North Sea Jazz Round-Up Review

Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus, Joshua Redman. Photo: Rupert Parker
North Sea Jazz Festival 2012
(Ahoy Centre Rotterdam, July 2012. Round-up review by Rupert Parker)


Impeccably organised,and with an eclectic choice of artists, this year’s North Sea Jazz in Rotterdam had the clever idea of nominating an artist in residence who pops up a few times in different settings, over the three days. Joshua Redman was a fine choice. Last year, suffering from flu and jetlag, he still managed to pull off a sterling set with Brad Mehldau. This year, with a few days’ rest and no health problems, he was in stunning form.

Whether fronting a big band, soloing with James Farm, leading the Axis Saxophone Quartet, or adding sparkle to the Bad Plus, he could do no wrong. He looks younger than his 43 years, but his playing is timeless. There’s a lyricism to his soloing even when he’s exploring the boundaries of his instrument. It’s not quite the squawking of his dad Dewey, although I’m sure he could do that too, but a more considered approach to improvisation. You know he’s getting into it when he suddenly becomes a rubber man, shifting from one leg to another, almost doing high kicks, as he reaches the climax of his solo.

I missed his set with Metropole Orkest, a big band conducted byVince Mendoza, but first caught up with him in James Farm. With Aaron Parks on piano, MattPenman on bass, Eric Harland on drums and Redman on saxophone, this is a quartet that has space foreverybody to stretch out, yet not to dominate. Their set comprised tunes from their 2010 album of the same name, but they were so good, they were almost unrecognisable. This was ensemble playing of the highest degree, but Redman took it even higher.

Later on the same evening he was with his pals Chris Potter, Chris Cheek and Mark Turner in the Axis Saxophone Quartet. This was their very first gig and featured all original material. It was slightly tense, but Redman still managed to do his one-leg trick on his solos, and there was some pretty good stuff from Chris Potter as well. Next day it was the turn of The Bad Plus to get the benefit of his saxophone sprinkle, but I couldn’t help feeling they were slightly outshone, pleasant though it all was.

The oldies were out in force this year. At 85,Lee Konitz still plays a storm but, in duet with exuberant drummer Joey Baron, his cool playing seemed slightly mismatched. Jim Hall fared better in his duo with bassist Scott Colley but McCoy Tyner proved a bit much for Ravi Coltrane, son of his old sparring partner.

A disappointment was the David Murray Blues Big Band with Macy Gray, performing in thelargest of the arenas, where it was impossible to make out any of the ensemble playing and Murray’s solos came and went. Macy Grey looked completely bored by the occasion.

Special, final mention goes tothe new Joe Lovano /Dave Douglas quintet, Sound Prints. Here Joey Baron was in his element as Lovano and Douglas constantly excelled at outplaying each other.

North Sea Jazz 2013 takes place 12,13 and14 July.

Rupert Parker travelled to North Sea Jazz courtesy of www.rotterdam.info and www.raileurope.co.uk

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