Friday 8 July
Philip Lassiter and his tight-playing band open North Sea Jazz 2022 with an overwhelming tribute to trumpeter Roy Hargrove (1969 – 2018), who passed away four years ago. The keyboardist and trumpeter used to lead the horn section of Prince’s New Power Generation. There he got to know the Dutch saxophonist Candy Dulfer, who enters the stage as a surprise and contributes to the musical joy.
The Ahoy complex has undergone extensive renovations over the past three years. Some people desperately search for halls that have popped up in entirely different places. In the new Amazon, filled to the last seat and even the aisles, singer Lizz Wright presents a broad selection from her rich repertoire. She draws from many sources, from soul and folk to gospel. The deep voice of the American singer is elegantly carried by the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Bastien Still.
Artist-In-Residence Herbie Hancock performs twice, so that he can highlight all kinds of facets from sixty years of jazz innovation. On Friday evening the 82-year-old master talks about his motivations as a musician and as a human being. It is a unique opportunity to get to know the man who left such an imprint on jazz history. Hancock tells the audience about the technical developments in the field of synthesizers, his eternal drive for innovation and the meaning of Buddhism for him. The keyboardist’s advice to the younger generation is: “Your value does not depend on the number of your followers on social media, it is far more important to believe in yourself.” Hancock’s masterclass concludes with a performance by Lionel Loueke. The Benin-born guitarist puts a special spin on his bandleader Hancock’s repertoire. Loueke’s loop-filled improvisations contain surprising elements of African music, jazz and classical music.
“The theme of our last album was how privileged we feel to be able to make music together every day,” says trumpeter Dave Douglas. “However, its release was immediately followed by the lockdown. You will understand how happy we are to be back here now!” Douglas leads the energetically playing quintet Sound Prints in the Hudson with saxophonist Joe Lovano. The joy of playing is clearly visible on the faces of these veterans. During an inspired solo, drummer Rudy Royston renovates his instrument, if possible even more radically than the halls in Ahoy.
After the audience has enjoyed his warm-blooded baritone and uplifting songs for more than an hour, Gregory Porter may turn out the lights. Not for long, because the nights in July are short. Too short even for the jam sessions at jazz club Bird where the musicians try to cover the loss of not having been able to play for so long.
Saturday 9 July
The first concert on Saturday afternoon is thanks to the missionary work of Frank Jochemsen of the Netherlands Jazz Institute. He discovered a cassette tape with intriguing music by the Frans Elsen (1934 – 2011) quintet. During his stay in Norway the pianist had written a suite, which he wanted to perform in the style of Herbie Hancock. The recordings of Norway had been made, but were left until 2021. Drummer Eric Ineke, the only surviving band member, revisits the still fresh sounding pieces with saxophonist Benjamin Herman, trumpeter Rik Mol, guitarist Martijn van Iterson, keyboardist Juraj Stanik, bassist Marius Beets and percussionist Bart Fermie.
A short time later another drum veteran bursts out in Missouri. Han Bennink has gathered around him a varied group of musicians who live up his 80th birthday at North Sea Jazz: guitarist Reinier Baas, saxophonist Ben van Gelder, pianist Aki Takase and the ICP (Instant Composers Pool) Orchestra, with which he unsettled the jazz world in the 1960s.
After two days, I know the shortcuts and am just in time. More than thirty minutes before Herbie Hancock’s performance the Amazon is packed completely. People in the front rows shout ‘Sit down!’ at the people who have managed to get a standing place in front of them. Hancock presents a varied program with a spacey beginning, some acoustic ballads, a beautiful performance of ‘Footprints’ by Wayne Shorter and a sparkling contribution of guitarist Lionel Loueke that could not be categorized.
Cory Henry, who has performed at North Sea Jazz many times before, knows how to build a party. From the very first song, the Hammond organist, singer and bandleader gets the audience to participate actively. ‘Master Henry’ is catchingly accompanied by his Funk Apostles.
The Ron Carter Foursight Quartet has been thinned to a trio due to the drummer’s illness. This works out surprisingly well, though. The 85-year-old bassist plays so tightly and pianist Renee Rosnes complements him so perfectly that the grooves of this trio with saxophonist Jimmy Greene gradually began to crawl under your skin. It’s remarkable how these musicians, without any bells or whistles, get the crowded Madeira so quiet that the days of The Hague’s Carel Willinkzaal seemed to have returned. A point of attention for the organization: do something about the noise at the entrance doors, because the people talking in the hallway have no idea what holy fire has been lit in the Madeira.
Avishai Cohen also commands silence with his quartet in the large Hudson Hall by playing delicately. His quartet plays music from the album Naked Truth, among others.
Nile Rodgers closes the second day of the festival as an experienced master of ceremonies. The bassist and bandleader has been writing catchy songs for others for decades, but he is also very capable of bringing down the Nile (what’s in a name) in Rotterdam.
Sunday 10 July
Gustavo Santaolalla combines elements of rock, soul, African rhythms, Latin American folk and electronics. The Argentine musician, film composer and producer stirs up a lot of enthusiasm in the Madeira with Latin-tinged easy listening songs and rock repertoire.
Thanks to the success of his two Blue Note albums, the audience eagerly awaits the arrival of Immanuel Wilkins on Sunday. The quartet of the American alto saxophonist does not disappoint: in the Madeira, the four musicians play elaborate versions of pieces from The Seventh Hand, with inspired improvisations and compelling rhythms.
Shirma Rouse, Berget Lewis and Zo! Gospel choir transform the Nile into a mega gospel church. With their contagious enthusiasm they get the massive audience to the point that 10,000 throats sing the battle anthem: “I am a soldier in the army of the Lord”.
Nubya Garcia, a newcomer at the festival three years ago, proves in the Congo tent that London is still one of the hotspots of multi-coloured jazz. In the British capital, the urban jazz fire has continued to smoulder underground during the pandemic and is now flaring up again in all its intensity, and Nubya Garcia is definitely the leading lady.
H.E.R. is best known for ‘I Can’t Breathe’, the anthem of the Black Lives Matter protests. In the Nile, she sings intimate songs, her voice getting a bit lost in the bombastic sound from the speakers.
One of the highlights of this festival is the performance of Vijay Iver. Extremes pass by in an intensely played set: from melodic classical-oriented parts to powerful eruptions. Bassist Linda May Han Oh moves her fingers across the four strings at lightning speed, laying down a lively foundation. Drummer Tyshawn Sorey carefully builds up and down his polyrhythmic tension. The songs flow seamlessly into each other, and the Madeira visitors, who barely get a chance to applaud, watch in breathless admiration.
Alicia Keys was once a piano playing prodigy with a beautiful soul voice. She is also an actress, producer and female empowerment activist. During her performance in the Nile, she has a cold.
Alfa Mist’s performance starts a bit later than planned, because the London beatmaker has had problems at the airport. “We’ve lost our guitars on the way, but now we’re here!” Alfa Mist and his musicians close this rich edition of North Sea Jazz with catchy improvisations over jazz samples and hip-hop tracks.
Pictures: Ron Beenen