North Sea Jazz, Ahoy Centre, Rotterdam (Friday, 13th July 2018)

All images provided by Joe Baxter PR.

Originally debuting in The Hague in 1967, North Sea Jazz has consistently delivered the highest quality of jazz, soul, and R&B in it’s lifetime. It’s original line-up set the bar high, with the likes of Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and Sarah Vaughan all kicking off what is now the worlds biggest indoor festival.

With fifteen stages and over 65,000 people in attendance, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer scale of this project. Finding your way through the warrens of corridors and the maze of different rooms can be a bit of a mind-spinner. Amongst the hundreds of artists displaying their talent, you have everything from art installations, record stores, instrument shops, shoe shops and probably more that you didn’t even discover on the first run through. Whats for certain, however, is that wherever you go, you’ll be tapping your feet and wiggling your hips wherever you happen to venture. Music seeps into all the cracks and corners at North Sea Jazz. Even Rotterdam Central Station hosts a small festival stage that greets commuters throughout the day.

Kicking off GIGsoup’s day was the famous Snarky Puppy, joined by the Netherland’s own pop/jazz orchestra, the Metopole Orkest. Earlier in the year, the two bands came together to create a whole host of new compositions especially for their performance at NSJ. The group looked incredibly grand. Playing on NSJ’s biggest stage and backed by a full orchestra, the funk/soul group still regained their signature sense of fun throughout their performance.

After a spectacular beginning, GIGsoup moved on to watch the intimate and wonderful Ibeyi. The twins, hailing from Cuba, are the daughters of the famous Angá Diaz, percussionist extraordinaire of, amongst other things, Buena Vista Social Club fame. And this lineage shows. Naomi on the bongo’s and drum-pad was a wizard. Combining these electronic Afro-Cuban sounds with Lisa’s synthesiser the pair create ghostly music with a backbone of raw groove. As two Brits abroad during Trump’s visit to London, a particular highlight came in the form of ‘No Man Is Big Enough For My Arms’- a response track to Trumps’ brash and boastful sexual harassment comments made last year. Sampling Michelle Obamas’s speech addressing the issue in 2017, the track represents defiance, hope and reminds us that “the measure of any society is how they treat their women and girls”.

Fast forward a few hours and you have UNESCO Artist for Peace Prize winner Marcus Miller with his funky, slap bass stylings. Miller is famous for his ability to make his bass speak loudly and clearly, with all the character of a human voice. As a NSJ alumni, he drew in a huge crowd that were captured by the movement and journey of his music.

Speed forward again the fittingly named Darling Stage played host to the UK’s euphoric golden boy Tom Misch. Hailing from London, the unassuming producer, multi-instrumentalist and singer is completely unique in his style. Using his guitar as the backbone to his sexy, sumptuous production, he slipped around a selection of tracks from his debut album Geography. His music plays like a summers day; like the wind in the hair of a far forgotten memory- truly evocative and hard to capture.

And then, there were The Roots. At this point, they need no introduction. Probably most widely known for their role as Jimmy Fallon’s house band on the Tonight Show, the group are absolutely legendary. With a back catalog that has seen them working with everyone from Erykah Badu to Jay Z, they could easily host a whole day worth of music themselves. With the help of longtime collaborator Cody ChessnuTT they rolled through their originals, lingering vocally during classic track ‘Seeds’ and kinetically progressing into a funked-up cover of James Brown’s classic ‘I Feel Good’.

The Roots brought Friday to an opulent close. Click here to see what happened on Saturday at North Sea Jazz 2018.