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Dusseldorf Jazz Rally Launches 19th Edition

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The consistently blossoming Dusseldorf jazz Rally kicks off its 19th weekend run from June 10th through 12th with another swinging schedule that should delight all fans, and specifically those seeking a predominantly “true jazz" program.

The Jazz Rally is a major gathering with Western Euro status that comes from the focused range and depth of the program more than from booked global attractions. Sometimes it can be great to pay top dollar to see a superstar from a status quo distance, but its usually equally rewarding, or more so, to catch a sizable mix of less renown but still top talent at a bargain price.

Friday features the WDR Big Band's “Roi du Rai" project, an exchange featuring vocalist Cheb Khaled and a new take on traditional Algerian and Moroccan music that was also presented in Essaouira, Africa. Pianist, composer and arranger Michael Abine does a solo gig that may or may not draw upon his contributions from working with icons like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, and Liza Minelli. Icelandic cool cats Mezzoforte and Argentine pianist Manuel Fraga should infuse the global mix with plenty of energy.

Saxophonist Klaus Doldinger has been both a promotional patron and a source of musical magic over the years. This season sees Doldinger pulling double duty Saturday night on the featured stage of the Burgplatz, a huge tent with a capacity over 4,000 where renown, locally brewed “Alt" beer is freely dispensed. Doldinger will do a pair of Passport parties, one retro “Classic" and one “Today." Count on Doldinger to be effectively aggressive with wall of sound horns. There are always long waiting lines for Doldinger's hard driving festival shows, and many will baptized at the cascading alter of Alt among dancing disciples.

Curtis Stigers will perform an exclusive sing and sax set at Tonhalle, a former planetarium with excellent symphonic acoustics and close-up sightlines. The setting calls for champagne. Later in the evenings, bands like the Nighthawks, Jazz Pistols, and Tierra Negra Quartet take things into the wee hours, then Mardi Gras style after-parties and DJs find many havens that lead to sunrise.

On Sunday respective groups featuring pianist Arthur Dutkiewicz, bassist David Friesen and bebop guitarist Michael Sagmeister belong on any aficionado's agenda. Another highlight is guaranteed to be Jan Akkerman's guest set with smooth stylists Jazzprom. Akkerman was one of last year's most popular performers, and should provide quite the amplified edge.

About the only concession the Jazz Rally makes to music outside primary jazz territory comes in a massive Air Berlin hangar just off a runway adorned with the sponsor's polished aircraft. It's usually a stirring scene for even the most steadfast jazz conservative. This year's crossover star is the highly competent young German singer-songwriter Clueso.

In what has become an annual event, a “preview" concert featuring the Black River Jazz Band took place a few kilometers north of Dusseldorf June 9th in the historic courtyard of Kaiserswerth Castle, a magnificent former encampment of the emperor Barbarosa. In the highly unlikely event someone stubbed their tapping toes on the fortress' stone steps while ascending for a great view of the adjacent Rhine River, a clinic where Florence Nightingale studied is just up the cobblestone street.

It should be noted that even in the well-lubricated old town party area, home of the “world's longest bar" there have been no situations recently observed more serious than a dropped beer glass. Dusseldorf is a very safe, scenic city that knows how to throw a party.

“The Jazz Rally is one very few mid-sized, or even larger events that can compare places like central Montreal jazz festival areas," observed All About Jazz contributor Phillip Woolever. “With over a dozen free stages, often in picturesque courtyards where characters like Goethe once strolled, Dusseldorf maintains a powerful European jazz presence."

Many global travelers and EU visitors alike are in agreement that much of both the German economic and cultural scene is blooming. One weekend at the Dusseldorf Jazz Rally provides ample evidence as to just why.

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