Gent chick-fest

Martin Longley has survived the first long weekend of the Gent Jazz Festival.

Gent Jazz Festival 2014: Part Four
Gent, Belgium

The closing Sunday of this festival’s first weekend operated within an earlier time-phase, concluding around 9pm, and 8pm on the main stage. It was assumed that this was due to global sporting shenanigans, but apparently it was as a result of pressure from local residents, regarding decibel levels on a Sunday night. So, midday became the new start-time.

As if fighting the afternoon’s persistent downpour, saxophonist Joshua Redman played Summertime, an extraordinarily conventional tune-choice, but appearing in dashing bebop mode. With Lush Life following, matters were not looking hopeful on the innovation front. Reuben Rogers gave an eloquent high end bass solo during She Knows, bending notes with finger-steel dexterity.

It took the quartet a long time to gather their storm forces, rising above the expected qualities of the well-performed set, the minimum we’d expect from Redman. It was the climactic Disco Years that created a tension of creative rushing between the players, with Redman sparring alongside Greg Hutchinson’s explosive drum solo. Even here, there was the feeling that Redman could turn this heat on with a minimal effort, so great were his lurking resources.

The notion of a piano trio offering the likelihood of introspective probings is slung out of the running when it comes to Hiromi’s group. This Japanese keystress just can’t resist the temptation to unleash her energy potential at a constant rate of flow, being permanently in a state of ultimate action stations. This is the way we prefer her, and there’s surely no reason to tone down the proceedings. Her enthusiasm is overwhelming.

She played a solo piece, Place To Be, them rammed right back into the full spewing and crumpling excess, the rapport having grown amongst her regular partners of bassist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Philips, although the latter’s gargantuan rock-style kit frequently tempted him into a thundering tumble that even threatened to overpower the ebullient Hiromi’s thrilling abundance of notes.

It seemed as though the duo of pianist Chick Corea and bassist Stanley Clarke would impose a sense of sonic winding down to this early-to-bed evening. Perhaps this was the case, with their intimate sensitivities and general quietness, but in terms of a satisfying conclusion, these star personalities towered over all else on that day. It seemed like they’d only just whisked into town, Corea hanging his denim jacket on a microphone stand and sitting down at his keys, straight from the tourbus.

The set was in acoustic form, with both players neglecting to plug in any electric keys or axes. Not surprisingly (aside from its all-acoustic nature), the old Return To Forever repertoire was highlighted, including After The Cosmic Rain, which was chased by Armando’s Rhumba and Waltz For Debby, by Bill Evans. Corea and Clarke diverged with solo readings of La Canción De Sofia (for Stanley’s wife) and The Yellow Nimbus (which Chick dedicated to the departed Paco De Lucia).

Then, in a slight return to Corea’s legendarily epic jam session at the 2010 Gentfest, he invited Hiromi back onstage, with the pair of them sitting at the same piano, negotiating ballet steps as they circled around each other, taking turns at the high and low ends of the keyboard, dappling around hints of Miles’n’Rodrigo. Corea and Hiromi’s mixture of hardcore virtuosity and general fun lovin’ made for a most desirable cocktail of creativity.