AMIT RABOBANK at the 2019 Amersfoort Jazz Festival. .
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Jazz is, of course, basically a live performing art and, as such, is very much about ambiance and the spirit. With that in mind, the Amersfoort Jazz Festival – which recently took place in northern Netherlands – fit the bill, and then some.
With a population of around 150,000, Amersfoort may not exactly be the epicenter of the global jazz scene, or even of the Netherlands, but the organizers put together an attractive program of gigs, with an intriguing conference running in parallel. The latter was graced by movers and shakers from across the international jazz domain and featured a well-attended panel discussion about the Israeli jazz scene. The panel triumvirate included New York-based Israeli guitarist Yoav Eshed, who played several gigs at the festival, Red Sea Jazz Festival – winter edition – artistic director and veteran jazz and world music radio show presenter Dubi Lenz, and yours truly. There was a sense of genuine interest in what is going down here jazzwise and, thankfully, there was little in the way of political comment.
Our jazz guys and gals have been doing sterling work across the globe for some years now, and the 40-year-old Amersfoort bash opted to salute that by having a focus on Israeli jazz. The Israeli contingent at the festival included the aforementioned Eshed, who played three Subtext duo slots with 23 year old pianist Gadi Lehavi, the latter also putting in a solo appearance.
The shows took place at different locations around Amersfoort, the picturesque center of which includes medieval walls, towers and, naturally, canals. I gained a sort of behind-the-scenes view of the town, along with the Israeli ambassador to the Netherlands and several other guests, on a delightful and informative guided boat ride along some of the urban waterways.
It must be said that the sound quality of the different venues varied somewhat, although the Subtext gig and the one by internationally acclaimed Shalosh trio at the acoustically challenged church-like Mannenzaal hall largely managed to overcome that particular obstacle. That said, the subsequent Subtext concert at the Lieve Vrouwekerkhof Theater made for an altogether more appropriate presentation.
And there was plenty more where that lot of Israeli jazz offerings came from, with saxophonist Amit Friedman fronting his own band; pianist Nuphar Fey enjoying a rare confluence with sibling cellist-vocalist Telalit over at the Sint Aegtenkapel; and with all things Israeli coming together gloriously at the outdoor Grand Finale show in the Lieve Vrouwekerkhof square. The Onze-Lieve-Vrouwetoren (Tower of Our Lady) church tower, all 98.33 meters of it, made for an impressive backdrop as several hundred locals and out-of-towners enjoyed a tipple or two, and some solid sustenance as the Israeli artists pumped out the calories and the Middle Eastern vibes.
Roll on Amersfoort Jazz Festival 2020.
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