Monday 19 July 2010

Everyone's A Winner At North Sea Jazz

What a dilemma it was a few months ago: going to see Stevie Wonder and miss the Worldcup final with maybe the Dutch team. Or pick another day and miss Stevie. In the end we decided to take a gamble and go for Stevie. And of course the Dutch team made it to the finals! But the North Sea Jazz organization wasn't ignoring the soccer fans and made sure everyone could see the final game on big screens. And surely we would win and celebrate with Stevie Wonder! What a great party that would be!

North Sea Jazz Festival Ahoy Rotterdam, Sunday July 11 2010
First we had to make it to Rotterdam's Ahoy in the heat. That turned out to be easier than last year. So right on time we met our friends and got ready for the first gig.

Stanley Clarke (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
The Hudson hall was already full by the time we got there. So we waited in line in the smothery heat with many others. My friends gave up in the end but I decided to give it a few more minutes. Finally I was able to get in to find out it was just as warm in the hall itself. But I really wanted to see Stanley Clarke. One of the great bass players around he played his contra bass most of the time I was there sitting on a bar stool. He left plenty of room for the other musicians to show their stuff. Especially piano player Hiromi was playing with lots of energy and creativity. Of course the master himself proved why he's one of the greatest. But after half an hour of continuous sweating my shirt was soaked and I had to leave to get some fresh air.

Elvis Costello and The Sugarcanes (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
I found my friends again with Elvis Costello. He was playing bluegrass songs with his acoustic band The Sugarcanes. Although he's a great singer and musician the performance never really came alive. They were having fun themselves but it just wasn't a fortunate combination. Hopefully next time he will bring his usual stuff again.

Richard Bona (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
Time to get moving! Richard Bona is a great bass player from Cameroon and just the guy you need for a lively performance. Dressed in an orange shirt with Dutch flag he was ready for the finals and ready to play a hell of a gig. He played swinging songs with typical African vocals. And some killer grooves on his six string bass guitar. Playing with a big smile most of the time he was filling the hall with good vibes.

Michael Moore Fragile Quartet (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Moore shows he's is a great clarinet player. He brought a dynamic band and especially drummer Michael Vatcher proves to be a creative musician using all kinds of percussion instruments that I've never seen before even glasses filled with water (or vodka it was hard to tell from where I was sitting). It looked like he brought a box from his attic with him. They play a variety of mostly calm songs but stay safely within their boundaries. Very enjoyable though.

Unfortunately McCoy Tyner with Joe Lovano are playing the Hudson as well and of course it's full again. That's a big letdown but we don't want to wait in the heat again. So we decide to wander around a bit, grab something to eat and get ready for the big World cup final. A nerve wrecking final that obviously doesn't meet our expectations. It's a bitter loss especially since the Dutch players seemed busier practicing their Kung-Fu moves than playing soccer. We're all a bit down but fortunately there's still one gig left: Stevie Wonder!

Stevie Wonder (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)
The stage is still dark when we hear the sound of guitar. It turns out it's Stevie himself with a portable keyboard who is slowly walking onto the stage. He treats us to a set filled with lots of his hits of course. He's playing piano and keyboard in his familiar poses and of course some harmonica too. You can tell he's aging by the way his voice sounds in the high notes but that's really a minor point. He's also playing some jazzy tunes. 'Take Five' is one of those but somehow this doesn't sound too good as he admits himself at the end. Today he can get away with it and it's all forgiven when he's playing great versions of 'Higher Ground', 'Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing' and of course 'Superstitious'. The persistent rumour that Prince will show up turns out not to be true but Stevie Wonder really doesn't need him. He calls Quincy Jones onto the stage for a hug but nothing more. I was amazed to see how firmly he's in control of the band and everything that's happening around him. What a true legend!

So in the end I'm sure everyone has gone home with a happy feeling. The lost final already is long forgotten...

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