An innovative event, already twelve years in the making: invited guests from all over the world mingled with the movers and shakers of the Dutch jazz scene for three consecutive nights at the BIMhuis in Amsterdam.
This was world-meets-Dutch Jazz, short attention span-style. Young up-and-comers, and some stalwarts, were slotted 25 minutes to put on their best show for distinguished guests, festival promoters, venue owners, journalists, and event coordinators. Some of the older players seemed to have difficulty adjusting to this format, but for those doing the shopping this was ample time to get a feel for each of the eighteen featured bands.
The international visitors were all put up in the same hotel, and were schlepped by bus to and from the BIMhuis and to various day trips cooked up by Paul Gompes and Susanna von Canon, the exceptionally friendly hosts of the event. For my own purposes, the trips to the Dutch Jazz Archive and to Amsterdam’s resplendent music Conservatory and Concertgebouw were reason enough to visit Amsterdam. Getting to know some of jazz’s international businesspeople was icing on the cake.
The music was uneven; some groups sounded like they had just stepped out of the conservatory, others, like the normally engaging STriCat, simply had an off night. Wolfert Brederode’s quartet sounded like an ECM band should, while trumpeter Rik Mol and singer Wouter Hamel played unimpeachable commercial jazz, if you’re into that sort of thing.
On the other hand, Michael Moore’s “Fragile” on Thursday night was spellbinding, as was Jeroen van Vliet’s trio on Saturday. Composer/pianist Martin Fondse’s “Starvinsky Orkestar” showed signs of promise. The arrangements and instrumentation (four strings, four horns, plus rhtyhm section) held my interest despite weak soloing from some of the sidemen. And Friday’s “fringe” meeting for experimentalists supplied some of the most interesting music of the whole meeting. So interesting, in fact, that some wondered openly why this group was cordoned off from the main event.
Like the music itself, the visit overall was a strangely swinging affair. Whatever you may have thought about the jazz musicians onstage, the ones behind the scenes were true characters. We all had a ball getting to know one another, though we could have used a hotel that keeps the bar open late, especially in such cold, rainy weather. The topic of Dutch jazz is fine social lubricant but more heart-warming Grolsch couldn’t have hurt, either.