Oh, that stream of streaming concerts, then at home on the couch. It’s just a flash of thought somewhere Saturday night in a packed hall in Tivoli. While there are still long queues of audience outside, the young wind players of the Guy Salamon Group tumble over each other in great musical merriment on stage. Their leader, the Israeli drummer Guy Salamon, is playing the drums with the widest possible smile and gets the audience completely along, even singing along. The performance will be one of the highlights of the Utrecht jazz festival Transition.
Also read: High quality ‘Jazz on demand’ on Transmission
Last year Transition, for ‘modern resilient jazz’, was online for three days. That was a sympathetic edition with beautiful registrations, but nothing can beat the feeling of being able to fully participate in the festival again. It was a glowing reunion: from room to room in TivoliVredenburg in Utrecht, about thirty concerts between imaginative modern jazz, villainous vocals against soul, contrasting improv and solid hip-hop-influenced groove jazz.
Dutch jazz talent
On the stages, the lackluster, concert-less time was clearly dealt with. Music released in lockdown finally sounded live again. Musicians were happy about it. Great promises whose breakthroughs faltered could finally be heard. Such as the endearing American Michael Mayo, who confidently proved to be one of the greatest vocal talents of the moment. He went fluently through the notes in songs that he finely expanded, meanwhile manipulating his voice with electronics.
The program featured a lot of Dutch jazz talent. The names that matter now – blood fanatic, making sharply creative choices, empathetic playing – are AM.OK orchestra leader Tijn Wybenga, saxophonist Kika Sprangers, guitarist Teis Semey (Danish, but living here), bassist Fuensanta Méndez (Mexican) and the young trumpeter Ian Cleaver. The latter in particular appeared at many concerts on Saturday with its clear sound.
As in the ‘ode to cheerful chaos’, according to initiator, saxophonist Jasper Blom, of three generations of jazz musicians to jazz icon Misha Mengelberg. It was a lively, lubricated parade of classics in ever-changing formations, with drummer Han Bennink – soon to be celebrating his 80th with a tour – as the central focal point. Then again extremely swinging, forcibly controlled, then again impressionistic with madness like blaring sirens through the hall.
The arrival of a big name, such as Norwegian jazz pioneer Jan Garbarek, who had been absent from the stages for a long time, was at odds with the innovation Transition was emphatically seeking. Nordmann’s Belgian alt-rock jazz sparkled in mysterious light. Key figures from American modern jazz such as Immanuel Wilkins are good names to have, although his performance was a bit slow to get going. Drummer Jeff Ballard’s muscular jazz felt dated.
The popularity of British jazz, which naturally mixes with rhythms from the street, was once again underlined. For example, the London formation Steam Down, a lively club with three vocalists, sought a lot of interaction with the public. But a young saxophonist Chelsea Carmichael, who was overwhelmed by the turnout, had to admit that it was only her second performance with this tour band. Her hesitant performance, leaning on a lot of reverb, was a stark contrast to the seasoned British piano trio GoGo Penguin. The trance jazz with repetitive motifs was developed to the maximum for a rocking mass.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of March 28, 2022