North Sea Jazz at 40: From Country To Soul and Celebrating Clark Terry

Rudresh Mahanthappa opened the final day of the 40th North Sea Jazz Edition. And even though he was offering the music from his most recent Charlie Parker-inspired project, I couldn’t really draw the line to the saxophone hero. But nevertheless, the band was delivering, especially 20-year old Adam O’Farrill (yes he’s from that family).

Rotterdam CityCurtis Harding: a Soul singer and guitarist from Atlanta with a four-piece band. His repertoire was pretty arbitrary and I couldn’t find any sexiness in his voice. Maybe the album works better.

Kurt Elling: He showcased his latest album “Passion World” (also reviewed on these pages) and had Richard Galliano as a guest on several tracks. Kurt was simply astounding on the beautiful Arturo Sandoval ballad “Bonita Cuba” and the sweet bolero “Si Te Contara”. Gary Versace had some mean organ parts and yes, I know that Kurt is well-known for his supposedly brilliant scatting, it’s just that I can’t listen to anyone scat except maybe Ella Fitzgerald.

The “Guitar In The Space Age” project by Bill Frisell was a trip down memory lane with all those songs from the 60s like “Turn, Turn, Turn”, but of course this wasn’t any nostalgic gimmick, but a weird, funny, twangy, and highly enjoyable set with Bill building bridges from Country to Jazz in enthusiastic clusters and pictures. There were hints of 60s soulful Kenny Burrell and his group with Greg Leisz (steel guitar), Tony Scherr (bass), and Kenny Wolleson (drums) were really something else. His playing around with the motif of “Telstar”, that odd 1962 recording by The Tornadoes with the then strange-sounding electronics of the clavioline, was just amazing. Same applies to the Beach Boys‘ “Surfer Girl” from 1963. This was really space-age music which was hopping around from planet to planet. Fascinatingly cool.

Darling Dianne Reeves performed a sublime set which mostly consisted of tracks from her superb “Beautiful Life” album. The way she phrased around the Fleetwood Mac classic “Dreams” was astounding and worth the trip alone. She did a sweet and swaying wordless Celia Cruz mambo tribute, a graciously uplifting “Waiting In Vain” and her Soul roots came to the fore on original tracks such as “Feels So Good (Lifted)”. Her wide-ranging voice was shining throughout the set; in beautiful ballads such as “I’m Better Now (Without You)” as well as in standards like “One For My Baby”. Dianne and Theo Croker were also talking about the legacy of Clark Terry on a panel moderated by Ashley Kahn. The story behind that is the release of the documentary “Keep On Keepin’ On”, which not only shows the master trumpeter in various concert settings, but also the restless teacher and the wonderful and humorous human being that he was.

A fitting finale for me was the hot and cool, the fast and the furious Roy Hargrove Quintet mastering everything from hardbop grittiness to some preppy Golson/Farmer stuff and grooving, loping attacks. I still hope that he is not planning on expanding his vocal abilities.

North Sea Jazz 2016 will run from July 8th-10th. Mark your calendars. It will be here faster than you think.

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