One of the many high-spots of the year in picturesque Delft is the annual Jazz Festival. Now in its thirty-fifth year it is organised by the city’s jazz supremo Bram Stoeken who officiates over proceedings with a big cigar and a cool nonchalance that belies the amount of complex work that goes into putting together such a major event.
Forsaking traditional jazz, in which at one time Holland was a main player, the Festival concentrates on modern jazz, with a healthy dose of hip-hop, fusion and other contemporary variations – and even reggae.
The main Festival takes place on proper stages in four squares around the city but there are many makeshift platforms in the streets and alleys and a lot of the bars play host to various combos as well.
What always strikes me as amazing and very pleasing is that the majority of the musicians are young. Jazz, of any ilk, is in the USA and the UK is generally thought of as a past-time for middle-aged men but in Holland these are all young guys in their twenties with quite a few girls as well.
I don’t know if this is just in this part of the country but it occurs to me that there may be some connection with jazz and the students of Delft’s TU (Technical University). I certainly won’t use the word nerdy but there is something calculating, studious, earnest even about this genre of music which, to my mind, would attract that type of person. You don’t have to be clever to appreciate jazz, but it helps.
As I said, the styles of music were rich and varied and jazz is a very broad church but I must confess that my eyebrows gave a little twitch upwards when I heard one band playing Beatles’ songs. But why not? Jazz, of all persuasions, has always based its repertoire on show songs, standards and other popular tunes. Look through The Real Book (the jazz musicians’ bible) and a very large proportion of the tunes will be by George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Rogers and Hammerstein, Henry Mancini and all the other Broadway/Hollywood greats. Many of these songs were only twenty or thirty years old when they were hijacked by the jazzers so if you remember Beatles songs are more than fifty years old, they must by fair game.
Spread over four days there were some excellent bands to be seen and heard. Many of them were local so it was nice to see singer Luïz backed by Rob Kramer and Erwin Beijersbergen at the Café de Klok on the Oude Delft.
I rather got the impression that the Festival was slightly smaller than last year but as Bram Stoeken told me, it’s not a competition striving to get bigger and better, its aim is quality, not quantity. The whole thing went off brilliantly and the good weather was very welcome – last year the Friday night in the Markt had to be cancelled due to a storm. Congratulations to Bram, the other organisers and the army of volunteers for making such a splendid event. Long may it continue. Michael Hasted 25th August 2019
Photo by and © Michael Hasted 2019
Listen to ArtsTalk radio’s exclusive interview with Festival organiser BRAM STOEKEN (at 13.00 mins)