A Brief Founding History
The Founding Father, Pilgrim and Godfather of the North Sea Jazz Festival was Paul Acket. He was an important figure in presenting the American jazz elite in concert locations not far from where the North Sea Congres Centrum stands today. Acket staged many concerts that have reached legendary status, as many of them were released as live albums in the fifties.
During the ´60´s, Acket made his fortune in the pop magazine publishing business. It wasn't long before he started booking popular rock ´n roll bands in addition to continuing to stage his favorite jazz artists through the 70´s.
Selling his publishing company, Acket was able to start his dream in 1976, the infamous North Sea Jazz Festival. His vision was to present many kinds of jazz styles next to each other, from the American jazz standard to the European avant-garde. What a success his passionate love for jazz has been. Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson where all able to come and perform thanks to this wonderful man's love of jazz.
Impresario, Paul Acket, pass away in 1992, but his dream lives on at the North Sea Jazz Festival, the largest indoor jazz event in the world. To commemorate how much the festival is indebted to his great man, the Garden Pavilion on this 25th anniversary year will, from now onward, carry his name.
North Sea 2000
The North Sea Jazz Festival brings the best of the world's jazz under one roof. It doesn't restrict itself to the traditional jazz scene, but brings the best of all styles influenced by jazz. This includes, blues, fusion, jazzrock, Latin, funk, gospel, salsa, and other contemporary styles belonging to the world of jazz. General themes are presented each year as a link from the past to the present. Themes are "highlighted," rather than "publicized," and are reflected in the songs played by perfoming musicians and singers. This year, the works of Duke Ellington were highlighted and tributes by Dr. John, Tony Bennett, Wynton Marsalis, Mulgrew Miller, Chris Barber and other various artists were performed in great musical style. In addition, Chicago's jazz scene was also represented as the city where tomorrow's jazz is being born.
In addition to the 65-75 concerts, workshops and sessions held each of the three days, the North Sea Jazz Festival presented for the first time on the European continent, an exhibition of drawings and paintings by Miles Davis and a splendid exhibition of the jazz photography of William Claxton and Herman Leonard.
The Bird awards, named after Charlie "Yardbird" Parker were first instated in 1985. Artists from The Netherlands and abroad who have made a major contribution to the field of jazz are eligible for the award. Awards are presented in three separate categories, the Bird Award International, the Bird Award The Netherlands and the Bird Award Special Appreciation. In each category, three names are nominated by a special jury consisting of members of the press. The winners are announced one month prior to the festival and ceremonies presenting the awards take place during the festival. This year's winners are Gerry Teekens - Special Appreciation, J.J. Johnson - International, and Michael Moore - The Netherlands. For a listing of prior award winners since 1985, view them at northsea.com.
The Edison Award is the award given by the Dutch music industry for an album of the highest quality. The award celebrates its 40th anniversary and can be compared to the American Grammy awards. It is a bronze statue created in the image of Thomas Edison, created by Dutch sculptor, Pieter D'hont. Former winners include Herbie Hancock, Ella Fitzgerald, Dexter Gordon and Miles Davis. This year's winners are Lils MacIntosh, Vocal National (Holland) for her CD, "Black Girl," Cassandra Wilson, Vocal International for her CD "Traveling Miles," The New Cool Collective, Instrumental National for their CD "Big," the Branford Marsalis Quartet, Instrumental International for their CD, "Requiem," and The Duke Ellington RCA Recordings for Historical Re-issues. Further information can be found at edisonaward.nl.
The Event and The Hague
I have waited quite a while for the opportunity to go to The North Sea Jazz Festival. For a passionate jazz lover and writer, it was the ultimate experience. The event was well organized and appealing to every jazz appetite. The Congres Centrum (Congress Center) is modern and spacious with an appealing variety of shops, food concessions and restaurants within. The basement, ground floor, first and second floor and rooftop are easily accessible with good directional signs and maps to get you to each performance hall. Television screens placed throughout the Center flash upcoming performances, times and locations. There are plenty of restrooms for which you must pay to use (50 guilda´s, or twelve and a half cents per visit). There even were free online computers for general public use. There are jazz workshops and sessions held by performing musicians, live radio and television coverage and plenty of freebies handed out by various exhibitors such as folding cardboard binoculars, small see-thru backpacks, promotional CD compilations and discount coupons. Most halls have seats, but there are a few for standing only, for which some used the free cardboard seats that were handed out. Hotel space is usually limited, so reservations well in advance are advised. Most hotels and rooms are within walking distance to the festival and the tram can take you on a five-minute ride to the heart of the city for a lovely daytime sightseeing. The Hague is absolutely beautiful and almost everyone speaks English. There is even Burger Kings and MacDonald's if you feel lonesome for fast food, but why would you? Banks and post offices can convert your money into Dutch guilds, but check the hours they are open and remember nothing much is open on Sunday. Jazz can be heard from the window of your hotel, since there are various local jazz groups playing throughout the city. Bring an umbrella and a good sweater just in case, and most of all enjoy the jazz
Upcoming Reviews and Photography
As difficult as it was to pick and choose which concert to see, I thought it important to see as many jazz legends as possible. After all, this might be the last opportunity one had to see these guys perform. Musicians such as Jimmy Heath, Mal Waldron, Bud Shank, Jimmy Scott and Tony Bennett were all born in 1926. Just think of it. . . Miles and Coltrane were also born in 1926 and all of these guys in one way or another played with or were associated with Miles and other jazz legends that are no longer with us. Then there was Stanley Turrentine, McCoy Tyner, Archie Shepp, Tootie Heath, Sonny Fortune and Gary Bartz who brought up the next rank and file, being born in the ´30´s. Also included are Wynton Marsalis, Michael Brecker, Pat Metheny, Yellowjackets, Roy Hargrove, Carol Sloane, Diana Krall, David Sanborn, Joe Sample, Jeanne Lee, Hendricks and Ross, Denise Jannah, Brad Mehldau, Russell Malone, Lils MacIntosh, The Beets Brothers and the Piet Noordijk All Star Quintet. You can expect reviews and photos of all these greats in the days and weeks to come, along with stunning festival photography by Jos Knaepen, which will accompany each review. Also, I have two personal interviews, one with Edison winner, Lils MacIntosh, and the other with the fabulous Carol Sloane. See you soon.