The event is already living up to its international reputation as an innovative jazz festival with, among others, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter in duo, Ahmad Jamal, Enrico Rava & Stefano Bollani, Dave Douglas Quintet and, as previously announced, bassist Avishai Cohen with his Trio with Strings and Stacey Kent. Jef Neve ’10-year trio’ is to be the Jef Neve Trio celebratory anniversary concert. The retirement of festival-godfather Toots Thielemans is also being celebrated: under the name “The Music of Toots Thielemans”, major names and musical friends will be performing their favourite tunes from this work. The basis is established by his fixed ensemble, the trio of Karel Boehlee, Hein Van de Geyn and Hans van Oosterhout. The party will also include a number of special guests, with confirmation already from Kenny Werner, Bert van den Brink, Bert Joris and Philip Catherine. More names are to follow.
Young, creative projects are traditionally also given space at Jazz Middelheim, with MikMâäk, Phronesis, Bruno Vansina Orchestra, Carate Urio Orchestra and the Artesis Plantijn University College coaching project also in the line-up.
Artist in residence Vijay Iyer will also be on duty for three days. He is performing his first concert with the Vijay Iyer Sextet feat. Steve Lehman, Mark Shim, Harish Raghavan, Tyshawn Sorey & Graham Haynes; on Friday he is presenting the socially engaged project Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd 'Holding It Down: The Veterans' Dreams Project'; and he is concluding with a string ensemble as Vijay Iyer 'Mutations I-X' featuring HERMESensemble and solo.
A brand-new second stage christened the Club Stage will each day be making its own mark on the festival. Throughout the day, on that stage musicians are presenting various projects, combinations and creations, each time in 30-minute sets. This is to take place during the intervals of concerts in the large tent. At the end of the evening, this group provides a special 60-minute set to bring the festival day to a proper conclusion.
Teun Verbruggen is to inaugurate this new stage on Thursday with The Bureau of Atomic Tourism (B.O.A.T.). Along with his good friend Jozef Dumoulin, here we will also encounter Nate Wooley from the Brooklyn scene. Members of B.O.A.T. are to take the stage in three short sets in solo, duo and quartet. During the final set, the audience get to see the complete Bureau. On Friday, the festival is welcoming up-and-coming talent from France. Besides a solo set, jazz pianist Thomas Enhco is also performing a duo piano-marimba with the classically trained Bulgarian Vassilena Serafimova. They together immerse themselves in the work of Mozart, Piazzola and Enhco's own compositions. Enhco is then closing with his own trio. MannGold de Cobre is the sum of the MannGold quintet with a wind octet led by Peter Vermeersch. Musically, this team flits happily from Sun Ra and ‘electric’ Miles Davis to Motörhead with amazing lyrical interludes. It seems anything is possible, as long as it sounds good.
On the closing day Basque saxophonist Gorka Benítez is taking to the new stage. Benítez is one of the pivotal figures on the Spanish jazz scene who, in terms of style, refers to Sonny Rollins and Joe Lovano. He is playing twice as a duo with drummer David Xirgu, and twice with his trio backed-up by bassist Nicolas Thys, with whom he has collaborated several times in the past.
Jazz Middelheim on Klara
Just like last year, Klara is each day providing live reports on the Jazz Middelheim festival broadcast. Presenters Lies Steppe, Bart Vanhoudt, Rob Leurentop and Karel Van Keymeulen will be interviewing musicians and visitors, reporting behind-the-scenes and from the festival site. Rob Leurentop is furthermore presenting the Jazz Middelheim programme with the most outstanding live moments from the festival's history and a look ahead to the 2014 edition. All of this and much more can of course be followed on Klara.be.
In 2012 Stefano Bollani played in duo with Brazilian virtuoso Hamilton de Hollanda a memorable concert at Jazz Middelheim that appeared almost in full on CD from the prestigious ECM. This time, he is taking to the stage with the Italian jazz maestro Enrico Rava, which promises musical fireworks.
One to watch out for is the smoking Dave Douglas Quintet. Trumpeter Dave Douglas is once again surrounding himself with a group of exceptional musicians. In this group, Jon Irabagon, Rudy Royston, Linda Oh and Matt Mitchel, all themselves also strong band leaders, are able to play out their musical versatility with zeal. Led by Douglas, this quintet creates music that is both highly intelligent and celebratory.
Friday's programme offers the best of what mainstream jazz currently has to offer. Headlining is Avishai Cohen, who is coming along with the project from this latest CD Almah. For this purpose, he is expanding his trio with string players and an oboe; nevertheless the roots remain: his trio's enthusiasm, lyricism and dynamism remains rock solid. However, the wind players' colour sounds further enrich, enhance the beauty and often add excitement.
Stacey Kent, an established star in Belgium, even managed to astound her own fans with her latest CD. She delivered a stunning record, infused with bossa nova; ideal material for invoking southern climes in Den Brandt Park, together with her group.
With Phronesis, one of the most imaginative piano trios of our times is on the programme. In recent years, the musicians have evolved into an increasingly close-knit trio with ever stronger concerts. The group is led by bassist, Jasper Høibi. The hot-off-the-press live album Life to Everything is to form the inspiration for this concert.
In 2010, Ahmad Jamal performed a captivating concert in Den Brandt Park; and that makes it high time for an encore. Jamal has been doing the rounds at top level for decades, yet is in superb form.
Defying categorisation is the duo Herbie Hancock & Wayne Shorter. These gentlemen are not just friends, they has also been regularly working together for decades. Lets' just consider E.S.P., the legendary album by the Miles Davis Quintet from 1965; or the pared-down collaboration in 1997 under the name 1+1. Since then, they each went their own way professionally. Until now, that is. In between their own projects, this year as an exception they are making time for a few carefully selected duo concerts, including a performance at Jazz Middelheim.
In recent years Belgium has cultivated a particularly rich and varied jazz scene with amazing musicians, which is reflected in the Jazz Middelheim programme.
MannGold de Cobre and B.O.A.T. are strutting their stuff on the Club Stage, and two unique home-grown Big Band projects are gracing the main stage: MikMâäk and Bruno Vansina Orchestra. The former is the big-band XL version of Mâäk’s Spirit that was founded in 1998 under the impulse of festival director Bertrand Flamang. In this formation, top Belgian artists from the free music scene, reinforced with a number of international names, are performing compositions with polyrhythmic structures and a great deal of improvisation.
Together with his Orchestra, Bruno Vansina is presenting a project he has been nurturing for years. With Klara, they last year brought out a CD with music leaning closely on the big-bang tradition, although with a contemporary approach and original line-up.
Another fellow countryman who, according to the organisation, could not have been left out is Joachim Badenhorst with this Carate Urio Orchestra. A septet that unites six nationalities and even more genres, and that furthermore released the most astonishing album for a long while. The musicians use jazz and improvisation as their point of departure, yet likewise venture into ambient, noise, psychadelica and post-rock, and even drew inspiration from singer-songwriters.
And then there is of course Jef Neve, whose trio is reaching the grand old age of ten. This busy bee loves setting himself challenges, exploring other genres and embarking on new collaborations. Nevertheless, this pianist always likes to return to his trio, the line-up with whom it all started for him ten years ago. They are marking their anniversary with an exclusive and celebratory concert at Jazz Middelheim. This is also the fifth occasion that this audience-favourite is at Jazz Middelheim.
A coaching project is also being elaborated with students from the Artesis Plantijn University College in Antwerp. Under the leadership of Andrew Cyrille, students last year performed a particularly strong and fully-fledged concert. The future of the Belgian scene would thus appear ensured, and the festival is more than happy to do its part.
Artist in Residence: Vijay Iyer
Last Year Jazz Middelheim for the first time presented an 'Artist in Residence' with the aim of each year providing an artist the opportunity to present different projects during the festival. Following the young talent Tigran Hamasyan, the organisation this year chose Vijay Iyer, the New York-Indian musical millipede. Iyer has worked in the international spotlight for the last few decades, in particular with his collaboration with saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa but also all kinds of trios. He will be showing three faces in total at Jazz Middelheim.
On the opening day he is bringing along his sextet, which looks like a Who’s Who of contemporary jazz’s top names. This line-up also includes Steve Lehman, one of the up-and-coming wind players who has played together with Vijay Iyer for years.
In the second project, on 16 August, Vijay is showing his socially engaged side. In Holding it Down, together with the poet Mike Ladd he is examining the wars following 9/11. Together with veterans and based on various eye-witness accounts, they outline an image of how primarily non-Caucasian men and women opted for the army out of necessity. The project also seeks out answers to all kinds of questions that veterans and society wrestle with following the return from the front. Musically, it is extremely difficult to label this project. Is this a new genre?
Lastly, Vijay Iyer is performing the track list from his latest album, Mutations. For this, he is surrounding himself on piano with the HERMESensemble. The compositions intertwine minimalistic, contemporary classical music with a wealth of jazz and Indian influences into beautiful, haunting pieces.
Tickets are for sale through the website jazzmiddelheim.be and via Fnac.
To meet the demand of many visitors for deal packages, group tickets and young person's tickets are also available along with festival passes.
The festival continues to uphold high quality in every facet of the production, including the delicious and top-notch catering, with ample vegetarian and gluten-free options.
The very youngest jazz fans are catered for with the free children's activities at the festival.
The festival is this year also offering luxury day deals in collaboration with the restaurants Dock’s Café, Umami and Danieli Il Divino. The deals are available at these restaurants.
Anyone visiting the Middelheim Museum during the festival and showing his or her festival tickets, will receive a cultural surprise package. Get there promptly, before stocks run out. Information: jazzmiddelheim.be 14-17 August 2014, Park Den Brandt, Antwerpen
Those accompanying persons with a disability gain free entry. Pre-sale channels charge a handling fee of €3.50 per ticket or pass. Ticket prices on the door or the day itself are pre-sale price + €8.00.