boom available internationally after its initial Norwegian release. We stayed in touch after that, me as well working his amazing box set Very Much Alive, a series of live recordings in a trio format with Terje Rypdal on guitar, Ståle Storløkken on keyboards and special guest appearances by bassist Marius Reksjø, Bugge Wesseltoft on keyboards, Jonas Lønnå for Sounds – Vinyl and samples and trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg, released on Jazzland Recordings in 2010. By this time, he was as well already the drummer in a trio with saxophonist Tommy Smith and bass legend Arild Andersen, which released 3 critically acclaimed recordings on ECM. Despite his ongoing battle with cancer, Paolo tireless toured with the trio and found time to record and produce more of his own music. The touching and heartfelt music of Dommedag Ifølge Paulus, composed by Paolo with Audun Aschim Steffensen, is a document of his love for life, a reminder of the struggle of many people with this illness and a prayer for all of them. Performed with the Norske Solistkor under Grete Pedersen and Eivind Aarset on guitar next to Paolo on percussion, this recording and video is a lasting reminder of a great composer and performer. For anyone interested in Paolo’s musical variety, I would recommend getting a copy of the 6 CD box set Mystery Man, an anthology through his work from 1981 to his last recordings. Essential listening!!

I feel honoured that Paolo called me his friend, that we had a musical connection and one as human being. In 2018 my wife and I travelled with Paolo and his wife Trude to the festival Jazz at Bran Castle in Rumania, as Paolo was helping with the program of the festival. We had some truly wonderful days together, enjoying each other’s company and the music on offer, good food and wine. With his smile and easy-going attitude, his willingness to help, Paolo made everyone relax.

Over the last half year he did send me some music he had worked on and mixed over the last few months .. first a recording with Makoto Ozone, Tommy Smith and Arild Anderson, recorded and entitled Live in Japan .. and wonderful music, an extension of the ECM trio with pianist Ozone and immaculate as a recording. The other one was a WAV master of a live concert in Arendal with Bugge Wesseltoft and bassist Shri, an amazing musical adventure, with space for improvisations, light and driving rhythms and magical communication between all three musicians. Hopefully these recordings will be made available once.

His legendary status as one of Europe’s most important drummers will last forever – for those who met him, he will be an unforgettable person, who has touched them with his kindness and all-embracing humanity. Paolo Vinaccia will be truly missed, and the world is a worse place without him. May he Rest In Peace.