Gent Jazz Festival 2009: Days 6-9
Belgium's Lady Linn applies a subtle modernization of the classic big band swing sound, performing in the current pop star manner. This ex-rock and hip hop singer is backed by her Magnificent Seven, who feature more low end action, as Marc De Maeseneer belches on baritone saxophone. The (original) repertoire has a mainstream orientation that must surely provide opportunities for appearances on light entertainment television shows, helped along by Linn's outgoing approach with the crowd. Nevertheless, the songs can still be appreciated by the average jazz swinger, making the band's stance quite usefully malleable.
Melody Gardot wafts around the festival site prior to her return performance (the US singer played at last year's Gentfest). She's garbed in summery beige, but don't fear, because her film noir nocturnal wear is traditionally in place by the time she hits the stage. Gardot has the advantage of combining aloof mystery with affable casualness, the former taking place during each song, the latter opening up when she tells in- between stories to the audience. Moving from guitar to piano, she's superbly controlled, but also gives over what feels like spontaneous space to her band, having the skill to make old chestnuts like Ellington-Tizol's "Caravan" and Harold Arlen's "Over The Rainbow" sound quite untrodden.
Meanwhile, down by the river, the Pole Pole stage is presenting a spuming Jamaican reggae double bill of U- Roy and Pablo Moses, the crowd so crammed that any residual movement is virtually impossible, let alone anything that approaches dancing. It's a great way to climax the delights of a lengthy, star-packed jazz festival, and for the local residents, this is just the beginning of their ten-day street celebrations.