Sena Performers International Jazz Laureates
Rabobank Amersfoort Jazz
May 23-26, 2019
Immersed in a plethora of already known Western European performers, the Amersfoort Jazz Festival also provides Dutch audiences with multiple stages that nurture and introduce new acts while allowing many relatively younger artists to refine their repertoires. A key aspect of Amersfoort's four-day gathering is the JazzNL World Jazz Conference, involving music related diplomats from across the globe since 2012. JazzNL is a foundation that promotes Dutch projects and teamwork among international entities. Networking, collaboration and a shared, jazz-based vision combine for an inspiring experience.
Another admirable highlight is the Sena Jazz Laureates concert program, which began in 2017 and serves in conjunction with the conference. Sena, a performance and copyright organization handling contract-based business, is a foundation of the initiative offering great opportunities for lesser known players who've been striving for just such a break. Laureates are chosen through participating festivals, then invited to Amersfoort for the chance to share ideas and perform.
One of the first things to become apparent around the conference is the depth of attendee knowledge as musical experience and expertise is exchanged. The festival flourishes through feedback from highly varied programmers and putting it all together in Amersfoort involves admirable dedication to jazz formats on many fronts. New this year was the installment of a program committee, another step in global teamwork.
Alex Hirlian's Arcing Wires
Australian Alex Hirlian was an example of the youthful mastery on display. He qualified for Amersfoort by winning the National Jazz Awards competition at the Wangaratta festival, where at twenty-four, he was the youngest entrant. Hirlian is a graduate of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, where he met the members of his current, Arcing Wires project including Felix Lalanne and Yutaro Okuda on guitars, Nick Henderson on bass and Nish Manjunath on sax.
"Wangaratta focuses on different instruments every year, in a seven year cycle," explained Hirlian. "I knew the drum year was coming up and put a lot of effort into my entry around two years ahead. I did the songs I submitted all at home with a friend, there was one original, one blues song and a ballad. Of the ten people that got in, I was the youngest one accepted. When chosen I was in shock, I had to give a little speech and didn't have anything to say prepared because I didn't think I'd win. It's great to play at home but coming to Amersfoort is a very nice change in atmosphere compared to our usual crowds."
It was clear why Hirlian was chosen by the time the group's second song started. His timing and touch on the rims and high-hat was near perfect during three complicated time shifts and the follow up transitions. There were traces of acknowledged influences like Donny McCaslin
, but most of the performance was freshly unique. Unfortunately, the hall's acoustics never allowed the twin guitars to meld as smoothly as they might have during the hour long set but the overall effect of the six- strings was still satisfying. Arcing Wires measures up well in the current landscape of progressive jazz and their first, upcoming album should be worth a listen.
Jason Eduwaiti, from the Suriname Jazz Festival, is a bassist who inspires comparisons to one of his stated inspirations, Richard Bona
. Eduwaiti had a seemingly permanent smile all weekend as he shared the excitement and sense of artistic responsibility that was apparent in every Laureate winner.
"Suriname is a very small country. I am from the Saramaccan tribe. There are maybe 250 people in my village of Futunakaba. Rolf Delfos
of the examining committee encouraged me while I was doing my Bachelor of Arts final. Jazz reached me in the jungle, that's the beautiful thing," he explained. Approximately half the Surinamese population resides in the Netherlands, which provided a hometown feel for Eduwaiti at his Friday night set. "At Amersfoort I got a chance to perform for thousands of people. It felt like the square was filled with Dutch people but there were also a lot of Surinamese people and it was really inspiring. It felt like I made it. The important thing for me is to develop. I got a big chance to develop myself and show what I can do."
Eduwaiti appeared with the Holland-based band DelMontis, who backed his five-string ax with trumpet, drums, a majestic old Hammond keyed by vocalist Frank Montis and a pair of saxophones, one manned by Eduwaiti's long time supporter Delfos, who shared a fine duet. Their Sunday afternoon show opened with twin Ray Charles
classics, "Georgia" then "Mess Around," bursting with gospel-tinged enthusiasm and technique that quickly proved well beyond cover band territory. Eduwaiti's originals like "Make It Right" covered the rest of the hour long set with further soulful influence. At times the influence of Bona's imprint was evident but for the most part Eduwaiti is very much his own bass man. "I'm an Indian Too" raised the groove level and got the audience moving, and "Limbo" had audience gleefully helping out on vocals. Eduwaiti has already secured a fan base in Holland, it shouldn't be too long before that territory expands.
SaXPackGirl, an entry from Thailand's Huahin Jazz Festival, raised a joyful noise at Theatre de Lieve Vrouw (roughly translated that's the Sweet Woman Theatre, a designation that fit the visiting reed players perfectly). Delightful front-women Kwang Nisthanun Thaicharoensri and Pang Pacharee Sa-guanprasert, on alto and tenor respectively, were as polished as their horns, which seemed to glow. Maybe that was a reflection of absolutely joyful stage personas, which quickly engaged the smiling assembly, through impeccable dual timing and precision delivered with obvious delight. The duo's heartfelt comments on personal history and their upbeat synergy connected with listeners on songs like "Sister" and "Strained in Weakness." The familiar "Pick Up the Pieces" was spiced with alternating solos and some nice twists. When "Dream Town" was dedicated to Amersfoort, the audience's bonding was complete.
The ladies' Youtube channel claims plenty of homeland views, but video doesn't come close to conveying the charm of their live show. Even a cynic anticipating clichés from their somewhat glitzy appearance was quickly converted by the band's effectively earnest efforts. Excellent backup was provided by the Takeshi Band, a solid outfit featuring Puttikorn Wittayarat on guitar, Sompop Praesangeiam on drums, and bassist Wichudes Netsin, joined by frequent French collaborator and very able keyboardist Frank Herrgott.