I know it really feels like a circus, but North Sea Jazz in Rotterdam as one of the biggest jazz festivals is always good to get a proper overview of what’s going on in the jazz world and beyond. Plus, there is always something new and unknown to explore. To be honest, I just can’t stand all those discussions anymore about why a certain festival is called Jazz festival even though it books Gladys Knight or Chic. Let’s just face it: festivals like North Sea (first edition in 1976) and Montreux (now in its 52nd year) have started out as jazz-only festivals and over the years have added more artists from other genres just to spread out and yes, maybe to draw more attention. What’s wrong with that? It is a fact that festival goers who are not necessarily jazz fans, always discover some hot new jazz act or some established jazz act they weren’t even aware of.
I have been visiting both North Sea in The Hague (now Rotterdam) and Montreux for many many years, starting in the late 80s and my last visit to Northsea was in 2015. We have always been a bunch of music lovers with open ears, happy to discover the latest indie or what-have-you jazz act alongside big names such as Stevie Wonder. And I remember there was always someone in our group digging some lesser-known jazz act which just happened to play at a convenient time within the schedule. Also, please consider this: I have interviewed former Montreux Jazz Festival director and founder, the late great Claude Nobs, a few times over the years and there was one year where the criticism about the fact that there were far too many non-jazz acts was pretty massive. He said to me that they’ve actually started a campaign to change the name of the festival but the people/the audience was not d’accord! They didn’t want a name change! So there you go. I think we should just be happy about the incredible diversity of festivals like these and indulge in the many different genres. After all, the music is changing anyway all the time and I’m glad that the current scene is mixing all kinds of stuff do come up with something new and adventurous. Doesn’t matter if that’s called Jazz or not.
Let’s just hope that as many people as possible discover new favorites in Rotterdam this year even though they are visiting because of acts such as the O’Jays, Earth, Wind & Fire, or Nile Rodgers & Chic.
Also confirmed for this year is the new project R + R = NOW featuring Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin, Christian Scott, Taylor McFerrin, Derrick Hodge, and Justin Tyson. Everybody’s darling Gregory Porter will hit the stage with his Nat King Cole project and the Metropole Orkest under the diretion of Vince Mendoza. Joshua Redman is back as special guest with the Billy Hart Quartet. We also get the supergroup Hudson which features John Scofield, Jack DeJohnette, John Medeski, and Scott Colley. Also on the menu: Badbadnotgood, Moses Sumney, Vijay Iyer Sextet, Pat Metheny with Antonio Sanchez, Linda Oh and Gwilym Simcock, Cécile McLorin Salvant, who just received a Grammy award in New York, the Pharoah Sanders Quartet, Marcus Miller, Gary Clark Jr., the Mingus Big Band, Knower, Khalid, Carla Bley, and the Mathias Eick Quintet.
This year’s festival will run July 13th to 15th and you can find all relevant info right here