The Festival got under way in the Doelenplein on Thursday night with a couple of bands and the only paying event of the weekend, a showing of the 2017 jazz film Betty: They Say I’m Different at the Filmhuis Lumen. That is, of course Betty Davis (not Bette with an “e”, the film star) former wife of Miles Davis. It is said she changed the landscape for female artists in America. “She was the first…” said Mr Davis, “Madonna before Madonna, Prince before Prince”.

On Friday the Festival proper started with three main stages, the biggest being in the Markt in the shadow of the old town hall, with smaller ones in the Beestenmarkt and Geestkerkhof by the Café de Oude Jan where the smooth-sounding Bourbon Avenue were playing on my first visit. There were other smaller stages around town including at the Phoenix Bar in Nieuwe Langendijk and, of course, the Jazz Café BeBop in Kromstraat.

The setup this year was different with just the one large stage in the Markt rather than the usual two or three small ones. Although it meant there were fewer events in the central location they were better, more professionally presented. The rest of the square was taken up with an avenue of food and drink concessions. The only issue was the lack of continuity in the main square. There was often a very long gap between sets and people tended to wander off as nothing was happening and this, combined with the weather meant that the audience in the Markt on Saturday night was very sparse.

As with last year, it was surprising to find most of the musicians were young with hardly an earnest beard or pair of sandals in sight. I guess there is a correlation between the young age of the musicians and the fact that TU is in town, full of serious young people – and as we all know, jazz is a serious business. Although there were a lot of female vocalists there was noticeable lack a young lady instrumentalists. One of the few female I saw was Korean Sun Mi Hong who led her combo of trumpet, tenor, bass and keyboard from behind her drum kit. They played a very easy-going, lyrical set in the Beestenmarkt early on Friday evening.

The high-spot of Saturday night was the celebrated American singer and keyboard player Frank McComb who played a set in the Beestenmarkt. Another band I enjoyed on Saturday was the Preacher Men, a trio consisting of drums, Hammond organ and tenor sax. Really enjoyed them.

Although the Festival was not blessed with great weather, including a spectacular thunder storm on Friday night which curtailed the festivities, it was a great success and organizer Bram Stoeken and the rest of the team should be pleased and proud.

Photo of The Preacher Men © Michael Hasted