Dutch Jazz & World Meeting Amsterdam, The Netherlands December 1-3, 2010 As difficult as it can sometimes be to appreciate how far jazz has evolved since making its first infant steps in the United States at the beginning of the 20th Century, it's equally remarkable to consider the scene in Europe. Beginning as a relative carbon copy of its partners across the Atlantic, jazz in the past fifty years inside the many countries that make up the European Union (and those that have opted not to belong) has evolved to add their own multifarious, multifaceted and multiplicious voices to a music that has long since gone from being America's music to being a truly global concern. And as more and more musicians hit the international stage, it also becomes increasingly clear that individual countries possess individual voices, despite being stylistically spread across the largest possible continuum, ranging from free improvisation and modern mainstream to edgy fusion, electronic and much, much more.
The Dutch scene, since emerging in the 1960s, has been defined by a combination of respect, irreverence and impish humor. Now-legendary artists like drummer Han Bennink
may, half a century on, have a reputation based as much in the near-performance art of his live shows as in an unparalleled ability to do more with a single snare drum than most drummers do with an entire kit; but as his television performance with legendary guitarist Wes Montgomery
, collected on the recent Jazz Icons Series DVD Wes Montgomery: Live in '65 (Reelin' in the Years, 2007) demonstrates, this is a drummer with no shortage of cred in the American tradition.
Were he to have continued on in such a straightforward and straight-ahead fashion, Bennink would have become nothing more than a fine mimic. Instead, as part of the emergent scene thoroughly documented in Kevin Whitehead's remarkable New Dutch Swing (Billboard, 2000), the drummer has become part of his own jazz iconoclasm in a scene that, with fellow creative spirits Misha Mengelberg
, broke down a number of barriers to bring even further cross-pollination to a music defined by grand inclusion, all the while respecting many of the tenets that defined jazz in the first place.
More than many, the Dutch scene has incorporated a puckish sense of the absurd into the music, making it something that not only may have depth and linguistic complexity at its core, but something that also can be flat out fun. This quality ran as an undercurrent through the three-day Dutch & Jazz World Meeting, held in Amsterdam in early December when the continent was hit with a first blast of winter so severe that many airports were closed or significantly backed up, and the capital of The Netherlands experienced one of its coldest days in nearly two hundred years.
Dutch Jazz & World Meeting (DJ&WM), organized by MusicExport.nl, invited two hundred delegates from as far away as Canada, the USA, Brazil and Japan, for a two-day, three-night event aimed at exposing festival promoters, booking agents, record labels, journalists and others to a music scene that, in the past half century, has expanded to bursting point. The primary objective of the meeting was to encourage networking and knowledge amongst the delegates and musiciansdirectly, as well as through their record labels, managers and publicistswith the ultimate goal of finding new places in the world for these artists to bring their music. In addition to the two hundred delegates, it was possible to register and attend DJ&WM for a fee, and there were plenty of Dutch musicians and industry folks, along with those coming from abroad, ready to pay the registration fee in order to immerse themselves in the music for two days and attend a series of daytime workshops, including The Art of the Interview (for aspiring journalists), Focus on the USA (about the limitations and opportunities for touring in the United States), Jazz.X (an exciting new initiative intended to aggregate multi-lingual content under one virtual roof), Using Online and Social Media, and more. The daytime programs also included access to two floors of the Information Markettrade tables where delegates could meet with members of the Dutch scenemusicians, record labels, management companies and more, where it was possible to watch videos, listen to music and pick up the latest releases.
The first evening featured a hosted a dinner for invited delegates from abroad at the large venue that also houses the second incarnation of Amsterdam's legendary Bimhuis club, and special opening night performances by a duo of saxophonist Lee Konitz
. The next two main evenings of the event were reserved for a series of showcases featuring 16 artists each night, at staggered times in four venues, at the converted Melkweg cinema and Sugar Factory club, located across the street. Two trade dinners before each evening's series of showcasesone for primarily world music delegates, the other for those more closely associated with the jazz world, though the lines between the two often blurredencouraged the free exchange of ideas as Senior Project Manager Cees de Bever encouraged everyone to "mingle, throw your business cards around, and get some business done."
Dutch Jazz & World Meeting Information Market
The result was a tremendously dense couple of days where new relationships were forged and existing ones strengthened, all within the context of hearing groups that ranged from the relatively new (pianist Harmen Fraanje's Avalonia trio, vocalist Simin Tander, and the stunning and as-yet-unrecorded Lenneke Van Staalen) to the longer-standing (pianist Cor Fuhler
's Quartet). If there was any one complaint, it was: too much to do, and nowhere near enough time.
And the weather didn't help. The 200 delegates were largely put up in two lovely hotelsthe Eden Amsterdam American and Eden Amsterdam Rembrandtbut to get to the daytime and nighttime venues, it was necessary to either walk in the bitter, wind-driven cold, or take a cab, which proved, at least on one occasion, to be a terrifying experience. Eco-friendly bicycles have right of way in Amsterdam, but when snow began to fall on Friday and then kept up through Saturday in a city with no real infrastructure to handle it, it became a life-threatening experience to be in a cabbicycles swerved in front of a vehicle with no snow tires and a driver with no experience in this kind of weather, as the narrow Amsterdam streets became a rollercoaster of fishtailing cars, careless bicycles, and intrepid pedestrians.
Still, the weather was only a minor deterrent for an event that provided plenty of opportunity to become immersed in the music of the Dutch scene, and whether inclined towards jazz, world music, or both, it was an exciting and compelling couple of days.