Autumn Songs

The autumn of music in Madrid started for me with the concert of the Bill Frisell group performing his latest album WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR on October 27th at the Auditorio Nacional. The program was based on the music of the record, with slight variations and focused therefore on movie and film themes. Petra Haden, the singer on the record and in the show, was unfortunately suffering from a cold and therefore kept her performance to 3 songs, which on the other hand gave Bill and his bass player Thomas Morgan and drummer Rudy Royston more space to explore the inner secrets of these compositions … and how they did! Bill’s beautiful explorative melodic lines, clear and captivating and full of twists and turns, kept the listeners attention, supported by his rhythm section perfectly. Especially in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE the improvisations of the trio were amazing and a spectacular exchange of ideas from all 3 musicians. Whatever Frisell is taking on in terms of repertoire, he always is making it HIS – adding depth and personality to the music he performs. This show was no exception and another proof of that.


Becca Stevens is for me one of the most interesting new singers and song writers and her show on November 1st at Clamores in Madrid simply confirmed that – just in a trio with her on vocals, guitar and other string instruments and with Chris Tordini on bass (with added backing vocals) and Jordan Perlson on drums, she did perform repertoire from her marvelous PERFECT ANIMAL album, as well as songs from her forthcoming new song cycle REGINA, which will be released in March next year. Becca is an amazing singer with perfect control of her voice and her writing is challenging and needs the listener to pay attention to capture the subtleties and beauty of her music and lyrics. I can’t wait to hear the new album and see her live again soon.



A few CD tips:

From Norway there are a few great new releases to check out, lead by a wonderful compilation from Bugge Wesseltoft’s recording history of the last 20 years – SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN is a collection of old, new and unreleased gems by the keyboard master and not only the perfect starting point if you are not yet a fan, but as well a great reminder how incredibly talented Bugge is in many ways. A must!

MOST PERSONAL is a kind of best of by singer Rebekka Bakken taking the material from her Emarcy recordings .. and a few new tracks, ranging from a touching Norwegian folk song to one in German by the late singer/songwriter Ludwig Hirsch and three new songs in English – all worth listening to beside all the great songs from her 5 albums so far. A showcase for her great song writing and singing skills. Essential listening.

Madeleine Peyroux’s SECULAR HYMNS shows her in a semi-live recording with the format I think works best for her – just accompanied by bass and guitar, with her on acoustic guitar and vocals .. Simplicity that gives focus to her amazing voice and phrasing …perfect. The choice of repertoire is great as well, ranging from Allen Toussaint via Tom Waits to Lynton Kwesi Johnson … amazing how she deals with these songs and creates that beautiful tight and personal atmosphere. Highly recommended.

SPAIN FOREVER is the third cooperation of pianist Michel Camilo & Tomatito, the incredible flamenco guitar player from Spain. The repertoire here again is Spain based, but not exclusively and is definitely more laid back than on the previous 2 releases. Outstanding Charlie Haden’s OUR SPANISH LOVE SONG and GNOSSIENNE NO.1 by Erik Satie … and as on the previous releases there is a great version of a Chick Core tune, this time ARMANDO’S RHUMBA.  Excellent!

Composer, band leader and bass player Pablo Martin Caminero has just released his new group album SALTO A VACIO, featuring his usual working band with Ariel Bringuez on saxes, Toni Belenguer on trombone, Moises P. Sanchez on piano and Borja Barrueta on drums. Pablo’s compositions are simply some of the best that jazz / flamenco has to offer and his band is executing them perfectly – with power and feeling! From the various guests especially singer Ganavya Doraiswamy needs to be mentioned with her beautiful performance in VALSE POUR NOOR for which she as well wrote the lyrics. Worth checking out!!


New York swings

A business trip to New York is always a good opportunity to hear some music and meet some friends and artists. This time was no different and the first to hear was David Sanborn, who performed for one week at the Blue Note, introducing a brand new band. I never had heard of the pianist Andy Ezrin before, but throughout the show did enjoy his playing on piano and organ, of course I know Wycliffe Gordon, but had never seen him performing and loved every second of it, especially when he performed on the soprano trombone, which sounded almost like a slide trumpet. The rest of the gang beside the amazing Sanborn were Ben Williams on bass and Billy Kilson on drums and both don’t need further introduction. This was the first night this group ever played together and they were smoking from the first note – they started the set with a powerful rendition of Michael Brecker’s Tumbleweed and with that made a statement of intent – this is going to be a hard hitting and swinging modern jazz band! They continued with 2 more Brecker compositions – Half Moon Lane and Night Blooming Jasmine – both showcasing the amazing talents of this band, led by Sanborn, who was in the best possible mood and inventive and inspired in his soli, followed by Wycliffe, who pushed  his sidemen to deeper musical levels. This was followed by two of Sanborn’s own compositions – Maputo and Sofia – here given a hard swinging and grooving treatment and the D’Angelo/Roy Hargrove tune Spanish Joint, featuring more impressive soli. They ended the set with Gordon’s On The Spot and smiles all around – one can only wonder how these guys will sound after a few more gigs. Incredible!!


After days of meetings and dinners finally another show to attend: Dee Dee Bridgewater – Songs We Love at the Jazz at Lincoln Center. Supported by a group of 10 musicians, led by trumpeter Riley Mulherkar, Dee Dee and the band went through the American Songbook and who is better than she to do so? Starting off with St. James Infirmary, she showed why she is the best jazz singer around today: she has total control, is inventive in her soli, can be powerful and forceful and just a second later in low voice and captivating, but always pushing the song and its emotional content. She is an amazing performer, but never puts the show before the song. On the night she had two guests working with the same group of musicians – singers Vuyo Sotashe and Brianna Thomas. Young South African Vuyo I had met in October last year at the Montreux Academy and it was a pleasure to see how confident and really good he performed his own pieces and especially his duet with Dee Dee on Miss Brown To You. Brianna Thomas is a delightful singer with a great voice – obviously trained while on the road with The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra and truly beautiful in ballads. Dee Dee as always was the best, but the guests showed promise and it is good to see Dee Dee nurturing new talent that way.



OKeh update:

October 28th will see the release of the first OKeh album by singer extraordinaire Kurt Elling – The Beautiful Day. The album, a collection of swinging and beautifully arranged and performed Christmas songs, is another proof that Kurt Elling is without doubt one of, if not the, leading male jazz singer today. It is simply amazing how this album can get you swinging and in a relaxed mood, being a Christmas album without the cheesiness these records mostly tend to display. Serious music!


Miles Ahead & OKeh update

This blog will feature an update on the forthcoming OKeh releases and my personal review of Miles Ahead – the movie. Finally I had a chance to see the film and did enjoy it – as the music won over the images by a clear count. I am not sure what the film wants to be – a film about Miles Davis or an action movie with Miles Davis in it, but in the end that doesn’t really matter – the movie is truly enjoyable, the character Miles Davis is there with all his dark and self-destructive sides and the light of his music. Whether the representation of his personality is correct or not, only people who knew him can really answer. Is the story of the stolen tape really necessary to show what person Miles was? I don’t think so and I had the feeling that the story took over the movie at one point and forgot about Miles, but then there are scenes that are drawing you into the music making, as the one with Gil Evans, and they make up for all the rest. The great music is mostly from Davis’ catalogue and some from Robert Glasper and at the end from a cool live concert with Don Cheadle that featured among others Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Robert Glasper and Esperanza Spalding. In general the movie is well acted and with the flashbacks to earlier times works well in terms of narrative and therefore keeps you engaged in the story. A bit too much sometimes and I am sure Miles’ life had enough bad, good and crazy moments to make a captivating film from, but overall I would recommend it.

BeFunky Collage

Just a quick review on forthcoming OKeh releases for the second half of 2016:   first out at the end of August will be the new album by The Bad Plus IT’S HARD – and it will be hard not to love this incredible album of cover versions from the likes of Prince, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Peter Gabriel, Cyndi Lauper, Kraftwerk, Ornette Coleman and others. This will be supported by a massive tour in Europe – worth checking out indeed!!!

German trumpet star Till Brönner is releasing his first OKeh/Masterworks album in early September and is making us enjoy The Good Life by performing and singing some of the world’s best known standards and a few originals – sublime and perfect music for the quiet hours we all need. Recorded with Larry Goldings, Anthony Wilson, John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton – a beauty!

Nils Petter Molvaer’s new opus entitled BOYANCY will be released on September 9th and is a fantastic and powerful group effort highlighting the intense musical partnership his band has achieved, as well as the beautiful and lyrical play by Nils Petter. On tour in the fall in Europe as well – go and hear them!

Dhafer Youssef, the great Tunisian singer and oud player, will release his second OKeh album in September as well, featuring a great band of young US talent – Aaron Parks on piano, Ben Williams on bass, Mark Giuliana on drums and on a few tracks Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet. DIWAN OF BEAUTY & ODD is a record of amazing and powerful, groovy compositions, delicate and touching ballads and some outstanding music performances and of course angelic chants by Dhafer himself. European tour to start after the release and will be going far into 2017. A must!

There’s more, but about that I will report another time …. I am truly honored and happy being involved in all these incredible projects.

Summer Jazz 2016

ViJazz stands for Vilafranca del Penedes and as well for Vino y Jazz, a truly sensible combination. While you walk around the city, sampling the various local wines, you can as well enjoy some of the free concerts in the square in front of the church … or go to one of the proper and guided wine tastings, obviously promoting the local whites and Cava – for me a tasty surprise the Cosmic by the Pares Balta Winery – a great mix of Sauvignon Blanc and Xarello (the local grape in the region). And of course the music – the beautiful setting on the square helps to create a good atmosphere, but once you got Dee Dee Bridgewater on stage, supported musically by young trumpeter Theo Croker and his gang, the already hot square got to boiling temperatures! Dee Dee is so energetic and the young band is pushing her limits, and she is accepting the challenge with a smile. Whether it is her repertoire or music from the two Theo Croker recordings, which both feature Dee Dee on a song and of course the music of New Orleans, Dee Dee and the band deliver – in musical terms and in terms of entertainment. No wonder she was named Jazz Master by the NEA a few weeks back … for me the greatest jazz singer we have at the moment and by far the best entertainer.


The second day in Vilafranca offered more good wine and music by GoGo Penguin, reminiscent a bit of e.s.t. in the more powerful and driven moments, but still their own and making a few waves around Europe. This UK piano trio is really strong and deserved the great applause it got before making way for Richard Bona and his Mandekan Cubano project – cool rhythms and all that is great about Bona: good songs, great vocals and unreal bass!! The audience loved it and had a great time – what else can you ask for!


Next on the list of summer jazz festivals was North Sea Jazz in Rotterdam – 3 days of an unbelievable menu for jazz lovers – what to pick? I kept it relaxed this year, started the Friday with a bit of Snarky Puppy, which was fine, but didn’t blew me away; tried to listen to Diana Krall, but didn’t have the right wrist band to see her as this was one of the few bonus concerts, where you have to pay extra, but was happy enough to go backstage and say Hi to her; off to see Kamasi Washington with the Metropole Orkest, conducted by Jules Buckley, and the ZO! Gospel Choir. Great music, really powerful stuff, but unfortunately the sound in the venue didn’t transport that power as much as I would have liked – sometimes the orchestra sounded thin, the choir too much in the background and the group with Kamasi too dominant – but one could hear still how good everyone on stage was, how beautiful the band and orchestra fitted together and how the choir gave a different dimension to the compositions.  Christian Scott is a great young player, with cool and captivating compositions and a fantastic live band and he proved again that he can capture his audiences and give them a good time. As I wanted to see Ibrahim Maalouf with his Kalthoum band, I left Christian after a while and moved to the next venue to see Maalouf performing with Mark Turner on saxophone, Frank Woeste on piano, Scott Colley on bass and Clarence Penn on drums – what a set! Khartoum is a homage to the Egyptian singer and composer Baligh Hamidi and her work  ‘Alf Leila Wa Leila’, which was presented here as a jazz suite – and all players were in the mood to stretch and improvise and give this music something special. Maalouf at his best!


I started the Saturday with a young man whom I had met a few years ago when he was just an internet phenomena and who has developed his musical ideas now into his first record: Jacob Collier. As on the album, the show featured only Jacob, but on all instruments – loops and samples make this happen and it still keeps being spontaneous – he even looped some of the videos he had running in the background, so even visually you could see him playing 3 or 4 instruments at the same time …  but let’s take away the gimmicks for a moment and the young man shows a lot of talent – between his own songs and his covers of standards or more modern songs, he not only can play, but he is as well a great singer and got lots of ideas on improvisation and the use of his technical tools. When he performed a song just with acoustic guitar and singing beautifully one got the picture – the ’I do it all’ is part of his story and the new album and the show strengthens that, but there is more to him than that and once he has developed fully and has his own band, this could be an interesting (jazz) singer who doesn’t seem to know borders – what for anyway?


I had looked forward to the next show for a while now and I wasn’t disappointed: young saxophonist James Brandon Lewis and his bass player Luke Stewart and drummer Warren ‘Trae’ Crudup played a free flowing melodic funk jazz set based on JBL’s latest album Days Of FreeMan – and the audience really got into it and screamed and gave standing ovations within the set – the hip hop based grooves and Lewis’ impressive improvisations were simply stunning and local media mentioned the gig as one of the highlights of the festival – absolutely true. This young man needs to be heard! Got to listen a bit of Cyrille Aimee after that – she is a great singer with incredible control – sometimes I am not so sure about the repertoire choices, but the girl can sing!! In all that I missed to see and hear Airelle Besson, the amazing French trumpet player and composer as well as Hiatus Kaiyote, one of the coolest bands around at the moment …. Had to go and see the Branford Marsalis Quartet featuring special guest Kurt Elling now that their record was out … after seeing them last a few days before the recording in New Orleans … and how was that worth it …. They have grown so together as a unit and are able to do almost anything with the songs they performed, mostly from their recently released disc Upward Spiral. A pleasure of interactivity between all musicians, surprising changes and smiles all around – the guys surely had fun and it was reflected in the audience’s enthusiastic response … and at the end Cecile McLorin Salvant came on stage to do a song with them …gorgeous!

Saturday I started with seeing a few old friends – Michael Mantler performed The Jazz Composers Orchestra Update with the Austrian Big Band Nouvelle Cuisine, conducted by Christoph Cech and in the band, as soloist next to Mantler was my friend Wolfgang Puschnig, alto sax player, composer and Harry Sokal, tenor sax player and another of Austria’s greats.


They all performed a captivating show of incredible big band music – doesn’t get much deeper and better than that! And yes, the radio.string.quartet was part of that gig as well. Ran into Christian McBride and Chick Corea, who was celebrating his 75th birthday there  in a musical homage to his heroes – with a great band that featured beside McBride Kenny Garrett, Wallace Roney and Marcus Gilmore … Totally amazing the other legends I went to see after that: Charles Lloyd and Pharoah Sanders. Lloyd performing with Jason Moran, Reuben Rogers and Eric Harland – nothing could go wrong here … these guys played so well together, supporting Lloyds beautiful sax sound and laying the ground for his improvisations … I was just sitting there with a smile on my face …. Which didn’t go away when Pharoah Sanders came on. The trio was completed by William Henderson on piano and the excellent Trilok Gurtu on percussion – they supported a kind of softer Sanders perfectly and with lots of feeling and intuition. And last on Saturday night it was the trio of John Scofield, Brad Mehldau and Mark Giuiana – really funky grooves and the usual great guitar work by Scofield. The perfect show to let the weekend finish – as usual: great music and too many choices to make, but a fantastic place to meet musicians, hear the new and old and have a good time.



















The jazz festival in Vitoria-Gasteiz in the north of Spain, was celebrating this year their 40. anniversary and they put a very good program together, which we only visited for 2 days – the Friday and Saturday, July 15 and 16. We have a lot of friends there and it is always great to come back to this festival and so it was this year – and the music was pretty impressive too! Friday started with the Kenny Barron / Dave Holland duo, which I didn’t see in Rotterdam, as I knew I would have a chance to see them in Vitoria – and they were simply incredible …. The Art Of Conversation is the album most of the music came from and the title makes truly sense when these two world class musicians are talking to each other via their instruments – as if one mind speaks and improvises, together searching for new ideas or melodies within a song .. constantly challenging each other without showing off. One of the highlights of the jazz summer this year! Then Jamie Cullum – a great performer, who every time I see him becomes a better pianist … his just piano and voice version of Blackbird was absolutely outstanding! And he still can make every song he touches his own …Love For Sale was cool and modern and still the same great song, but that night it was Jamie’s and so it was with the rest and especially his And The Wind Cries May   .. I guess Hendrix would have been proud. The audience was having the best of times and so had I … love the guy!


Saturday was the end of the festival and started with the Pat Metheny & Ron Carter duo, which I did enjoy, but in comparison to the day before with Barron/Holland, this was a less connected affair – great soli by both, but less communication and deeper understanding. Great their version of Sonny Rollins St. Thomas, surely one of the outstanding tunes of the show. Cecile McLorin Salvant closed the festival – once again showcasing her undeniable talent and control – she is a star in the making, but as I have said before, there is still too much technique and not enough emotions for me … she tries too hard to show what she can do and doesn’t let the song decide what it needs … except when she sang at the end of the show Alfonsia Y El Mar in Spanish.. then the audience was touched, as she concentrated on the beauty of the song (and most likely the Spanish pronunciation) instead of unleashing a technical firework … absolutely beautiful. Incredible as well Aaron Diehl on the piano, who really made her sound even better and got the loudest screams and applause of the show for one amazing solo – breath-taking.  A great festival came to an end and we wish the Festival all the best for the coming years – looking already forward to go there next year again.


What better way to end our jazz festival summer than going to see Melody Gardot in the Noches Del Botanico in Madrid: an open air show on a hot summer night and amazing music from one of my favourite singers. Melody is a natural performer, reaching to her audience with her songs and little stories once in a while and with her outstanding band (featuring young sax player Irwin Hall), she can do whatever she wants … slow and quiet as in the beautiful and touching Baby I’m A Fool or powerful and engaging as in Preacher Man or She Don’t Know from her latest CD Currency Of Man. She is an artist who can touch me deeply, as she did with her incredible rendition of Morning Sun from the same album and a simple, but extremely powerful See-Line Woman, the iconic song by Nina Simone, which she made completely her own in a version full of respect for the original, but still being able to add something special to it. The Madrid audience was fully behind her and sang with her creating some extremely beautiful moments. Melody Gardot and her band were in great form last night and delivered what easily could be the concert of the year for me. Sensational!!!

Come FLY with me


OK, not very original, but I couldn’t resist the play with words … and in a sense it is true anyway that you can fly spiritually when listening to these 3 guys … FLY is a trio consisting of Mark Turner on saxophones, Larry Grenadier on bass and Jeff Ballard on drums and they have recorded three albums since their debut in 2004. The repertoire of the show at Madrids Bogui Club yesterday was mainly repertoire from these recordings – opening the first set with Ballard’s Lady B (written for his mother) from Sky & Country. These three guys can play ! – not only are very tight as a group, their interplay and communication almost perfect, but they are as well outstanding soloist in their own rights – knowing when to let go and have one of the others the spotlight and knowing when to step forward and take it itself … stunning! Next on was Mark Turners Brothersister from another ECM album, Year of the Snake. After that they played another Ballard composition Perla Morena and Super Sister by Turner, both as well from Sky & Country. The last tune opened with an unaccompanied tenor sax solo of the highest order – melodic and inventive and touching.



The second set had 4 songs as well and Turner started it off with a change to the soprano sax for  a beautiful song Called Come with me Miss B, which was followed by a Larry Grenadier composition for Oscar Pettiford. Larry was throughout playing incredible and some of his soli had the audience in the packed club screaming – a powerful, but emotional and sensitive performance. Lone (Ballard) from the 204 album Fly led into the final piece of the evening that had the house go crazy – a deserved standing ovation and a beautiful encore rounded up a night to remember. Come FLY with me …..




I have mentioned the young singer Paula Grand already a few times in my blog – for a good reason: she is a very talented singer and songwriter and is starting to create waves in Spain and abroad – not only by being in the final of the Montreux vocal competition, but as well by performing there with Bugge Wesseltoft and by doing her own concerts and releasing her first album on the small LITTLE RED CORVETTE label. And Viatge Interstel:lar is worth checking out and so are her shows in support of the release of this debut album. On May 19th she performed at Bogui Jazz in Madrid, supported by her trio with the excellent pianist Kquimi Saigi, Joan Pasqual on electric bass and  Arnau Figueres on drums. She nevertheless started the show solo and with the help of some loops with Nat King Cole’s Calypso Women, simply stunning and showing her amazing vocal skills. Then the band joined her and they went on a global tour of music – from her own composition to America, Brazil, Columbia and Australia and musically from Nat King Cole to Hiatus Kaiyote, whose two songs Swamp Thing and Nakamarra she made completely her won – and that is what makes her concerts so special: no matter what source she uses, it is always something personal she can add to the existing song and her own compositions are on the same level as the covers or standards she picks … just check out Darling on the album and you know what I mean. Any chance to check her out one should take.



Just read on Al Schmitt’s facebook page that the amazing composer and arranger Claus Ogerman has passed away recently – Ogerman was surely one the best arrangers of his generation – his work with Michael Brecker (Cityscape and Claus Ogerman featuring Michael Brecker) or with Diana Krall, as well as his own albums, especially Two Concertos or Across the Crystal Sea with Danilo Perez, are testimony for that. Just check out the box set released in 2002 about him, The Man Behind The Music and you will understand how much his talents will be missed.  R.I.P.



Karen Mok is a Chinese super star – as a singer as well as an actress and has won the Golden Melody Award, which is the Taiwanese equivalent to the Grammy, 3 times. Her 2013 album in English, ‘somewhere I belong’ was one of the last projects I did before leaving Universal Music and one I am particularly proud of, as it is simply a great record by a very good singer. Now her REGARDEZ world-tour brought Karen to Madrid to perform – being the first Chinese artist to do so under her/his name.


In front of a mainly Chinese crowd of estimated 2500 people, she performed songs from her Mandarin and Cantonese catalogue and the audience sang along with enthusiasm and seemingly enjoying the concert – even not understanding the lyrics, it was clear that these were great songs, perfectly performed by her nine piece band and with immaculate vocals by Karen herself. A fantastic light and video show – stylish and always in support of the music, not overpowering it – made the concert an overall amazing event, a feast for ear and eye. Absolutely great was when she did a song from the album we worked on together – her version of Wicked Game, which without a problem fitted the rest of the program, as well as Cheek To Cheek, which she had recorded a year back with Andrea Bocelli.  Great music can come from any place on earth – no matter what the genre. Karen proved this at this show and with the jazz album I worked on. A true star … and a very nice person on top!


Friday May 6th the Soul singer and keyboarder Avery Sunshine performed as a duo with her husband, guitarist Dana Johnson, at Clamores in Madrid. Avery isn’t really that much known yet, but I bet this is going to change soon: a voice to die for, a great personality and a fantastic performer with a great sense of humour. She sang mainly repertoire from her two albums – Avery *Sunshine (2010) and The Sun Room (2014) – and a little tribute to Aretha Franklin as well as Maroon 5’s Sunday Morning. And how she sang: powerful and quiet, full of emotions and in total control of her instrument – if you think India.Arie and Hil St. Soul, that’s the kind of quality you get with Avery, telling her own stories through her songs. And got the audience captivated from the first to the last minute, singing along whenever requested. She as well introduced 3 new songs to the small, but enthusiastic audience and especially JUMP sounded great and fresh – the Ice Cream Song was as well really cool and charming and the last of the new ones was like being in Church in a way: a gospel-like showpiece of her voice and an invitation for the audience to participate.























This was helped and improved by the presence of a choir in the crowd – GOSPEL FACTORY – and at one point Avery asked them out in front of the stage and they sang with her – simply gorgeous!!! She ended the night with ‘You’ve got a friend’ and the audience gave her a well-deserved standing ovation. Watch out for her – Avery will bring sunshine as well to you soon!!!


Great voices to look out for … there will be a new album by Gregory Porter in late May and I am sure it will be as good as the previous one, judging from the first single, which is already out – Can’t wait to hear the full record. The Branford Marsalis Quartet has teamed up with Kurt Elling for UPWARD SPIRAL, a fantastic album coming out June 10, followed by an European summer festival tour. Paula Grande has finally released her cool first album Viatge Interestellar and is performing the music around Spain at the moment – she will be in Madrid May 19th and I am looking forward to hear her and her band to perform these songs. And there is a new live DVD (her first) by Melody Gardot, which I am going to check out in the coming days.  Great voices – great music!



jazzahead 2016

Jazzahead, the world’s biggest jazz meeting, which this year as well included companies from Asia and Cuba besides the European and American presence the fair already had, stood under the sign of Switzerland this year. And artists from this partner country had a strong presence at the festival  – the opening night on Thursday, April 21 presented  the Colin Vallon Trio, Weird Beard, Christoph Irniger Pilgrim, Elina Duni, Julian Sartorius, Plaistow, Pommelhorse and Luca Sisera Roofer. Most of these performances can now be seen on the jazzahead youtube channel –

and some of these are definitely worth to check out – saxist Christoph Irniger and his band Pilgrim as well as Pommelhorse the outstanding ones for me, next to the already more established one like Colin Vallon and Elina Durni.


Beside the focus on the partner country, the festival has 3 more lines of programming: German Jazz Expo, European Jazz Meeting and Overseas Night. I didn’t manage to see any of the German acts (guess in the end I simply had to many meetings scheduled …), went instead to check out some of the Overseas Night acts like Canadian singer Laila Biali (photo above), whose simplistic version of Nature Boy was amazing to listen to and showed her immense talent and voice control, or the Aaron Diehl Trio (photo below), which used dynamics to a great result, keeping the listeners drawn in the music, surprising constantly and communicating on the highest musical level. A real outstanding show!


Great too was trumpeter Amir Elsaffar and his Two Rivers Ensemble, whose blend of Arabic music and jazz reminded of Dhafer Youssef and Ibrahim Maalouf, but still had something individual to offer,  as well as Kevin Hays’ New Day Trio. Here Hays focused on his piano playing and occasional singing and created a relaxed atmosphere for the trio to dwell in.

The European Jazz meeting opened with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra & Ole Morten Vagan and it started therefore powerful and bassist Vagan’s compositions got the best out of this remarkable orchestra, featuring as well violinist extraordinaire Ola Kvernberg. Modern Big Band Jazz at its best! A bit annoying was, that while the band played the announced last piece of the show, on the side of the stage some stage-hand held up a sign YOUR TIME IS UP and as they tried to finish the song the sign, a minute or so later, changed to STOP NOW !!! – for a jazz meeting and concert this is slightly out of place, even when a tight schedule of shows needs to be preserved.


After more meetings on that Saturday I went to see the 20th anniversary celebration concert of the Norwegian Jazzland label at the NDR Sendesaal. I had the pleasure of working with Bugge Wesseltoft and Sten Nilsen, the two forces behind the label,  for many years and I am still a great fan of the music these guys put out every year. Celebrations started with Beady Belle introducing the audience to some new material of her forthcoming record – with Gregory Hutchinson on drums, Bugge Wesseltoft on piano and Ole Marius Sandberg on bass. The new songs are really great and the band performed extremely well – not surprising Bugge ahead of everyone else with some incredible piano work. One album to watch out for!


Then one of my favourite Jazzland acts took the stage – Hakon Kornstad with his ensemble performing music from his album ‘tenor battle’, which sees his tenor sax battle with his tenor voice … simply incredible!!! He is one of the most interesting young sax players in Europe, studied operatic singing for 3 years and now combines the two worlds he is living in musically to something utterly unique and touching – as the audience in Bremen experienced first-hand – most of them didn’t know what to expect and were moved to tears by the simple beauty of these melodies and Hakons performance and the acoustic sound fitted the venue perfectly – gig of the jazzahead for me!


Then followed Bugge Weseltoft’s New Conception in Jazz (anniversary edition) and some awesome grooves and improvisations. The new band (Marthe Lea on saxes; Oddrun Lilja Jonsdottir on guitar; Sanskriti Shrestha on table and Siv Ǿyun Kjenstad on drums) did extremely well for only playing their second gig together – supporting the master keyboarder perfectly – this will only get better when they have played a few more gigs – looking forward to hear them again soon.


The evening ended with a short set by Moksha, a new group on Jazzland Recordings, featuring Jonsdottir and Shrestha plus percussionist Tore Fladjord. A beautiful finale to a very special night! To many more years and to many more great releases from my favourite musical country: Jazzland!

jazzahead is always worth a trip – lots of jazz to be discussed and business to be conducted, but first of all many great shows – and that’s what jazz is all about in the end: live performances that catch our imagination and heart.