This weekend Ahoy Rotterdam hosted the 43rd edition of North Sea Jazz, the largest indoor jazz festival in the world.
Cameron Graves and his trio opened the festival in the Congo tent. Graves blends his classical piano style with exciting jazz and heavy nu-metal and he and his fellow musicians create their own unique genre. Graves played with the legendary Kamasi Washington at previous editions but this was his first performance at the festival with his own trio.
The organisation commissioned Philip Rüttgers to write a free composition. Pianist/composer Rüttger and his orchestra gave a spacey musical twist to Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairy tales. It turned out to be a fascinating combination of composed classical music, rock-elements and ‘universal’ screen projections of stars and planets behind the musicians.
‘Artist in residence’ Michael League started his three day-musical-journey in Rotterdam with his groovy band Snarky Puppy and the large but flexible Metropole Orchestra led by Jules Buckley. They played music from their Grammy-winning album Sylva as well as some new compositions.
The exciting New British Jazz Invasion with London-based musicians like Shabaka Hutchings, Moses Boyd and Nubya Garcia get a lot attention these days, but even 80-years-old saxophone- and flute-player Charles Lloyd surprised his audience with pure musical joy! Lloyd, once frontman of the free jazz movement, grooved like never before with the Marvels. His guitarist Bill Frisell is able to give a ‘cheesy’ bossa nova interesting sharp edges.
Newcomer the South African guitarist Vuma Levin played promising catchy polyrhythmic structures with his Dutch quintet. Many of the compositions were completely new. The group will record a new album in October.
The legendary hip-hop ensemble The Roots invited exciting friends like organist Cory Henry, guitarist Gary Clark and performer Bilal. Their show was so popular that many visitors had difficulties entering the hall.
Pianist Tord Gustavsen, drummer Jarle Vespestad & singer Simin Tander did a hair-raising beautiful jazz-rendition of Norwegian church and folk songs. They closed the Friday night at North Sea Jazz with a hopeful funeral song: Castles in Heaven.
Ezra Collective opened the Saturday night at North Sea Jazz. These musicians are exciting members of the London club scene. The collective plays a cool mix of jazz, afrobeat, grime and reggae. Brothers TJ and Femi Koleose, on bass and drums are the creative and rhythmic engines of the group.
The Quartet are four musicians of different generations and backgrounds. Saxophone player Benjamin Herman, pianist Peter Beets, bassist Ernst Glerum and living legend drummer Han Bennink paid a wonderful unanimous tribute to the adventerous Dutch composer and bandleader Misha Mengelberg (1935-2017).
Tenor saxophone player Nubya García is by far the coolest girl in town. Garcia is the female frontrunner of the inspirational new British urban jazz movement. She welds together musical influences of her youth (gospel, soul and Latin) into an ultra hip and modern club sound.
Philip Catherine celebrated his 75th birthday at the festival. He brought a large band with creative musicans and two grand pianos! The two pianistst Bert van den Brink and Nicola Andrioli surprised the audience (and their fellow musicians!) with beautiful extensive intros and inventive collective improvisations.
Drummer and bandleader Moses Boyd and his band the Exodus played energetic electronic city in the Darling, the hall that was turned into a British hub this evening.
GoGo Penguin started by playing in an introspective classical style but soon they turned their music into energetic rock and triphop. They played hallucinating music from their succesfull album Man Made Object. In the back of the Darling hall people lay down on the floor to meditate.
The audience in the Hudson gave the legendary free spiritual jazz veteran Pharao Sanders a well-deserved standing ovation. At 78 he looked vulnerable but the colourful dressed Sanders still has a very powerful tone!
A saxophone, a tuba and two drum sets were enough for Sons of Kemet to bring the Darling hall down. These excellent London musicians are able to create an exciting vibe by using four basic instruments only.
Dulfer Plays Blues is a brand new project by saxofonist, author, organiser and jazz promotor Hans Dulfer. His band paid a well deserved tribute to blues genius Lead Belly (1885-1949), Kim Hoorweg, Koen Schouten, Jerôme Hol, Bas van Lier, Eric Barkman & Cyril Directie will bring this entertaining, light-hearted but moving show to the (Dutch) theaters next season, At the end of this Saturday night they closed off with ‘Goodnight Irene’.
The Norwegian trumpetist, multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Mathias Eick combined lyrical jazz with melancholic folk music in the Hudson hall. Eick and his band played the atmospheric compositions from their latest album Ravensburg.
On Saturday Nile Rodgers had performed on the Nile stage. This Sunday John Scofield, John Medeski, Scott Colley and Jack DeJohnette played music from their Hudson album on the Hudson stage! Many rivers to cross at North Sea Jazz. ‘Thank you for not watching football,’ Scofield said. Football seemed so trivial with these legends live on stage. The Hudson show was the highlight this 43rd North Sea Jazz edition. These jazz giants used music from the sixties as a starting point for their soaring improvisations. Their stunning rendition of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’ closed off their deeply moving set.
Trumpeter Eric Vloeimans, pianist Jeroen van Vliet and clarinetist Kinan Azmeh meandered through classical, jazz and world music elegantly. The Easterly Levanter wind heated up the Hudson hall: ‘I hope that our music makes you as happy as we are,’ Vloeimans said.
The American teen star Khalid had no connection with his audience whatsoever. He behaved as if he was entertaining a room full of 16-year-old girls. No, Khalid, this is a highbrow jazz audience that you should conquer!
Pharrell Williams started his show in Rotterdam by saying: ‘Hello Amsterdam!’ When the American artist realised his mistake he apologized by repeating the name Rotterdam again and again. N.E.R.D. knows how to entertain an audience and that is exactly what they did.
Vijay Iyer and his sextet struggled with the sound equipment; their show started later than planned and the musicians still weren’t happy with their monitor sound. Their ingenious groovy music was excellent, though.
After saxophonist Joshua Redman had played with the Billy Hart Quintet at the Village Vanguard for a week he was so thrilled by this cooperation that he wanted to continue it. The following European tour brought them to Ahoy. The inventive musicians Ethan Iverson (piano), Ben Street (bas), Billy Hart (drums) en Joshua Redman closed of this 43rd edition of North Sea Jazz in Rotterdam with dignity.