With the Tour de Frances initial stages kicking off in the same Ahoy landing area a week before North Sea Jazz, Rotterdam will easily stand as one of the hottest summer scenes in Europe.
Festival Director Jan Willem Luyken promises that North Sea Jazz will continue to grow bigger and better, not an easy mix to pull off. Looking over the 2010 program confirms that lofty goal has been achieved. As usual North Sea Jazz features a wide range of both popular music stars and under the radar or emerging acts.
Friday evening starts things off on high notes through the likes of Norah Jones, the Pat Metheny, and Dianne Reeves. Top talents like Jason Moran and the Bandwagon,Gil Scott-Heron, Tomasz Stanko, Julian Lage Group, Corinne Bailey Rae and Earth, Wind and Fire make tough choices about who to see a bit easier with the knowledge that any pick is an excellent one.
On Saturday, Herbie Hancocks Imagine Project, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Al Green, the Chick Corea Freedom Band, The Roots and Trijintje Oosterhuis, among many others, provide a smorgasbord of superb sound selections.
Soul superstar and cultural icon Stevie Wonder closes the festival on a Sunday night packed with A-list artists like Sonny Rollins, Buddy Guy, Diana Krall, Elvis Costello, Stanley Clarke with Hiromi and Rickie Lee Jones.
This years Artist in Residence Ornette Coleman will preside over a tremendous triple threat through his current quartet, a collaboration with James Blood Ulmer and Jajouka, and a classic quartet set featuring Charlie Hayden and Joshua Redman.
In the improvisational tradition of prior seasons, North Sea fans can count on experiencing some rare repitoires. For those folks choosing to hunker down with a few hundred in the more cozy seated spaces of smaller halls instead of arenas holding thousands, there are plenty of gems to be found like Ron Carters Golden Striker Trio with Russell Malone and Mulgrew Miller, Nas with Damian Marley, the Bobby Hutcherson/Cedar Walton Trio, and the Barnicle Bill Trio featuring John Engels.
Ahoy Rotterdam, home to North Sea Jazz since relocating from The Hague five years ago, is a massive self-contained complex of chords, communion, and earthly delights. There are interesting ensembles keeping the beat between venues, a primo lounge area with high definition monitors broadcasting live concerts, and some mighty decent little food courts and music shops. If you like jazz of any orientation, North Sea is nirvana in The Netherlands and heaven in Holland.
For three intense, wonderfully draining days North Sea Jazz is in a class by itself, reflects All About Jazz correspondent Phillip Woolever. In terms of magnificent musical muscle mass and verifiable virtuoso volume, North Sea is in a class by itself.
Around a buzzing international harbor like Rotterdam there are many ways to say excellent. For this July in particular, both locals and visitor alike understand that the most appropriate vocabulary is that of North Sea Jazz.