Monday, 23 April 2018

Jazzahead 2018!

Three years have been passed with the blink of an eye. I can still remember the “younger” passionate man entering to Messe Bremen for the first time in 2015. Jazzahead was a mysterious event for me at that time. It was both like a professional meeting hub for stakeholders in jazz department of music industry and a jazz festival for those who are interested in rising stars in Europe. It was one of a kind event and to be very honest, my profile was not that much common either. I was just a freelance blogger trying to decide on what I can do to support jazz business and could manage to meet a lot of professionals from various sides, which made me return to my home with satisfactory answers.

During this long blink of an eye, actually, things have been changed a lot for me. I needed to focus on my engineering career and had to decide on where to live for the rest of my life. With the help of familiarity I gained during my jazz trips to Rotterdam for North Sea Jazz Festival, the expat city of these cute country became my new home. I moved to Eindhoven with my family in the beginning of 2017. Although these two years between 2015 and 2017 were musically too silent for me mostly because of the time I invested in my professional life and my new born baby girl Melody, this new location made it easier for me to reach at jazz events with short driving distances and triggered me to create a more international jazz circle around me. The blogger became an insider for European jazz from then on, instead of the direct and stubborn Turkish reviewer of the foreign scenes.

By means of all these experiences, the ideas are settled, the pink glasses coming from enthusiasm are taken off and a more objective point of view has been gained before jazzahead! 2018 opened its doors for the fair on April 19th. Thus I found myself once more in Bremen with no flying wings or a solid purpose this time. The only thing I was looking for may be a new excitement for a fresh feeling for jazz or any new idea that can push me to do something about this music. I believe that I came back to my home with some ideas that I should work on to decide what can be done better to keep communication channel in networking between jazz professionals more efficient and reliable.

This year was Polish year of jazzahead with the motto “We’re from Poland” and I really liked their performances in the first day. Marcin Wasilewski Trio was -not surprisingly- very good, playing a short set started with their nice album Spark of Life. Joanna Duda Trio was a new name for me and I really liked the new innovative approach there, creating an energetic and full-of-tension music. Atom String Quartet was a band that I have been trying to catch somewhere for a while and to be honest the performance was among best showcases there at jazzahead. 

The second day started very powerfully with the unique Greek influenced - a little bit oriental - Sokratis Sinopoulos Quartet and the successful performance dominated by an amazing lyra sound swirling around groovy improvisations, gave an idea why ECM released their album in 2018. Emilia Martensson was like a silky vocal touch in between challenging trials of other showcases. Einar Scheving Quartet was as Icelandic as possible with the dignified and catchy compositions. Oskar Gudjonsson from ADHD was detected immediately with his unique touch on sax. Horse Orchestra were the crazy guys of the event and their performance proved that they are not just made of their weird images but really good at what they are playing. Adam Baldych and Helge Lien Trio was top notch as expected from my side and it looks like as time passed the band started to create a real organic collaboration also thanks to two albums now released from ACT.  

German jazz expo started with en excitement on Simon Nabatov with Fearless Trio but it was a deep disappointment that I could not listen to him since he has been replaced by another pianist. Daniel Erdmann's Velvet Revolution was very promising with their album which is awarded by German Critics choice of the year and their performance was aligned with what is expected. Markus Stockhausen's Quadrivium was again presenting state-of-art contemporary jazz music. Among the overseas night performers, Petros Klampanis Group was interestingly familiar with an oriental touch on double bass supported by string accompaniment and jazzy compositions. Gregory Privat Trio added interesting compositions on an ordinary piano trio configuration and Martinique roots of the pianist gave the unique pattern in their jazz interpretation.

Frankly, the line up for showcases and jazzclub night was not that much impressive in general. ECM was presenting their new releases with some performances but there wasn’t an individual ECM night. ACT was there with management and they were presenting some musicians with some showcases but the dominance of the label was not that much visible as it was before.  The performance halls in Messe was spacious and comfortable. Although I found the near field listening experience satisfactory I have heard several remarks from the audience considering poor sound quality especially at the back side. Kulturzentrum Schlachthof was better equipped also with an outdoor stage supported by live stream on a big screen. The showcases were 45 minutes only for overseas night. The rest was just half an hour which - I suppose - makes it a little bit stressful for musicians to present themselves in a way that they feel satisfied.

The meetings were focused and qualitatively presented with good equipment. Professionals look really like too busy with their meetings and the way the stands and all the other locations are designed and built were more structured than what I saw three years ago. I have heard from some of my manager friends that they could not see real decision makers and leaders of European jazz around. Jazzahead is a very necessary and to the point event considering the mission it carries on. However this does not mean that it is sufficient to help all the new jazz professionals who have dived into a really tough business of making themselves visible and audible. It is obvious that sharing what is gained is not enough in this cruel finance-based era. Something needs to be done to attract money from other parties towards the jazz industry. Somethings need to be done to gain the attraction of music listeners to pay money for good music and this money spent should be directly reachable by real labour owners. In other words, trade fair in jazz should be applied by its real meaning instead of keeping it as a hype motto.    

Monday, 25 December 2017

10 Best Jazz Albums of 2017

1. Blue Maqams - Anouar Brahem, ECM

2. Cirklar - Tingvall Trio, Skip Records

3. Jersey - Mark Guiliana JazzQuartet, Motema

4. Provanance - Bjorn Meyer, ECM

5. Danse - Colin Vallon Trio, ECM

6. 6 - ADHD

7. She Moves On - Youn Sun Nah, ACT

8. Cross My Palm with Silver - Avishai Cohen, ECM

9. An Ancient Observer - Tigran Hamasyan, Nonesuch Records

10. Guzuguzu - Helge Lien Trio, Ozella

Friday, 17 November 2017

ECM Online?

I have heard that ECM is online. Though, the first thing I did after this news is to pull another ECM album from the shelf and I immediately went back to some weeks ago when Bobo Stenson Trio played in Rotterdam. I still remember that moment... It was around the first 30 minutes I guess, right after another amazing piece and Anders Jormin opened his eyes with a deep look over the audience in dark, asking "any questions?" He was really like one of my professors at the university - you know also the hair style etc... Bobo, for instance, was like the modest instructor at physics course, whereas Anders was the smart-stubborn high voltage guy. I mean, that's what they are doing for a living. That's what they have been educated for. That's what they have invested in. That's what they are challenged for. That's what they struggled to create the best out of it. That's what they have done for a long time not only for joy and satisfying their inspired souls but also for a well-deserved decent life. Musicians play music for several reasons and earning their life is one of them. Earning life is essential and the best way to do that is to do what you can do and sell well. I care about musicians who play the music I like listening to. So I keep on pulling albums from the shelf... 

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

So What's Next? 3-5 November 2017, Eindhoven

I feel honored to be able to write about a jazz festival from the city that I currently live in. So What's Next is the young festival - 5 years old - of southern Netherlands and having North Sea Jazz organization behind the production, it looks like it is really aiming to be a prominent jazz festival of the country. This year Eindhoven had chosen to allocate first weekend of November. I could only join the Saturday and Sunday part but there was also an opening night on Friday with the name Kovacs Curates. The center of gravity for the festival was on Saturday with so many impressive names such as Jacob Collier, Kamasi Washington, Donny McCaslin, Avishai Cohen (trumpet), Mark Guiliana, Ambrose Akinmusire, Steve Lehman, Shabaka & Ancestor... The festival was basically using Muziekgebouw Eindhoven as the headquarter and all the concerts in Saturday had been performed in 6 stages (2 concert halls, 1 jazz club and 3 stages) in this important music place of Eindhoven. 

For me, the best performance of the festival was from Mark Guiliana Quartet with Shai Maestro on piano, Chris Morrisey on bass and Shabaka Hutchings on saxophone. Especially the first trio part of this performance was one of the best I have seen recently. I have listened to these musicians with different settings several times earlier but the organic vibes that the trio reached at that day was really something special. I am totally impressed by Shai Maestro's solo and Mark Guiliana's precise timings and groovy hits on really nice compositions. Shabaka's soft touch - which is not like I got used to from his ancestor project - to the trio was a nice accompaniment to the organic sound of the band. Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet with Justin Brown on drums and Avishai Cohen Quartet were other impressive performances on Saturday night.

Sunday was basically a down-town festival where mostly young and new musicians were performing in several stages around the city. Aruán Ortiz Solo performance in the stage Meneer Frits and Motion Complex Trio in Fifth NRE were among the prominent performances.

I am really looking forward to seeing the next year's line up of this modest but amazing jazz festival for which I just need to bike some kilometers.   

Sunday, 25 June 2017

My Schedule for North Sea Jazz 2017 - A Crazy Friday, A Calm Saturday and A Hectic Sunday

It's time! North Sea Jazz Festival 2017 is loading! The great and unique jazz festival of Netherlands will be held between July 7th and July 9th this year. This will be my third time in Ahoy, Rotterdam and I decided to share my draft schedule in advance as a pre-guide to my followers. Please click on each picture to see the complete program as well as my selections with coloured circles ranging from red (do not miss) to pink (have a look). You can find my general review for 2013 here, which also includes some advice and tips: Please do not hesitate to add any of your advice in the comments...

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Jazz in Duketown 2-5 June 2017 and Joshua Redman Trio

In my opinion, jazz, both as a genre and a style to perform music, can easily be described as some abstracted outputs of complex sensations and feelings. Celebration should be allocating one of the largest portions there and the performance from Joshua Redman Trio in the festival Jazz in Duketown, here in Den Bosch, showed me one more time that how important this celebration feeling is both for jazz and life in general. For my first time in Jazz in Duketown, my overall evaluation for the festival would be the Dutch word "gezellig", which seems to have a meaning in between cozy and within-family-and-close-friends. Although the festival is known to be an entertainment-fair like event in past mostly with its outdoor style, line-up-wise it is said to be changing roles with its counterpart in Breda, which is another long standing Dutch jazz festival close by. Amongst, Al Di Meola, Ben Williams, Marcus Strickland, Mark Turner, Sons of Kemet, Jasper Hoiby, China Moses, Lucy Woodward and Dinosaur caught my attention immediately on checking the four days festival ending on the national holiday Monday June 5th. The organization has been changing the ambience of the great city Den Bosch entirely into an impressive jazz celebration fair by spreading the stages to almost all main streets and squares of the city for many years.  

Coming back to the Joshua Redman Trio, the musicians managed to captivate the audience starting from the first note and move just like three heavy-weight boxing champions in the ring. Despite the very informal and outdoor ambience in Den Bosch, the saxophonist Joshua Redman, the bassist Reuben Rogers and the drummer Gregory Hutchinson could easily lock all the attentions of concerned listeners to the tunes, which are selected mostly from unique arrangements of jazz standards and/or catchy compositions of Joshua as well as other jazz giants. A very interesting version of one of my all-time favorite tunes Mack The Knife became the first piece of the performance and getting Joshua's nice piece Second Date as the following one was something that makes me happier in my almost forefront seat in the middle of spacious Markt square. Blackwell's Message from Joe Lovano, Limehouse Blues from Django Reinhardt and many others had filled our ears and fed our souls especially thanks to Joshua Redman's really impressive full breath tone and Gregory Hutchinson's endless energy on beating the drum-set.