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Dusseldorfer Jazz Rallyturns 18 with a Big Spring Swing

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The Dusseldorf “Jazz Rally" has established a well-deserved reputation as one of the premier early summer engagements in the European festival scene. This year's edition runs from Thursday May 20th to Sunday May 23rd.

Besides a sterling selection of talent, Dusseldorf provides a vibrant backdrop for a widespread mix of venues, street concerts and people watching. In terms of socially structured asthetics Dusseldorf compares well with great jazz festival locales like Montreal or Nice. With over 70 shows scheduled for dozens of stages, the Jazz Rally will keep the music pumping all night for city block after block from the Rally's first note to its 2010 finale.

Heading the list of renown artists is American piano and vocal institution Freddy Cole, who emerged from the iconic shadow of older brother Nat King Cole to gain international acclaim of his own right. Cole and his quartet play in the State Parliament building, where formality will give way to formal ballad chords on Sunday afternoon.

The most packed shows occur in the centrally located Burgplatz tent, which holds about 6,000 fans but fills up early. Get there over an hour ahead of time or you probably won't get in, especially for what are probably the highest energy acts this year, Candy Dulfer and Jan Akkerman, each from the neighboring Netherlands. Sax-bomb Dulfer, a festival favorite in many lands, could be the Rally's most dynamic attraction and guitar ace Akkerman, very popular in these parts, won't be far behind in electric energy.

Grandmaster of the tenor sax Scott Hamilton and his quartet play in the unnique setting of the freshly remodeled Opera House. Great accoustics will ring with a new, classic vibe.

Based near the city, the homeboy dub master known as Gentleman is currently one of the hottest reggae rockers this side of Jamaica. With a new release under his belt, Gentleman's gig at the always mobbed airport location, airberlin Hangar 8, promises to be a highlight.

The festival “preview" concert has become a recent tradition at the historic Kaiserswerth castle ruins, easilly the Rally's most dramatic venue.

One of the Jazz Rally's strongest features is the high number of free shows, both inside and outdoors. A Jazz Rally admission button, which costs approximately 25 Euros, also includes free public transportation by train, tram or bus.

Most of the shows take place in the general vicinity of Dusseldorf's “Alstadt" or Old Town, which boasts the “world's longest bar", a designation referring to a connected series of German pubs and brathouses which stand as one of the finest places on the continent to hoist a few steins.

Last year's Rally featured fantastic, best of the weekend performances by Anna Maria Jopek, Tomasz Stanko, festival guru Klaus Doldinger, and the amazing, relatively hidden treasure of Helmut Hattler's namesake combo. Beside this year's aforementioned headliners, a number of bands could make the best impression including respected UK mash maestros Corduroy, funky jazz bassist Marius Goldhammer's group, Spanish soul and Motown translators Al Supersonic and the Teenagers, or quite likely the beloved “Jazz Rally Soul Session" featuring vocalists Dacia Bridges, Vanessa Epkenyong, Butch Williams and Stephen Ulmann.

All About Jazz contributor Phillip Woolever rates the Jazz Rally as one of, if not the very best, “medium" sized events in Western Europe. Any visitor to Dusseldorf while the sound of saxes and swing floats next to the Rhine will soon discover why. Except for some drizzly weather, just about everything looks great in Dusseldorf these days of May. Even if it pours, the forecast is guaranteed for a wonderful weekend of jazz.

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