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2020 Gaume Jazz Festival (Belgium)

Gaume Jazz Festival 2020 (Rossignol, Belgium, 7-8-9 August 2020. Review by Carlo Henrich. Photos by Éric Grundmann and Gérard Beckers)  

Les Violons de Bruxelles – Photo credit Éric Grundmann

  It was a joy for the public and musicians to gather in Rossignol for this modified version of the 36th Gaume Jazz Festival. The event was restricted to 200 people and 18 open air concerts, in contrast with well over 30 concerts in a normal year, and an audience of over 1000.

The festival site – Photo credit Gerard Beckers

  “We are here to defeat the virus through music” announced Festival Director Jean-Pierre Bissot. “And the motto will be physical distancing but no social distancing.” Everybody behaved impeccably, blessed by extremely favourable weather. The public was already impressed by the quality of the pre-event gig on Thursday evening. Brussels-born pianist Margaux Vranken, who recently participated in Danilo Pérez’s Berklee Global Jazz Institute program, presented a mature and skilfully executed solo piano set. On Friday the festival started with some swing and a reminder of Belgian hero Django Reinhardt with Les Violons de Bruxelles including Tcha Limberger. In the evening Belgian pianist/singer-songwriter/ film composer An Pierlé took the stage with sophisticated gothic piano-led ballads, rather reminiscent of Paula Rae Gibson.

Eve Beuvens – Photo credit Éric Grundmann

  On Saturday, first up was a juxtaposition of music with poetry and painting  with Eve Beuvens at the piano as the central figure. Eve’s playing was particularly evocative. Next was perhaps Belgium’s most loved folk-jazz Band, L’Âme des Poètes. They presented their latest Igloo recording, “Le Métèque”, based around a title of a classic Georges Moustaki song, and celebrating the multicultural heritage of great cosmopolitan singers and chansonniers. Particularly appropriate for a time when this heritage can far too often be treated with disdain. Time for an Orval beer – and how lucky they are in Gaume to have this beer as their local brew –  just ten miles away and with its own legend  – before the piano duo of Igor Gehenot and Amaury Faye came on stage. An exquisite encounter of a Belgian and French pianist, two of the best of the new generation, this was one of the highlights of the festival. London audiences already know Gehenot from  performances by his trio and solo at the Vortex (review).

Manu Hermia – Photo credit Éric Grundmann

The last concert of the evening, by The Wrong Object, was an anthology of their compositions with a format which included Manu Hermia on tenor saxophone and  flute. This is a band that thrives on being stimulated by special guests, who in the band’s early days included Elton Dean and Annie Whitehead.

Joachim Caffonnette – Photo credit Gerard Beckers

  On Sunday, Joachim Caffonnette, a 31-year-old Belgian pianist, started with his trio presenting “Vers l’Azur Noir” a thoughtful and committed work of 2019 related to the migrant crisis in south Europe. Along with Eve Beuvens and Igor Gehenot yet another great pianist appearing on the Belgian scene. From here, the festival’s theme moved from the Mediterranean Sea to the Pacific Ocean: guitarist Guillaume Vierset presented “Nascimento Road”, inspired by his journey between Arizona and California. His rich cultural knowledge of West Coast folk and jazz musicians come through in his playing with extreme ease; he has a  very subtle kind of individuality.

Isabel Sorling. Photo credit Eric Grundmann

  The culmination of the festival was another new release: Deep Rivers by French pianist Paul Lay accompanied by Swedish vocal improviser Isabel Sørling,  who has been seen several times in London performing with Leafcutter John. The intent of this project is to bring back to life the music played in Europe in 1918. and those songs sung by soldiers in the trenches of the Marne. What stood out was the poem To Germany by C.H.Sorley, a young British officer, which he wrote before being killed in 1915. Sorley, a Germanophile, was forced to fight against the Germans for his country.  That story served as a reminder: the imperative to reach out and positively embrace different cultures was a lot of what Gaume was about this year.

Jean-Pierre Bissot and Géraldine Cozier . Photo credit Gerard Beckers

  LINKS: Eric Grundmann’s complete cache of Gaume 2020 photos on Facebook Gaume Festival website

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