more from a jazz life …

Before going into the music and other events of the immediate past, I have to make a correction to my blog post from October: the wonderful album ONKALO by Julie Campiche will only be released in February … getting my advance copy I got carried away a bit and reviewed it already … I will at the time of release re-post that review and a link to an updated video, so everyone who wants can follow up and listen to the full record then.

Brenda Earle Stokes / Solo Sessions, Volume 1 – composer, pianist and singer Stokes’ delivers as her second album a solo recording for piano and voice. The album is an eclectic mix of originals, standards and covers of songs by k.d. land, Huey Lewis and Michael McDonald, as arranged by Stokes and performed by her in top quality. She is a wonderful pianist with delicate touches on the ballads and power when needed – her singing is immaculate and touching. Key tracks are McDonalds ‘I can let go now’, her own ‘The Waltz’ and the Swallow/Winstone tune ‘Ladies in Mercedes’.

Bria Skonberg / Nothing Ever Happens – this new album by singer and trumpet player Skonberg is pointing in a new direction – more edgy, modern and more fun. The album showcases Skonberg’s working band of recent years – pianist Mathis Picard, bassist Devin Starks and drummer Darrian Douglas – along with guest appearances by saxophonist Patrick Bartley, Hammond B3 master Jon Cowherd, and guitar great Doug Wamble. Her own compositions mix well with the well chosen covers by The Beatles, Sonny Bono and Queen and make for an interesting listen. Touches of Soul, New Orleans and Pop run through her jazz arrangements and make them personal and her performances on trumpet and vocals are always in service of the song. For me her best album so far!

Jerome Jennings / Solidarity – drummer Jennings’ second release is a hard swinging affair featuring trumpeter Josh Evans, tenor and soprano saxophonist Stacy  Dillard, trombonist Andrae Murchison, pianist Zaccai Curtis, and Jennings’s friend and mentor, bassist Christian McBride plus special guests saxophonist-flutist Tia Fuller, tenor saxophonist-vocalist Camille Thurman, bassist Endea Owens, and percussionist Carlos Maldonado. A truly great jazz album, with very good originals and standards; with variety and surprises in many forms, but always swinging and played on the highest level. Recommended!

Van Morrison / Three Chords & The Truth – since ‘Astral Weeks’ I have been a Van Morrison fan and followed what he did over the years and this new album is again a proof of his amazing song writing skills and his unique singing style. The album features contributions from legendary guitarist Jay Berliner and a duet with The Righteous Brothers’ Bill Medley (‘Fame Will Eat the Soul’). Songs like ‘March Winds in February’, ‘Read Between The Lines’ or ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ are typical Morrison and are excellent in delivery and composition, as is most of the album. Highly recommended!!

Naughty Professor / Everyday Shredder EP – New Orleans funk jazz outfit Naughty Professor released their digital EP earlier this month to critical acclaim. No surprise as the funk running through the 5 tracks is immaculate and powerful. Great brass lines with heavy grooves make this one to dance to. Check out ‘3 Wise Men’ or ‘Pleiades’ and get up and move your body.

November – as in the last few years, is the time for the International Jazz Festival in Madrid, which this year started on October 28th and will run until November 30th … and the first show I attended was Charles Tolliver presenting Paper Man @ 50. That album featured besides the leader and trumpeter Tolliver, Herbie Hancock, Gary Bartz, Ron Carter and Joe Chambers and was recorded at Town Sound Studios, Englewood, New Jersey on 2nd July 1968. The modern versions of these compositions were performed by Tolliver and Jesse Davis on alto sax, Keith Brown on piano, Buster Williams on bass and Lennie White on drums. Tolliver’s music sounded modern and fresh and his and everyone else’s playing was impressive and captivating. Brown and Davis were wonderful soloists next to Tolliver and his amazing rhythm section. Left me and the audience asking for more …

The second gig I attended was that of young saxophonist Nubya Garcia, whom I had seen before and enjoyed her show. This one was as good as the first I saw, and she and her band were giving the mostly standing Madrid audience in a packed Conde Duque groovy jazz to dance to. Excellent musicians who gave her the support and groove to improvise freely and with verve and lots of ideas. This is modern and adventurous jazz, deeply rooted in a tradition of Coltrane or Sanders. Powerful, groovy and melodic improvised music that reaches a younger audience. Captivating!

In the last few weeks the music world lost many great and important artists, some of them I had the pleasure to see perform or work with – Ginger Baker, the outstanding rock and jazz drummer of his generation I saw at the Cream reunion concerts in London in 2005 and once before many years back with his Airforce band … incredible power and intensity!! Pianist Milcho Leviev I heard first through his 2 duo recordings with Dave Holland, but as well liked his solo or group recordings. One of Europe’s most underrated but best pianists. Producer Gerry Teekens I met a few time at North Sea Jazz and liked his enthusiasm for jazz, which he brought to his wonderful label Criss Cross and all its productions. Jan Erik Kongshaug was not only one of the best sound engineers of all time, but as well a warm and gentle human being. I had the pleasure meeting him and working with him on a few occasions and always enjoyed his company and professionalism. They all will be missed. May they rest in peace.



jazz around the world once more ..

Many great new recordings have been released over the last few weeks .. and as I have been a bit lazy in writing about them, this blog will be a little bit longer than usual …  and it will for the first time have links to the music written about, so you can easily follow up … hope you’ll enjoy!

Julie Campiche / ONKALO – on her first record under her own name, Swiss harpist Julie Campiche is creating wonderful soundscapes and spaces for improvisation for her band, which includes saxman Leo Fumagalli, bass player Manu Hagmann and drummer Clemens Kuratle. Five out of the six composition on the album are by Campiche and show her talent as a writer with unique style, using the talents of her co-musicians perfectly. Her sound on the harp is very individual and captivating, her music from groovy to contemplative, from ambient to modern jazz, with deep musical content, at the same time accessible and challenging and rewarding when listening closely. Julie Campiche is sure an artist to have an eye on for the future! You can check out the opening track of the album in a live setting here:

Wolfgang Schalk / Obsession – Austrian guitarist Schalk’s new album features ten original pieces he wrote for and recorded with his current band – Andy Langham on piano, Carlitos Del Puerte on bass, Gene Coye on drums and Luisito Quintero on percussion. Schalk has a beautiful sound on his instrument and his writing includes wonderful lyrical ballads as well a groovers like the title track of this new album, which you can listen to by following this link:

By the way: his wonderful 1996 album ‘The Second Third Man’ featuring Michael Brecker has been re-mastered and is available again and surely worth checking out!

Dave Holland, Zakir Hussain, Chris Potter / Good Hope – three masters at work – this is one wonderful recording and surely one of the best of the year so far! The musical border crossings are incredible, the call and response and musical communication on an extremely high level and the musicality of these three artists beyond! At times the album recalls Hussain’s 1987 masterpiece ‘Making Music’, but then goes beyond that in terms of togetherness and depth. Potter blows his heart out and Holland gives the rhythms a pulse and his soli are touching and full of ideas as ever. Hussain is a master on his instrument and delivers the beat of the music with elegance and feeling. A must hear!!

Tertio / La mince ligne – Tertio are a Canadian jazz/rock quintet led by guitarist Vincent D. Perreault and are featuring Paul Shrofel on keyboards, Alex Lefaivre on bass, Eric Thibodeau on drums and Andy King on trumpet. Their music is an individual and intense mix of influences ranging from Weather Report to Miles Davis – it is funky and melodic and played by a very tight band. Marvellous! 

Joel Miller / Unstoppable – sax player, composer and conductor Joel Miller delivers with Unstoppable a ‘21st-century chamber symphony, inspired in equal parts by Afro-Peruvian folk music, early 2000 indie rock and large ensemble jazz’. The album is set up in 3 parts – Song Story, What you can’t stop and Deerhead Hoof Suite, all wonderful performances with great use of the various colours of the ensemble.  For lovers of big sounds and good melodies. And Miller plays some really good sax parts throughout. Line up: flutes by Billy Kerr, Nadia Sparrow; clarinets by Mark Simmons, Luc Jackman, Jennifer Bell; horn by Jocelyn Veilleux; trumpets by Lex French, Bill Mahar; trombone by Dave Grott; piano by David Ryshpan; acoustic and electric guitars by Steve Raegele; percussion by Sacha Daoud, Erin Donovan, Kullak Viger Rojas; drums by Kevin Warren and acoustic bass by Fraser Hollins. Guest conductor Christine Jensen. Recommended.

Chelsea McBride / Aftermath – another wonderful big ensemble recording from Canada, this one from composer, conductor and saxophonist Chelsea McBride, who put into music various forms of conflicts, saying “The works found on this album were meant to be dark, and scary, conflict is never an easy thing to explore. But I can’t look at all the hurt that inspired this recording without remembering that even in the worst moments … somehow there is hope”. And her compositions do reflect these words perfectly .. dark, but with a ray of light, melodic and sometimes uplifting, haunting and engaging. A great album reflecting our times!

Dan Pitt / Fundamentally Flawed – young guitarist Pitt delivers a remarkable first album with his trio, that flows between composition and improvisation without effort. Completing this exciting trio are bassist Alex Fournier and drummer Nick Fraser, both well-known in the Canadian jazz scene. Pitt has a full sound on his instrument and is a class player – one to watch and see where he goes from this first step …

The Bad Plus / Activate Infinity – this is the second album from the ‘new’ Bad Plus, featuring Orrin Evans on piano and as usual Reid Anderson on bass and Dave King on drums. Written by all members of the trio, this is exciting music that shows the new direction of the band … as edgy as always, but with a new melodic sense … Orrin Evans having a sometimes-symphonic touch on the piano. Wonderful and highly recommended … not only by myself: “Along with new songs, The Bad Plus reshapes a few fan favourites, like “Thrift Store Jewelry” and “Love Is the Answer” — as if to reinforce the idea of continuity, from then to now and beyond” – Nate Chinen, WBGO

Trevor Giancola / Sonnet18 – Giancola, a formidable guitar player and composer, assembled his ‘dream team’ for this recording with the wonderful Seamus Blake on sax; Rick Rosato on bass and Adam Arruda on drums. Says Trevor about the album: “Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 is about love, life, and death: things that I think all people, to some degree, are constantly trying to come to grips with. This album represents my own attempt to address these big picture topics in the most personal way that I can.” Incredible performances by all musicians, but especially Giancola and Blake make this album a valuable addition to any jazz collection.

The Occasional Trio / Live In Berlin – pianist Simon Vincent’s trio, featuring Roland Fidezius on bass and Kai Lübke on drums, recorded this album at the Schlot Club in Berlin over two nights – creating intense music with free spaces for improvisation, based on compositions by Vincent. The trio is tight and swings amazingly, treats ballads with lyrical interplay and giving the audience their emotions through music. Harmonic and melodic adventures worth checking out!

Andres Vial / Gang of Three – A year after the release of his critically-acclaimed Monk tribute album, ‘Sphereology, Volume One’, Montreal pianist Andrés Vial and his sidemen bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Eric McPherson focus entirely on Vial’s original compositions, which are influenced by blues, gospel and world music. Vial shows, as he did with the Monk album, what great player he is and that he can swing as well as groove or touch the listener with an emotional ballad.

DSC / MonkTime – DSC, a trio led by bassist Leon Lee Dorsey and featuring guitarist Greg Skaff and drummer Mike Clark, deliver a high level and touching tribute to Monk. This is only Dorsey’s third album, coming after a 20-year gap … but it has been worth while waiting … as this is an album that shows respect to the original compositions, but still giving them something individual. As Dorsey states: “We weren’t looking to reinvent the wheel on masterpieces. We wanted to keep the essence of the songs, that timeless commonality they have, while blending in our own spices and flavours.” A must have for Monk fans!


Further recommended listening:

Hiromi / Spectrum – a wonderful solo album by the colourful and energetic pianist, showing her full range of expressions on her instrument.


Joshua Redman & Brooklyn Rider / Sun On Sand – the string quartet Brooklyn Rider with Redman and Scot Colley on bass and Satoshi Takeishi on drums – what a musical feat!! Music composed and arranged by Patrick Zimmerli – a perfect vehicle for Redman and his co-musicians. Alone the opener Flash is worth the album!


Jan Garbarek & Hilliard Ensemble / Remember Me My Dear – a live recording from that wonderful combination of voices that gave us Officium. Divine vocal performances with the added voice of Garbarek’s saxophone … compositions by Pärt, Brumel, von Bingen, Garbarek and others inspire the 5 musicians to create beauty in sound.


some shows I saw and heard lately:

Javier Colina / Josemi Carmona / Bandolero – this trio, as well known as the De Cerca Trio, performed at the AC Hotel Recoletos on October 25th, as part of a Colina residence. Both records of the trio are fantastic in the way they mix jazz and flamenco and the same is true for their shows … from Carmona compositions to flamenco standards and jazz standards they paly everything in their own special way – Colina a wonderful bass player with lots of ideas and twists, Carmona a top guitarists for him it isn’t about speed but expression and Bandolero keeping the rhythm for them.

They get better and better and this time their version of ‘Moon River’ was absolutely divine.

Sara Gazarek – singer Sara Gazarek just has been for her first time to Spain for 5 concerts, three of them in Madrid’s Café central, where I saw her on October 30th performing with Julian Shore on piano, Alex Boneham on double bass and Ferenc Nemeth on drums. Gazarek is an immaculate singer with incredible control and technique and gives all chosen material her own stamp – as on the night we could hear her doing so with compositions from the Beatles, Brad Mehldau, Miles and many others, as well as her own songs. Her latest and truly wonderful album ‘Thirsty Ghost’ provided most of the material, exceptionally performed by her band. Outstanding on the night her own ‘Easy Love’, co-written with Larry Goldings and a very powerful and touching rendition of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’. Amazing!!

autumn in jazzland

Autumn in Jazzland … new releases from around the world, some from major labels other from small indie labels – it is the main season for music releases and I want to introduce you to some of the latest new discs (or better files, nowadays) which I heard and enjoyed listening to:

Let’s start in Canada, where Surefire Sweat, a powerful and grooving octet led by drummer Larry Graves, just released their self-titled first album. Cool compositions, captivating arrangements and powerful horn sections are part of this modern jazz album, which shows influences from John Scofield, Tony Allen and Roy Hargrove, to whom the track RH Factor refers. Strong performances by all featured musicians (Rob Neal Christion on flute, Elena Kapeleris on tenor sax and vocals, Paul Metcalfe on baritone sax, Brad Eaton on trumpet, Paul MacDougall on guitar and vocals, Liam Smith on bass, Rhodes and vocals and Dave Chan on percussion, Hammond organ and vocals) make this album an enjoyable listening experience. Get up and dance!

TuneTown, a trio consisting of three of Canada’s leading improvisers, Kelly Jefferson on saxophones, Artie Roth on bass and Ernesto Cervini on drums, as well released their debut album in September, entitled ‘There From Here’. They easily mix elements from the avantgarde with funk, swing and jazz into their own and very eclectic music. In between they show as well how some standards can be treated freshly by wonderfully performing ‘Sophisticated Lady’ and ‘All Of You’. Their nod to Thelonius Monk ‘The Monks Of Oka’ is one of the highlights of the record, that stands firm in the tradition of saxophone trios, but has found its own voice.

Baritone Madness are Pat Belliveau, Keith O’Rourke and Gareth Bane, who together with bass player Kodi Hutchinson and drummer Tyler Hornby recorded their debut album earlier this year for a September release. 3 baritone saxes … and the album starting with ‘Moanin’ .. another wonderful track is ‘Port NOLA’ .. and the rest is really cool and swinging hard. Great originals, wonderful arrangements and top playing by all three saxophonists. I can imagine that this band live gets any audience going …. Baritone madness indeed!


‘Just Friends’ is as well a debut album, this one by UK violinist John Pearce, who with his long-standing side-men David Newton on piano, Will Harris on bass and drummer Ian Matthews recorded an album of standards. Pearce has a full and beautiful sound and is surely a top player on his instrument – he can tell a story; make you dance or captivates your attention by astonishing melodic play. For friends of a more traditional approach to jazz, this is a beauty and Pearce is someone to watch out for.

Australian composer and alto saxophonist Luke Cuerel’s new album is a truly ambitious project, as his 14 piece orchestra is fusing jazz, classical and electronic music on ‘Luke Cuerel Orchestra’. Luke has written an album for string section, wind, brass, harp, drums, bass, keys and electronics. The ensemble features Luke’s favourite musicians and his music is heavily inspired by people and places in Brisbane. The songs are touching, melodic and colourful in the use of many musical shades. For sure an album that needs the listeners attention, but believe me, it’s worth all the while. Gorgeous!

The adventurous UK label EDITION Records has a few surprises for us this fall – already out is the wonderful duo album ‘Hope’ by Kevin Hays & Lionel Loueke. Originally released as a limited LP, this newly remastered release features 3 additional tracks and is available in all formats. This is joyous, uplifting music performed at the highest level. As Hays says: “Music for me is mostly about peace-making by its very nature. I do sort of marvel at the universality of music. How deep the roots go that connect us all. I think that may come out in the music you hear on this recording.” Don’t miss this one – I can’t stop listening to it. Amazing!

Other recommended listening from the labels new releases includes Oddarrang’s fifth album ‘Hypermetros’. The Finnish sound architects delivered another album full of surprises, moulded by raw, emotive and uplifting themes.

Pianist Aki Rissanen, bass player Antti Lötjönen and drummer Teppo Mäkynen’s third album ‘Art Of Motion’ is a tour de force of jazz, classical music and electronics and will propel the Finish trio into the top league of European jazz groups. It is very difficult today for a piano not to sound like e.s.t. or a few other top European piano trios, but Aki and his two musicians are doing just that. Special and captivating!

The Michael Leonhart Orchestra is probably my favourite Big Band of today – deep, surprising and a lot of fun. Their second album ‘Suite Extracts Vol. 1’ is exactly that: amazing arrangements of covers ranging from Howlin’ Wolf via Ornette Coleman to Spinal Tap and Wu-Tang Clan, performed by the best of the best – the orchestra features among others Chris Potter, Nels Cline, Donny McCaslin, John Ellis, Eric Harland and Erik Friedlander as its soloists! Check this out – be open and enjoy – this is simply great music – no categories!

SOUND OUT, Sokolowsko

Sound Out is a professional development and mentoring platform for creative musicians who challenge normal categorisation and is produced by Martel Ollerenshaw as an initiative of the Europe Jazz Network. The first event took place in Sokolowsko, Poland from 25th to 31st of August and had as objective to eradicate limiting factors which hold the artists back, such as insufficient industry awareness, lack of access to relationships within the music industry, limited cross border activities and communication.

The musicians taking part in this first edition of Sound Out were:

Aviva Endean – clarinet, sound artist, performance creator (Australia)

Benedikt Wieland – electric bass, electronics, composition (Switzerland)

Inge Thomson – vocals, accordion, electronics (Scotland)

Joanna Duda – piano, electronics, composition (Poland)

Karolina Rec – cello, vocals, electronics, composition (Poland)

Lucia Cadotsch – vocals, composition (Switzerland)

Morris Kliphuis – horn, composition (Netherlands)

Ramon Landolt – synths, composition (Switzerland)

Throughout the week the musicians had various workshops and guest speakers coming from all over Europe to participate and share their knowledge with this group of exciting artists. I had the pleasure of sharing a session on the recorded music business with my friend and Edition Records founder Dave Stapleton, which I thought was one of the best I did, as the questions of the group were well thought through and challenging. This session was followed by 20-minute face-to-face meetings and discussions, which touched on some of the individual needs and questions the musicians had.  Coming in on the end of the week, it was interesting to see how much the 8 musicians had bonded and grown into a group, open to communicate within the group and beyond.

While preparing for the session and listening to music from all participants, I was overwhelmed with the individual strength of each artist and the music and performances they created. The musical diversity within the group ranges from folk, to electronics, to jazz, to free improvisations and includes other art forms in wonderful collaborations.

When invited I was a bit surprised having to go to a small village in the middle of nowhere in Poland … but once there I came to understand why Sokolowsko was the perfect place for this kind of event:  The local hosts were the Contemporary Art Foundation In Situ, headed by Bozenna Biskupska, Zuzanna Fogtt and Gerard Lebik, which is responsible for many activities in the village, including art festivals, exhibitions and restoring the old Sanatorium into a wonderful place for the arts. Sokolowsko as well is home of the Krzysztof Kieślowski festival and his archive and through the work of the foundation has become a small island for the arts in Poland. No better place to be.

The first Edition of Sound Out felt to me an overwhelming success and I hope that many other editions will follow … there are many deserving artist out there and many experienced people working in the arts, willing to pass on some knowledge.

Jazz in July

Madrid in July is a city full of music – various festivals and events are held, and incredible music heard. One of these series of concerts are the Noches Del Botanico, which had on the night of July 22nd José James and Melody Gardot on the program. José went out first, at 9 pm and at 35 degrees Celsius and he still managed to make everyone move. His unique mix of soul, R&B, jazz with a shot of funk and rock made us forget the heat. The band, consisting of James on vocal and guitar, Marcus Machado on guitar, Aneesa Almusawwir on electric bass and vocals and Aaron Steele on drums is much more funk and rock oriented than previous groups which played his wonderful tribute to Bill Withers, Leon On Me, but sounded fabulous to me. Machado with an incredible solo in typical Hendrix-style, including playing the guitar with his teeth, and the driving bass and hard-hitting drums made this heavier than the previous shows I have seen, but musically extremely interesting. Jose’s singing was immaculate and powerful as ever and he seemed to have a lot of fun, including running into the audience and singing from between his fans. Great show!

Melody Gardot is one of my favourite singers of today and that night she showed again why: a group that included a string quartet supported her performing songs from her catalogue and a few new compositions. Gone is the heavy jazz band with powerful brass – this was soft, wonderful arranged music to listen to and to fall into. “More feminine” as she said to me after the concert. Her band was extremely well picked and got the best of their leader. Melody on vocals, piano and guitar was performing with Mitchell Long on guitar, Sam Minai on bass, Charles Staab on drums, Artyom Manukyan on cello, Astghik Gazhoyan, Astghik Vartanyan and Gohar Papayan on violin and they created some wonderful and magic moments with songs like ‘Who Will Comfort Me?’, ‘Our Love Is Easy’ and especially ‘Morning Sun’, which turned into a 10-minute prayer-like beauty of a song – touching and full of emotions! The new songs felt right at place within her compositions and sounded very promising, as well as her English rendition, partly spoken, partly sung, of the poem ‘Caminante No Hay Camino’ by Antonio Machado. The show ended long past midnight and then she came out to sign CD’s and LPs … The audience loved her for both! Sublime!

Lyon, France, July 27th – Les Nuits de Fourviere: double bill of Richard Bona and Dhafer Yussef. Dhafer, being a long-time friend, invited me to come and have a chat and see the show, which I gladly did. Bona opened the evening with a captivating show with Spanish Flamenco musicians (of which I didn’t see and hear much but had seen a few years back in Madrid) and then Dhafer got to the stage. His latest release ‘Sounds of Mirrors’ gave the repertoire for this show, performed with Youssef on the oud and vocals, Eivind Aarseth on guitar, Raffaele Casarano on sax, Nicolas Viccaro on drums and Adriano Dd on percussion. During the second song heavy rain began to fall, after an initial drizzle, but the almost full arena saw not many people leaving, so much were they under the spell of his voice and music. His compositions are a mix of Arabic tradition with jazz and the band went through the songs with lots of energy and emotions. The ballads are extremely touching, and the melodies keep coming back in your mind. Eivind Aarseth is playing with Dhafer for many years now and his ideas, sounds and overall play is perfect together with Youssef’s voice and oud – Casarano as well fits wonderfully into the musical mix, soaring over the beats and joining the voice as if they were one – drums and percussion are driving the music with power and finesse and Dhafer’s voice is pure and magic in many ways – in Lyon he made the audience smile and forget the rain. I am truly happy to have been there to hear his show. Masterful.


Berlin, July 31st, as part of the A L’Arme Festival I went to see Gurls, the Norwegian Trio of Hannah Paulsberg on sax and vocals, Rohey Taalah on vocals and Ellen Andrea Wang on bass and vocals as well. I had seen the trio before performing music from their debut album ‘Run Boy, Run’ and the 45 minute set in Berlin too drew from that record. The power of the group lies in the extremely different personalities, their impressive understanding and their musicality.  Paulsberg is a controlled and powerful sax player, Rohey an incredible singer with astonishing technique and a cool sense of humour when performing and Wang is a delicate and wonderful bass player, with a deep sense for melody and a great singer to add a different voice to the songs. The combination is captivating and full of surprises and fun. Songs about boys, presented with a smile and amazing musicianship. A trio to watch out for!!


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!