Sunday, July 12, 2009

North Sea Jazz - a critical note

North Sea Jazz - a critical note (English) Northsea Jazzfestival - een kritisch geluid ( Nederlands)

The Hague ...... the olden days
Hans Koert

Last weekend, the 10th up to the 12th of July 2009 the 34th edition of the North Sea Jazz Festival had been scheduled at the Ahoy in Rotterdam ( The Netherlands) – hundreds of concerts - hundreds of artists and ten-thousands of visitors from all parts of the world. Friday, the 10th of July 2009, when I visited the festival, 18,000 visitors made it feel comfortable – on Saturday and Sunday, today in fact, with almost 25,000 visitors each night, the venue was jam-packed.

For me it was the seventh or eighth time I visited the festival, so I'm a youngster - this blog was written, especially for those regular visitors, who, as I picked up somewhere, don't feel comfortable anymore and long for the The Hague days.
Cecil Taylor at the Madeira ( North Sea Jazz - 10th of July) (photo courtesy Hans Koert)
This year John Zorn, alto saxophone player and clarinetist, is the so-called Artist in Residence and on Friday the Japanese jazz scene was spotlighted. But, as most visitors of this large festival, I had my own “time table”, which gave me a lot of free space to become surprised. I joined concerts by the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, the former Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra; the Fred Hersch Trio + 2, the legend of free jazz Cecil Taylor and, finally, after some years of absence, the eminent grise of jazz Hank Jones with his trio containing George Mraz and Willie Jones III.
The central square ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)
So many people, all with that same passion – jazz music in its most common meaning of improvised music, makes it a pleasant feeling being with kindred spirits. But there are elements in the festival that seems to be inconsistent with that feeling: the catering, which is a bit steep costly, the fact that the ( high) income price doesn’t include simple facts like a free updated time table, free use of the toilets or a free cloakroom. Why not included those extra costs? Increase the income prize with a few euro and make all these extras inclusive.
Fast Lane ( photo courtesy Hans Koert)
Also the severe security measures and the fact that visitors are not allowed to take a “professional” photo camera inside, unless they are accredited press photographers. Of course, I understand fully that the organisation feels it as a great responsibility to make it a safe festival for all 25,000 visitors and musicians each day, but, sorry to say, jazz fans are no hooligans, what-so-ever and you should have to live with the knowledge that the 2009 jazz fans love to make photos too. So, make the space before stage forbidden area for none- professional photographers, but allow everybody to take his camera inside.

The Sushi-bar ( photo courtesy Hans Koert)
For me it was a great disappointment that I wasn’t allowed to take my camera inside to make photos for this Keep Swinging blog. I only could make some snap shots of inferior quality with a simple digital camera. Sorry for that!
The central square ( photo courtesuy Hans Koert)
I have annoyed me at the security during the Hank Jones concert, where one of the security agents did his work too seriously – sending people back if they were planning to sit on the floor too close (in his opinion) to the stage. A German man, sitting beside me, a regular visitor of the festival for years, wanted to make some pictures with his non-digital camera and when he wanted to join the other photographers in front, he was sent back, as a criminal, to his place. I’m craving to the first years when I started to visit the festival; the years when it was organized in The Hague, he told me It was, how I say that, Gemütlich, cozy, like one big family enjoying the concerts, sitting on folding chairs ……….. I apologized for the incident.

The outside area ( photo courtesy Hans Koert)
I heard that many many times during the festival – a kind of yearn for The Hague days. It isn’t so strange that the re-born The Hague Jazz festival, this year was its 4th edition, scheduled in May, is growing. I believe that within a few years the North Sea Jazz Festival will lose its faithful jazz fans, who will seek for the “old festival feeling” as it was in The Hague years ago. I’m afraid that the North Sea Jazz Festival will develop into the umpteenth pop-festival.

I will post later this month, blogs about the concerts I joined …………..

Hans Koert

Sorry for the inferior quality of the pictures ...........

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Blogger Jo said...

Sorry to learn that the North Sea Festival has turned into a commercial marketplace of exposed events with extra costs for the basic needs of the public attending and moreover using 'security restrictions' as an exuse for excluding private photographers to shoot photos of what it's all about - : the musicians! I do understand the uncomfortable visitors looking back and longing for a place where musicians, music and the audience aren't seperated entities. The modern concept of 'entertainment events' for a large audience really is absurd!


11:15 AM  
Anonymous Sidewinder said...

Yes, the one time I've been there (2005 or 2006) I found it oppressive. Especially going between the main halls when there were headline acts featured at some of them. It was a fascinating experience, some great shows and I really liked some of the merchandise stands (Blue Note/EMI had a whole shop to itself - just about the whole Conn range at mid-price for example) but the battle up and down the halls was a real downer and worthy of a rugby scrum !

Enjoyed having a look around central Rotterdam though and checking out the vinyl haunts.

Sidewinder (GB)
(Organissimo Jazz forum)

8:23 PM  

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