Sunday, July 13, 2008

When the Rivers of the World lead to the North Sea...

... they gather almost 70,000 jazz lovers to their shores. The marathonesque programme of this year's North Sea Jazz Festival has been almost perfect, despite the badly controlled heat (not a single artist could get on stage without pointing out the almost unbearable heat in the different rooms!). This is not such a small detail of course but not big enough to spoil the high quality of this internationally reknown festival. Held since 2006 at the Ahoy complex in Rotterdam, it had its home in The Hague during 30 years. A bigger venue was indeed necessary to host the hundreds of artists performing for 3 days in the different rooms named after the world's most impressive rivers.

The main focus of t
his year's North Sea Jazz Festival has been on vocal interpretation, with Bobby McFerrin (photo above) as artist in residence. My Friday evening started with a nice performance by Cassandra Wilson on the DARLING, followed by a not-so-jazz-but-still-able-to-be-jazz illustration of Fink's amazing talent on the YUKON and ended with an energetic Angie Stone on the NILE. I was in the meantime swimming on other rivers discovering new sounds, like the very surprising Esra Dalfidan who also gave an interview and acoustic performance in the NRC Media Café.

"We're not really a jazz band" says Fink (photo above) sitting on his chair, guitar in hand, looking at his bassist and laughing, "but we'll do our
best to be jazz tonight". I'd discovered Fink through his album Biscuits for Breakfast in a small restaurant in Brussels called La Cuisine -which is unfortunately closed now. Its owner, inviting up to 18 guests in his kitchen, was listening to Fink every time I was eating there. "I'm going to ask him a percentage on his album sales" he was saying "everyone eating here wants to get his album!" Whenever I listen to Fink, I think of the nice and cosy Cuisine. So Fink at the North Sea Jazz was kind of unmissable for me and it reminded me of some nice and warm Foccacia's plenty of good Bresaola... (speaking of food, the catering at the Festival was really something). It was an amazing concert with an incredibly open and generous audience, which made Fink feel even more at ease and generous. Altogether with his drummer and bassist, they've interpreted songs from Biscuits for Breakfast and some new I still have to discover. Friday night ended with some dancing on Angie Stone's good vibes.

I have started my Saturday jazz parcours, again at the DARLING, with Bobby McFerrin, Richard Bona and Cyro Baptista, three monsters of improvisation gathered for a one hour performance! That concert was the kind that shakes you to the core. I could feel the tears running on my cheeks! McFerrin even stepped down the stage to get closer to his audience and make three women sing with him. An unforgettable experience! Leaving that river full of emotions has been hard, but the next musician who was waiting for us in the HUDSON was also one of a kind... Michel Camilo (photo above)! What a piano master! I cannot say anything more here, just look at his hands on the photo above and judge for yourself. Together with his trio, they have delivered one terrific music moment.
After such an apocalyptic jazz exploit, I could only afford myself to take short glimpses of Chaka Khan and Toto Bona Lokua and hit the road back to Amsterdam.
Sunday, the last day of the festival had arrived. But no mourning, it has been a greatly enjoyable adventure, starting with Yael Naim, getting some Brad Meldhau in-between and ending with a kingly Youssou n'Dour (photo below).

I must say that I have been impressed by Yael Naim's performance in the very cosy MURRAY room. Luckily, I found myself a seat one hour before the concert even started, and the room quickly got full (and too warm, again). She might have been on the American charts thanks to her song that appears on the MacBook Air commercial, together with her friendly band, she proved that she could do some more. A talented new soul! Brad Meldhau has been a completely different experience, which I will certainly renew (especially if they decide to come to the Bimhuis very soon). The festival marathon has ended on a musically rich tone with Mr Youssou n'Dour: "Africa is not only about AIDS or poverty, Africa is also about happiness and joy!" he said while making the thousands of people gathered on the NILE dancing like crazy. For that night, and during the whole festival, it was all about great rhythm, good food, a lot of dancing, unexpected discoveries and true emotions.

All photos taken during the North Sea Jazz Festival (c)Erinç Salor

North Sea Jazz Festival took place from 11 to 13 July 2008 at the Ahoy in Rotterdam
Next Year's festival will take place from 10 to 12 July 2009

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