North Sea Jazz 2022 – Day 2. Roy Hargrove Remembered.

It is a new experience waiting in the hallway with literally hundreds of other people, waiting to get in to the Amazon hall at Ahoy during North Sea Jazz 2022. This happened yesterday at Herbie Hancock‘s performance. I finally got my way in during the very last minutes. And once again, nobody was wearing a mask in this jostle. But anyway, it was fascinating to hear the master browse through his vast songbook, with snippets or hints here and there, like weaving in the melody of “Butterfly” at one point. Lionel Loueke on guitar was pretty fascinating too, with his distorted guitar playing on “Rockit”. Reminds me of his still brilliant Herbie Hancock tribute album. Terence Blanchard, as part of the band, added some rocking and rolling playing, also with some distorted sounds. At times, Lionel’s playing actually sounded like a keyboard. On “Actual Proof”, the explosive jam from the early 70s, Herbie switched to clavinet. He was mainly playing acoustic during the set. As he is Artist-In-Residence this year, I guess there might be a different set tonight when he plays at Maas hall. My favorite piece was a downright funky and soulful arrangement by Terence on the Wayne Shorter classic “Footprints”.

I finally managed to see Lady Blackbird live on stage, having missed her show in Berlin in May. Her five-paw album “Black Acid Soul” still resonates heavily. Clad in a pretty daring outfit, she opened with the Gershwin classic “Summertime” and cemented from the very first note, that here is a pretty unique and insanely creative artist at work. Her voice literally got through you, even in the back of the hall. She basically sang most of the songs from her debut album, with the title track and an elongated version of “Fix It” among the highlights. But she saved the best for last: her interpretation of Tim Hardin’s “It’ll Never Happen Again” sent shivers.

One of the ground terraces, the Mississippi terrace, was the backdrop for a panel about the life and legacy of Roy Hargrove who passed away much too soon. Elaine Henri, producer and director of the recently released documentary “Hargrove” was there as well as longtime colleagues Christian McBride and Robert Glasper. They talked about Roy the person and Roy the musician. About the fact that the most fundamental characteristic in Roy’s playing was the fact that he actually knew the lyrics to all the ballads he ever played. I saw him so many times over the years at North Sea with lots of concerts in The Hague and Christian talked about that too. He was only 18 when he first appeared at North Sea and Roy was in his early 20s. So what do musicians at this age do while staying in the Netherlands for a couple of days? Christian said they were almost crying when they headed back to the airport back then. I haven’t seen the documentary yet, but I know that it’s worth checking out.

Yola NSJF 22
Yola performing last night at Congo, Ahoy, North Sea Jazz 2022

Last fall, “Dancing Away In Tears” and “Now You’re Here” became the soundtrack of the closing of the open-air season back home in Berlin. I somehow overlooked Yola‘s second album “Stand For Myself” which already came out in late July 2021. Those two tracks are incredibly honest and convincing pieces that I thought I had to get as close to the stage as I could. And there I was in the first row. Like a real fan! From the start, her voice just hits you seriously. Her raspy and rocking elements were there as well. She played most of the songs from her second album, opening with the beautiful, southern-soul style midtempo ballad “Barely Alive”. And from the start, you witnessed the consummate artist, totally in control of her voice and the songs. Her music is the perfect blend of Americana, soul, rock, jazz, pop, country, folk, gospel you name it. Thrilling! She played both of the afore-mentioned tracks back to back which was pure delight. And she added a few cover versions as well, like Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, deeply and fascinatingly getting the story across, Yarbrough & Peoples’ “Don’ Stop The Music”, and a scintillating, absolutely commanding version of Anita Baker’s “Sweet Love”, easily topping Frau Baker’s own interpretation when she performed here back in 2019.

Earlier that day, I finally managed to explore the city on a 2,5 hour bike tour. Thanks again Ariane for this deeply insightful and knowledgeable trip. I was in a group with people from Zurich, Vienna, Vancouver, and Marseille. If you want to get behind-the-scenes info about Rotterdam, I can only recommend www.insiderotterdam.com. They offer different tours.

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