From the beginning, the festival has always consisted of two main parts: "All That Jazz!" which provides a stage for mainstream, modern and avant garde jazz, and "All That Jazz?" during which new fusion forms of jazz can be discovered.
While at the first edition, both parts lasted 3 days each with 3 performances everyday, with a two day break in between. This year, the Blue Note Festival began on Thursday, July 14th and closed its doors on Sunday, July 24th around 1:00 AM, with only one day break in between and 4 performances each day. On top of that, on July 9th and 10th, the festival choose a beautiful location at the seaside to organize a new, additional part previous to the 'main course’: "Blue Note Festival at the Seaside" with 3 big bands performing each day.
Dutch vocalist Trijntje Oosterhuis & The Houdinis opened the seaside part, followed by the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, featuring Belgian top percussionist Chris Joris, and The Afro-Cuban All Stars. On Sunday, after the wild ICP Orchestra, came the Andrew Hill Big Band with its dynamic mixture of jazz and contemporary music and the crazy Mingus Big Band, featuring special guest Toots Thielemans.
Toots Thielemans: "These guys are crazy, but all of them are amazing musicians who succeed in using their skills to express themselves in the same spirit as Charles Mingus would have done it. I love performing with these cats: Craig Handy, Eddie Henderson, Ryan Kisor, Frank -Roots- Lacy, Wayne Escoffery, Kenny Drew Jr I really felt blessed to have the occasion to perform with them!"
One of the headliners at this year's "All That Jazz!" was McCoy Tyner with an all star quintet featuring Gary Bartz (alto sax), Ravi Coltrane (tenor sax), Charnett Moffett (double bass) and Eric Gravatt (drums).
Ravi Coltrane: "Performing with McCoy Tyner, which I consider as a gift from heaven, is not as obvious as it may seem to be. The compositions are great, but very tight, with little room for interplay and personal improvisation. As a young sideman in a project of such an overwhelming personality with such a huge background (don’t forget he recorded more than 30 albums with John Coltrane) you don’t really feel the need to row against the current he invites you to follow in these songs. Fortunately, I’ve got my own projects to express myself, but playing with McCoy Tyner is the best school I can imagine!"
With his "Ivey Divey" Quartet, Don Byron mixed his own compositions with some well known standards in a way that was not appreciated by everybody in the audience. Some said the CD sounds better. On stage, Jason Moran was replaced by George Colligan on the piano. Once again, George has proven to be a talented musician with a great respect for tradition, but "Jason plays nuttier than George," said Byron. Is there anything that can be added to a monument like Giant Steps? Don Byron knows the answer and illustrated it here in his own unpredictable way.
With Chris Potter on tenor sax, Bill Stewart on drums and Dennis Erwin on double bass, making his guitar sound as groovy and greasy as always, the audience had a great time. The way Scofield has been creating his own recognizable sound, keeping one foot well into the tradition, hasn’t been equaled by any other musician since.
John Scofield: "Last night we were supposed to play in Sicily, but for some reason, the whole festival has been canceled two days before it started, so from the south of Italy, we decided to take a 24-hour bus trip to Belgium to play for you. I still remembered how great it had been to perform at the Blue Note Festival a couple of years ago, so I didn’t want to miss this. I have seldom experienced, at any other festival, such a perfect balance between professionalism and passion for the music in the way the organizers treat both the musicians and the audience! I’m amazed to see how they succeed to keep an intimate atmosphere in the whole tent by taking care of the sound and the lighting, and by building a high stage. It creates an ideal situation for the artist to perform and for the listener to attend the gig, despite the fact that the festival has grown so much since the last time I was here."
One of the most exciting performances was given by the Dave Holland Big Band, presenting their new album "Overtime." Dave Holland and his musicians have clearly found the secret behind how to make complex, odd metered polyrhythms sound groovy and even swinging.
The Blue Note Festival also featured three top vocalists: Dee Dee Bridgewater with some beautiful renditions of French songs, experienced by some members of the audience as "a little bit overacted," and the warm and lyrical voices of Lizz Wright and Cassandra Wilson, both linking jazz with country & blues Programmed in the second "All That Jazz?" part, was soulman Solomon Burke, king of swamp rock Tony Joe White, the groovy Youngblood Brass Band from Wisconsin, one of the hippest urban avant-jazz trios of this moment Medeski, Martin & Wood, the Eastern-oriented jazz rock band of Erik Truffaz, singer/songwriters Amos Lee and Van Morrison, Portuguese fado-diva Mariza, and the tropical, Afro-Cuban Buena Vista Social Club featuring Omara Portuondo.
With 6500 more attendees than last year, the Blue Note Festival has reached a peak of 25,000 visitors. All details about this festival can be found on www.bluenotefestival.com