Back Roads Beat
Polarjazz 2008Longyearbyen, NorwayJanuary 30-February 3, 2008This place is abandoned by God and ought to have been abandoned a long time ago by mankind as well" --Historical quote on mural at Longyearbyen's museum This is where people will come after Doomsday: a town 600 miles from the North Pole whose idea of fun is hosting the world's northernmost jazz festival in the middle of winter. A glacier-covered land where the sun doesn't shine from October 26 to February 15 and where carrying a gun almost everywhere is necessary to avoid being ...Read More
(Note: Mark Sabbatini will reporting daily from the world's northernmost jazz festival, PolarJazz, starting Jan. 30 in Longyearbyen, Norway. As preview of the Scandinavian Arctic's jazz scene, this is his feature from last summer's festival in Vadso, on the northern edge of the country's mainland.)When the U.N. needs a place to send refugees fleeing war-torn Africa, the northern tip of mainland Norway doesn't seem like a natural fit.But David Akoiwala, a construction worker from Liberia, found himself in the Arctic town of Vadso after family members were killed in attacks and he encountered an equally volatile ...Read More
A free trip to a jazz festival near Cancun, complete with luxury trappings. All I'm expected to do in return is write something about it.What could possibly go wrong, aside from a few meddlesome skeptics questioning my objectivity?To them here's my assessment of the 2007 Riviera Maya Jazz Festival: Greatest. Festival. Ever. Just kidding. A three-day, six-concert festival featuring headline shows by commercial stalwarts Marcus Miller, Tower of Power and George Benson doesn't get that honor unless the junket includes first-class plane tickets. Also, with Mexico's population historically indifferent or hostile toward jazz, the ...Read More
Banishment from the country takes effect with the publishing of these words.Assuming otherwise is foolishness in Turkmenistan, the most repressive and two-sided country of the scores I've visited seeking jazz in the most remote and unusual places on Earth.Brilliantly lit marble monuments and unerringly smiling faces camouflage a serpent's nest that strikes instantly with any hint of my being a journalist. It's officially treason, punishable by life in prison, to write negative impressions about the world's most hostile nation toward the press except for North Korea.Still, musically there's intrigue here. And it's a place ...Read More
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(Author's note: While the gee-whiz" factor ought to be diminishing after a decade of dealing with digital music, I'm in absolute raptures discovering a large number of concerts from the 2007 North Sea Jazz Festival available as free streaming audio from their website. Anyone smart enough to use Google can find something like Audio Hijack that will convert them to MP3s for use on an iPod or whatever.)It takes a lot to make ...Read More
Day 1 | Day 2-3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9-12Despite the questions some cruise ship passengers ask ("how high above sea level is this town?"), learning opportunities are prominent for people supposedly on a relaxing vacation.Lectures, multi-day classes and even full-blown university courses can soak up time traditionally meant for algae facials and chocolate buffets. Some universities charter ships long-term for courses or as campus housing for students (where was that when I lived on cereal in large closet with a ...Read More
Day 1 | Day 2-3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9-12 They traveled 500 miles in one day to come aboard for 90 minutes and play one of the best gigs of the cruise. Their reward? A near-empty lounge with probably the lowest audience. Two members of the German hyper-avant trio [em] made the long trip to Hamburg where Holland America Line's Rotterdam was docked as part of the inaugural North Sea Jazz Cruise. Winner of the 2007 Most Promising International Newcomer of The ...Read More
Day 1 | Day 2-3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9-12'Twas a good day to be a captive audience.
The first of two days entirely at sea marked Day 6 of the inaugural North Sea Jazz Cruise, an 11-day voyage through Scandinavia aboard Holland America Line's 1,316-passenger flagship Rotterdam. Keeping consistent with some shakedown aspects of the first-time voyage, last-second scheduling changes were announced around 9 a.m., with an afternoon jazz history presentation moved to the first event of the day at 10 a.m. ...Read More
Day 1 | Day 2-3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9-12Some days it's good not to be shocking.
Peaceful stability greeted Day 5 of the inaugural North Sea Jazz Cruise, as a ship rolling heavily the previous two nights docked in Oslo, Norway, from 8 a.m. to midnight. With little need to rush before the start of shows at 4 p.m. and knowledge they'd be on even keel, many minds were probably more at ease.
Those of the technical crew for the ...Read More
Day 1 | Day 2-3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9-12We're here to celebrate the power of the Lord, as evidenced by this rocking boat."
Healing powers were very much alive, and not just for seasick passengers, as those words opened the Sunday morning jazz gospel service on Day 4 of the inaugural North Sea Jazz Cruise as the ship steered through rough waters between Germany and Sweden. Some close-minded attitudes (uh, OK, mine) got a thorough shaking and one of those touching ...Read More
Day 1 | Day 2-3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9-12Comparisons are inevitable when traveling.
It's wondering why a gallon of gas costing $4 in the Land Of The Free is less than a dime under the crushing Banana Republic leadership of Tukmenistan. Or why the world's only superpower confiscates our water bottles when Japan has nifty new machines that analyze and literally give the green light in a second.
The question for those aboard the inaugural North Sea Jazz Cruise ...Read More
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Even for organizers who've done jazz cruises worldwide, this is a whole new level.
More bands. More diversity than the mostly straight-ahead acts usually booked. And a ship that a couple of weeks ago was flooded top to bottom returning from Antarctica in the world's harshest sea.
The inaugural North Sea Jazz Cruise, a 13-day Scandinavian voyage from July 5-17 ending with the festival itself in The Netherlands, is promoted as the ...Read More
Lots of empty seats in the shade right next to an intimate garden stage. Nobody in line for beer at the air- conditioned concession stand. Sprawling leisurely in the hay in front of some eclectic band that was still rehearsing songs on the drive over.
Sound like anybody else's weekend at the 2007 New Orleans Jazz And Heritage Festival? Possibly not, but it's there for the festival-goer willing to look for it.
Festival officials estimated attendance for the two three-day weekends at 375,000 spectators, up from 325,000 to 350,000 in 2006, saying it has ...Read More
I'm going to have my baby in Namibia. I don't care how long of a drive it is." - Britney Spears
When most people go on an African safari, they probably aren't looking for penguins and pianos. Then again, Namibia was something less than a Holy Grail among tourists before it became a pilgrimage of celebrity parenthood.
Music fans generally go south to Capetown, and leisure travelers generally don't bother with the barren community of Luderitz. Most get off turboprop planes when they stop at Walvis Bay, a scenic seaside town popular for German ...Read More