Thursday, July 16, 2009

North Sea Jazz: Festival of Extremes

North Sea Jazz: Festival of Extremes ( English) Northsea Jazz: Festival van uitersten (Nederlands)

Vanguard Jazz Orchestra - Cecil Taylor
Hans Koert

The North Sea Jazz Festival 2009 was scheduled on the 10th up to the 12th of July 2009 at Ahoy in Rotterdam. hundreds of concerts - hundreds of artists and ten-thousands of visitors from all parts of the world joined the festival.
Friday, the 10th of July 2009, when I visited the festival, 18,000 visitors made it feel comfortable – on Saturday and Sunday, with almost 25,000 visitors each night, the venue was jam-packed.

Today I love to point you to two concert being worlds apart – the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and …………. the great master of free-jazz Cecil Taylor.
One of the strengths of the festival is its various number of concerts – its various styles and trends – from swing up to free jazz; from soul and world music to fusion and house. The traditional styles, the pre war music was only present in
the Soundies showed on a huge screen at the Central Square and in a lecture by Dave Douglas in the NRC Café about this subject. Soundies are short music clips from the 1940s, video clips avant la letter, to promote artists and their music. All these different styles presented, suit all tastes.
The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra ( Hudson - Ahoy Rotterdam - 10th of July 2009) (photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra gave a concert in a packed Hudson hall – not so strange as this band has a rich history. Founded in 1960s it became the house band of the famous Village Vanguard Club in New York City, a club that still exists and ………. the band still performs each Monday night. The Village Vanguard was originally founded in the 1930s, but became involved into the jazz scene in the 1950s – all great names performed in that venue from, Dizzy, Miles, Art Blakey. Mingus, Monk, Rollins up to Frank Morgan and the Modern Jazz Quartet. Since 1966 the Thad Jones – Mel Lewis Orchestra ( later the Mel Lewis Orchestra) played there each Monday night and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra continues this habit since Mel Lewis passed away in 1990.

Gary Smulyan ( Vanguard Jazz Orchestra - 10th of July 2009) ( photo courtesy Hans Koert)

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra was nominated as the Best (Large) Jazz Ensemble and contains nowadays: Nick Marchione, Frank David Greene, Terell Stafford, Scott Wendholt on trumpets; John Mosca, Luis Bonilla, Jason Jackson on trombone; Douglas Purviance, leader and bass trombone; Dick Oatts (alto sax, soprano sax, flute); Billy Drewes (alto sax, soprano sax, flute, clarinet); Rich Perry (tenor sax, flute); Ralph LaLama (tenor sax, flute, clarinet); Gary Smulyan (baritone sax); Michael Weiss at the keys; Phil Palombi and David Wong (bass); John Riley (drums). Personally I was interested in baritone saxophone player Gary Smulyan, who I heard once at the Porgy en Bess Jazz Club in Terneuzen ( south west part of The Netherlands) with the Rein De Graaff Trio featuring Rein De Graaff at the piano, Marius Beets on bass and Eric Ineke on drums. Gary performed the baritone together with our own Jan Menu ( December 2006). (Those who were at that concert will remember guest player Johannes Probst on trumpet. ).

Terell Stafford ( Vanguard Jazz Orchestra - 10th of July 2009) ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
It was a pity that Gary Smulyan didn’t got any solo, although not in the first half of the concert. To be honest – I left the concert before the end of the set. Maybe my expectations were to high – the band sounded, in my opinion, not inspiring while performing tunes like Little Pixy ( a great tunes from the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis repertoire), Only the tune ABC Blues, a Bob Brookmeyer composition ( Bob played the trombone for years in the band) with a trumpet solo by triumpet player Terell Stafford impressed.
Cecil Taylor at the Madeira ( Ahoy Rotterdam, 10th of July 2009) ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
As I wrote at the start of this blog: The North Sea Jazz Festival suits all tastes, so I decided to have a glimse of Cecil Taylor, the legendary free jazz piano player. His concert was scheduled in the Madeira and I wasn’t the only one that wanted to see this living icon. On stage one grand piano and a video film set. Cecil Taylor, 80 years old now, fully ignored the audience, sat behind the piano and played his thing: He can play the most intricate abstract lines and torrential atonal clusters with a blistering percussive attack, all at high volume and he can sustain this kind of intensity for anything up to two or three hours, Ian Carr describes his music in The Rough Guide to Jazz and he couldn’t have said it better. Zijn solowerken zijn wilde en vrije excursies in geluid; zijn muziek krijg je niet cadeau maar moet je leren genieten (Jazz Voor Dummies p. 221) (= His solo work are wild and free excursions in sound; You won’t get his music for nothing – you have to learn enjoying it.)
Cecil Taylor ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
Halfway the concert, most people, like me, who only wanted to smell his music and see the master perform, left the place; Cecil Taylor was quite indifferent to it.

Due to the fact that I wasn’t allow to use my “professional camera” the pictures are of a minor quality – I wrote about it in a previous blog:
North Sea Jazz – A Critical Note.

Michael Weiss pointed me to some inaccuracies in the first edition of this blog. I've deleted the wrong information and love to make my apologizes to him and the band. When I composed the contribution I had some doubts about the info, but I didn't check it properly. I should have done that. Michael Weiss wrote about the fact that I pointed the visitors of this blog to the diversity of styles presented at the festival: As you pointed out, there is great diversity among the groups presented by North Sea. But it does little justice to either the VJO or Cecil Taylor to characterize our respective music with the word "versus" in between. Not only are there are more commonalities than you give us credit for, but there is no competition involved. You're right - I deleted the word versus in the subtitle of the blog.

Hans Koert

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