Thursday 8 June 2017

On Stage: Jazz in Duketown

The beautiful city of 's-Hertogenbosch hosts a free jazz festival annually with a great variety of artists including some big names. Since we have friends living there it was about high time to visit it. This year the line-up included some of my favourite musicians Joshua Redman, Benjamin Herman and Han Bennink, so we definitely couldn't skip this year's edition.

Jazz in Duketown 's-Hertogenbosch June 4+5

We are already very lucky with this line-up but to make things even better the sun also joined us. The festival takes place on several stages around the city centre. We head down to one of the smaller stages and warm up with a cold beer and some bebop jazz by Bop This, which is quite a good way to start the day. After that we slowly make our way to the market square for the first highlight of the day.

The Quartet NL
The market square has a big stage and no one less than sax player Benjamin Herman, drummer Han Bennink, pianist Peter Beets and bassist Ernst Glerum, simply called The Quartet NL, are taking the stage. I've seen this band play before although today bassist Ernst Glerum fills in for Ruud Jacobs, so I kind of know what to expect. They are playing compositions by famous pianist and composer Misha Mengelberg, who sadly died only a few months ago. You can leave it up to this group to do him justice and honour him in the way he deserves.

Herman's sax sound only seems to grow every time I see him. With his energy and enthusiasm it is always a delight watching him. The ever cheerful Peter Beets adds more energy and the legendary and colourful Han Bennink spices things up. Glerum is watching things approvingly while plucking his bass and making sure the other lads don't lose each other. Bennink turned 75 earlier this year but still looks like a naughty school boy who is always looking for trouble. He comes to the front of the stage a few times to play on the floor like we've seen him do many times. He's moved to tears when a fan brings him a violin as a present.

All of the musicians get plenty of room to play some fine solos and we get treated to top notch jazz music here. It's sparkling, exciting and we can only watch in awe. This quartet will go on tour after summer so be sure to catch them when you can. I know I will!

Sons of Kemet
This band has a few The Comet Is Coming members in it, who are playing later on. Now they are playing with two drummers, a sax and a tuba. It's quite a spectacular combination although the formula is identical for every song. The tuba and drummers lay down a groove where Shabaka Hutchings is playing his solos on top of. I liked it in the beginning but they need a bit more variation to keep it interesting all the way through.

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Kris Berry
Today is Kris Berry's birthday and she's celebrating it over here on the biggest stage of the festival. Her voice is nice and very suitable for the soulful pop songs. Her back-up band is doing a fine job but are also quite unnoted. It is alright for a Sunday night while the sun is setting, but it is all very safe and not really exciting.

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We pass by a small stage where things are a lot more exciting and a latin band called La Descarga Cinco are stirring things up. With a lot of heart the combo is playing a wide variety of latin tunes, inspired by the likes of New Cool Collective. Quite a nice intermezzo for the evening if you ask me.

Room Eleven
Back at the biggest stage, Room Eleven have already started playing. The band around Dutch singer Janne Schra was quite successful a few years ago and is doing a reunion tour at the moment. Today is the last show of that tour and the band will seize to exist again. Schra has a wonderful voice, something I already knew of course, and with her charming appearance can wrap any crowd around her finger. The rest of the band are all very skilled musicians, that can play the light jazzy pop songs seemingly with great ease. During solo's or instrumental parts Schra is watching them with a smile on her face. I guess it means it's a good end for the band, at least one that ends in style.

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The Comet Is Coming
Shabaka Hutchings has caught his breath and is now playing with The Comet Is Coming, a band that is gradually making a name. Their music is very original, a mix of jazz and electronic music. Some people are calling it a jazz version of techno, which works for me except is cutting them a bit short. Since they also incorporate psychedelic elements and are taking you to a place where comets actually are flying. I like their danceable sound a lot with the groovy music and the spacey electronics. The stars at the back of the stage are blending with the stars of the nightly sky which makes it a perfect setting for this exciting band.

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Despite the cooling night, things are about to heat up at the market square with Cubanismo. It's not hard to guess what kind of music this huge band is playing. It's all about Cuba of course and we get treated to a swinging Cuban style party. It's quite remarkable how disciplined the musicians are playing so things don't end up in a mess. Even without a sound check things sound great and the lovely Cuban music easily finds its way to the hips of the people watching. On stage the musicians are breaking a sweat and are showing their salsa moves. I wish the same could go for me, but my stiff moves won't make much of an impression. For a moment though I am back in Cuba where I spent two holidays in the past.

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Vuma Levin Quintet
The last day of the festival is a short one so we head back to the city centre to see some of the last performances. Vuma Levin's name is buzzing around the jazz scene as one of the upcoming young artists. The guitarist is playing with his own quintet. Mostly with his eyes closed he's treating us to some of his own wonderful compositions. These are very creative, complex and full of exciting and inventive musical pieces.

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Joshua Redman Trio
It's been quite a long time since I heard and saw Joshua Redman for the first time. He simply blew me away and I think he is one of the most exciting jazz musicians of the moment. On this sunny afternoon it is wonderful seeing him again with this amazing trio that also consists of bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gregory Hutchinson. Once again he blows me away with his incredible sound and dazzling solo's. He's lacing up the notes so easily and makes them flow together. He can go around the whole spectrum seemingly without an effort and plays high and low notes back to back. Rogers and Hutchinson are an incredible rhythm section that give the songs exactly what they need.

The performance is full of musical highs. It simply can't get much better than this. Jazz standards and Redman's own compositions all are simply of the highest level. Led Zeppelin's 'The Ocean' gets an almost unrecognizable arrangement with out of this world drumming by Hutchinson that would make John Bonham proud. With this incredible performance we leave the festival on a high.

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With so many wonderful and exciting performances this festival is a true gem. It's easy to navigate between the stages and even with this lovely weather it is not over crowded. I will definitely be back next year.

All Pictures

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