north sea jazz 16 roundup


Jonathan Scales Fourchestra @ Mississippi Stage North Sea Jazz Festival 2016

Currently recovering with lots of rooibos and verveine tea after this year’s North Sea Jazz Festival. It started with Joris Roelofs (a Dutch reed player, specialised in bassclarinet – do check him out!), who received the North Sea Jazz composition grant this year. Some time ago I saw Roelofs play a duo with Han Bennink in the Bimhuis – which was a very explosive, moving and rewarding concert night. His composition for North Sea Jazz will probably take some more time for me to land – somehow I felt a bit uneasy at the complicated construction which may work on an intellectual level, but didn’t move me as much as his impro playing with Bennink. The other pieces he played with his great band, like Unheimlichkeit, were more directly aimed at the soul and came in likewise. Immediate and intens.

After this I went to see QUESTLOVE playing some music at the Tigris rooftop stage. Great atmosphere and I could’t have imagined earlier to be one day dancing to Britney Spears (‘Still Believe!‘), as selected by Questlove.

The Yenisei and Volga stages remain my favoured hotspots for intelligent, subtle music making (again I skipped the Nile stage totally this year). Here I saw Giovanni Guidi Trio and Shai Maestro Trio – two piano trios who both demonstrate that banner North Sea Jazz used to have: the art of the trio. Loved the way Giovanni Guidi launched himself with advanced, Conlon Nancarrow-like improvisations. Clouds of expressive notes, not for the faint hearted but gorgeously assembled.

A friend suggested I should have a look at Antonio Sanchez (who I didn’t know by name before, but besides being the regular drummer of Pat Metheny, he was the one who did the brilliant score for the brilliant Alejandro González Iñárritu movie Birdman). Sanchez played his Meridian Suite in full, which was quite a feat to play (and also to digest, as listener). The genre is not my usual cup of tea, but the virtuosity of Sanchez is a clear and present danger. Incredible, the stuff of legend. I liked the dirty key sounds in his ensemble a lot, but wondered why the female voice doubled with the saxophone player.

My friday night ended with Jonathan Scales Fourchestra – some months ago he took another Rotterdam jazz festival, and Bimhuis and TAC by storm with his gorgeous pan music for the next century. With different players on drums and bass, he again reigned supreme on Mississippi Stage with unfortunately not as many people as this 3 man orchestra (lots of colours and rhythms by this unit!) deserves.

Day 2 started late for me with the Colombian maestro Edmar Castaneda and his World Ensemble Quintet. I first saw the man in the North Sea Jazz Club and that’s a fond memory. Incredible virtuoso stuff at high speed rhythms. But somehow the second time around, he didn’t suprise me as I thought he would.

The way Anderson .Paak took the huge Maas stage was totally convincing. I hadn’t heard of the man, but boy what a great band and dito the singer/drummer .Paak reminded me of Fishbone, Living Colour and the like, but not in a direct, copycat way. Strong composition, a clearcut voice, great bassplaying and a young MC/beatcreator who really likes what he does. Best performance of this year’s North Sea Jazz – if U ask me, although I left the Maas when .Paak played a weird (an incongruent to the rest of his repertoire) eurohouse kinda song. We will hear a lot more of this .Paak for sure.

Thanks to the eurohouse I saw a bit of the highly anticipated Ronald Snijders concert, just in time at the Congo to see Bassekou Kouyaté (n’goni player from Mali) duelling with Snijders.

Jungle by Night received all the critical acclaim and audience appreciation a young band can aspire, even internationally these young cats reign supreme in the afro department. Saw them again at the Mississippi stage and this time I was struck by the way they assemble their horn arrangements, which is nicely agressive and even kinda avantgardeish too. Such a great, great band, really amazing how they arrived at this high level. They have left the Fela Kuti appreciation society for some real, nasty, intelligent and hip provoking music. Awesome!

Night two ended with Airelle Besson Quartet at the small Volga stage upstairs. Another friend suggested with some pressure to go and have a look. Line up: improv vocals, trumpet, drums and keys. Since I was a bit too hyper after .Paak and Jungle by Night it took me some time to get into the right mood, but it happened anyway. Go and check out this quartet, probably at the Bimhuis in short notice.

After a deejayset at the Tigris stage (no comment), the third day I had great moments during the concerts of Pat Thomas (again, since he blew me away at Afrika Festival Hertme earlier) and Blick Bassy (avantgarde, advanced storytelling from Africa, again at the Volga stage).

In general again a great edition of this festival. Can’t wait to see .Paak again on his next tour!

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