After some much-needed rest, it’s back to Europe’s largest indoor music festival, North Sea Jazz! Friday’s line-up pulled out all the stops. The Roots astounded with the scale of their back-catalog and the sheer standard of their musicianship, whereas relative newcomers Ibeyi and Tom Misch showed off the freshness and broadness of contemporary jazz music. With more weekend warriors streaming into Rotterdam’s Ahoy Centre, there was a sense that the best was yet to come at NSJ 2018.
The Darling Stage, which specialized in showing off new jazz talent, was taken over on Saturday by London’s massive jazz new wave. North London’s Ezra Collective started off the day’s entertainment with their instrumental blend of afrobeats and funk. GIGsoup had the pleasure of seeing a huge array of talented and percussionists get down and dirty on their kits over the weekend. But probably the most impressive was Femi Koleoso. There were points in the set where the rest of the group would simply stop and stare, in awe of his persistent style and vibrant energy.
Taking the tempo down a notch was the enigmatic and twinkling Gregory Porter. His luscious voice guided the audience through a selection of tracks from jazz legend Nat King Cole, talking about how each one affected him in his career and in his personal life.
If you’re not familiar with Dutch, then the one word that you might take away from this festival experience was ‘vol’ meaning ‘full’. This word was everywhere, with thousands of people trying to crowd into the various stages almost constantly during the day. After Gregory Porter, GIGsoup tried to catch a glimpse of funk legend Nile Rogers as he spoke to the Netherland’s NN TV Channel. Unfortunately, as you can imagine, Rogers’ name precedes him and the tiny outdoor gazebo where the interview was taking place was full in a matter of seconds.
No matter though, because wherever you ventured, there was fun and excitement to be had at NSJ. Back at the Darling Stage the next wave of the UK Jazz invasion was well under way. Moses Boyd Exodus took the baton out of Ezra Collective’s hands and maintained a lively brass led set, taking the festival well into the evening.
Next, the Maas Stage played host to a man with the lover’s blues. Leon Bridges and his band put a youthful spin on tales of lust, longing, and heartache. He originally made his debut at NSJ in 2015, and returned to the stage with all the joyous movement of a man nourished by his craft. Bridges was discovered musically whilst working as a dishwasher and has since performed for the likes of Barack Obama. His performance oozed cool and produced a more than one shiver up the spine.
As Bridge’s set moved on, the room began to clear. This wasn’t to stub Bridges’ talent; the sudden surge at the aptly named Nile Stage. Rogers and his band have either been responsible for or involved in, arguably some of the greatest tracks of all time. And they were about to show it off. Including their own hits, the band performed versions of some of Roger’s writing credits, such as Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’, Sister Sledge’s ‘We Are Family’ and ‘Greatest Dancer’ and, of course, furnished them all with the raw funk that the world expects from Chic.
Last, but certainly not least, it was back to the Maas Stage for Anderson .Paak. Two years ago, his Grammy-nominated album ‘Malibu’ rocketed him and his band The Free Narionals into an international tour and equally international fame. .Paak and his group are known to have some new material in the works, but have such a hefty catalog of funky, west-coast soul available that they easily and deftly filled their slot. Rattling through hits such as ‘Glowed Up’ and kicking off with ‘Come Down’, .Paak proved to be as bubbling as ever. And speaking of ‘Bubbling’, his new track of the same name brought a refreshing change of sound to the most lively set of the festival. Halfway through, the unexpected appearance of CeeLo Green blew everyone away. With .Paak throwing his weight around on the drums, he accompanied Green in a funked up version of ‘Crazy’. “You’ve really surprised me North Sea Jazz, I wasn’t expecting you all to be this lit!” .Paak exclaimed when he signed off.
North Sea Jazz has a legacy of delivering top quality of music. It has certainly earned that title, with potentially the highest level of musicianship that GIGsoup has ever seen being displayed everywhere you looked. If you love jazz, funk, soul or anything inbetween, this festival is well worth a visit.