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November Music 2016

Henning Bolte By

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November Music
s'Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands
November 11-13, 2016

November Music is a yearly festival, founded in 1993. It is held in the medieval town of s'-Hertogenbosch, in the southeast part of The Netherlands. s'-Hertogenbosch (also called Den Bosch) was the hometown of well-known Dutch painter Jheronimus Bosch (1450-1516) who died 500 years ago.

It is a festival of contemporary music, new music in the broadest sense: in addition to the core of contemporary composers' music, there is room for neighboring branches, such as experimental pop, sound art/sound installations, non-Western music as well as jazz and free improvised music. This year, for the first time, November Music ran for 10 full days. It started with a premiering Jheronimus Bosch requiem performed by the Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the country's most prestigious orchestra. It closed with the trio of young jazz pianist Rembrandt Frerichs alongside the Cello8ctet Amsterdam and renowned Iranian Tar player Hossein Alizadeh.

Broad range

November Music presents a broad range of genres and styles, colors and contexts at a great variety of locations spread across the picturesque old city. The festival visitor can discovers the old city, gets acquainted with its historic sites, and the festival at the same time offers great opportunity to navigate through various genres, fields, styles and approaches of music. All culminates in the so-called KunstmuziekRoute on Sunday, the festival's final day. From 11:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. visitors can walk past or bike along various performances varying in length from 30 to 75 minutes, at various places spread over the old city. A passe-partout ticket gives the visitor access to all these concerts.

Every visitor can plan her/his own route or follow one of the suggested thematic routes (or a combination thereof). The suggested thematic routes give an idea of the kind and variety of music in the bag: the Northern Jazz Route, the Dance+Music Route, The Jheronimus Bosch Route, the World Route, the Performance Route, the Première Route and the New Kids On the Block Route. Eventually the visitor will have to make decisions on the basis of musical preference, preference for certain venues and walkability. Although movability and border crossing are a key feature of the festival, its realization is mainly in the hand of the individual visitor. It depends greatly on the openness, curiosity, and effort of individual visitors to cross borders and make up a "good" combination out of plenty things on offer.

The old Verkade factory, the very center of the festival, is the only location to offer a greater variety of genres, styles and approaches. These are presented in parallel, non-confluent streams. The opportunity to cross over is clearly offered but in reality it can be observed that audiences hardly mix except perhaps for the performances and groups that are explicitly defined as cross-over acts in certain ways, like B'rock Baroque 360°, Bow Hammer Connection, Fausto Romitelli's "Professor Bad Trip" by Ensemble Klang, Stargaze & Nora Fischer, Bombay Bazaar of Jacob Ter Veldhuis or Steve Coleman Council of Balance+Doelen Ensemble.

This article focuses mainly on the jazz-related parts of the second weekend of this year's program. The concerts of upcoming young musician Jameszoo -his debut album is on Flying Lotus' label Brainfeeder -and the appearance of Swiss pianist Nik Bärtsch fell in the first week of the festival and are not covered.

Friday night

Friday night presented among others a compact evening program entitled 'Colors of Improvisation,' comprising three configurations, two of them involving Dutch musicians: the two piano constellation of Dutch pianist Jeroen van Vliet and Swiss pianist Colin Vallon, the Dutch quartet of saxophonist Yuri Honing teaming up with Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick and finally the trio of Lebanese ûdist Rabih Abou-Khalil with his trio of American drummer Jarrod Cagwin and Italian accordionist Luciano Biondini. The 'Colors of Improvisation' frame has become a proven concept through many years of the festival. The term 'improvisation' has to be taken loosely as the improvisational nature and the improvised portion of the music offered varies to a greater extent from act to act and from year to year. This year's program contained mostly pre-structured music refined and shaped in the actual performance.

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