Review: North Sea Jazz Festival 2013

Photo Credit: Rupert Parker

North Sea Jazz Festival 2013
(Ahoy Centre Rotterdam, July 2013. Round-up review by Rupert Parker)

What’s great about this festival is the mixture of the old and the new, well established names joining those just starting out. It was rather sad that heavy hitters like Sonny Rollins and McCoy Tyner had to cancel because of illness, but Steve Swallow and Carla Bley showed that there’s still life after the bus pass.

Charles Lloyd at North Sea Jazz Festival 2013
Photo Credit: Rupert Parker

For a chap of 75, always interested in Eastern music and mysticism, Charles Lloyd is at the top of his form. I saw him last year at North Sea with a more conventional line-up – this year he pushed the boat out and it was just him, Zakir Hussain on tablas and Eric Harland on drums – the band is called Sangam which means confluence in Sanskrit. Lloyd ambled out looking rather like a country bee keeper with his round glasses, linen jacket and pill box hat – there was no rush and he started soloing with a modal theme on flute – Hussain followed with vocal lines developing this melody, adding complex tabla patterns and Harland set up some cracking rhythmic interplay.

In fact, the set was always driven by this intensity and Lloyd alternated between flute, Hungarian tárogató and tenor. You could feel the spirit of Coltrane breathing on the band’s shoulders, a logical development of his modal moods, although Harland did switch to piano on occasion for some harmonic underpinning. Indeed it was a bit like musical chairs, as Lloyd took the drum seat and beat out his own fills. Only Zakir Hussain stayed put and, in many ways, this is his band – he managed the vocals, set up the beats, and the other two followed. At times I was reminded of Nusrat Fatah Ali Khan singing Qawwali, Sufi devotional music, but suddenly Lloyd was in there exploring all corners of his tenor and we were back in jazz territory. This is fluid, meditative music, moving through moods and textures with a controlled virtuosity.

Kwabs at North Sea Jazz Festival 2013
Photo Credit: Rupert Parker

It can’t be easy playing North Sea Jazz when The Roots and Brecker Brothers are playing simultaneously, but there’s a good turn out on the outdoors stage. Kwabs are named after their 23 year old singer, Kwabena Adjepong and, in his white sweater, tight jeans and brown ankle boots, he certainly made a fashion statement. Once he got going, though, it was his voice which counted, as he belted out a mix of R&B, gospel and soul with his deep tenor, leaping to high falsetto when required. He was a striking figure, almost using the contortions of his body to squeeze out the words, against dark post-dubstep beats ably provided by the band. Emma Topolski provided backing vocals, with guitarist Todd Oliver filling in the chords. Sometimes it felt like he was in need of material but his cover of James Blake’sThe Wilhelm Scream’ left me in no doubt that this is a talent to watch.

Metrople Orkest at North Sea Jazz Festival 2013
Photo Credit: Rupert Parker

My other highlights: Marcus Miller’s Renaissance Band who encored with ‘Tutu’, John Zorn who was deftly manipulating his Electric Masada Band, and Randy Brecker saluting Joe Lovano’s solo with a high five from his trumpet, as they duetted with Eliane Elias. The Metropole Orkest directed by Vince Mendoza with Herbie Hancock and Joe Lovano were a disappointment.

North Sea Jazz 2014 takes place 11, 12 and13 July.

Rupert Parker travelled to North Sea Jazz courtesy of www.rotterdam.info.

Categories: miscellaneous

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