Saturday, July 30, 2011

Observations from Holland: Ntjam Rosie, Tineke Postma

The North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands is said to be the biggest indoor fest in the world. I have no argument. It’s a tremendous event with quality music from start to finish. Like so many jazz festivals, you’ll find rock and pop and soul music as well. Names like Price and Snoop Dogg and Seal--Hell, even Pal Simon and Tom Jones were there this year. No question though, jazz was abundant and in all forms, from big band to traditional to bebop to more modern and experimental groups.

It also showcased some Dutch jazz musicians, of which a couple are worth mentioning. Bear in mind, there were 13 stages at the event. To see everything was impossible. To see all Dutch jazz was just as impossible as it was to see all other kinds. It was a dizzying experience in some respects--so much goes music missed. SO MUCH good music experienced and savored.

North Sea Jazz is something fans should try and see. The host city of Rotterdam is warm and welcoming. Friendly. Easy to get around. Laid back. Plenty for tourists to take in. Shopping. Night life. A nice arts community. Dining of all kinds. It’s a perfect host city for this huge event and the venue -- a huge facility dubbed Ahoy -- is unique and impressive.

[PHOTO: Ntjam Roise at North sea Jazz, 2011, © R.J. DeLuke]

There’s no predicting how the careers of musicians will go. No formula for success. Why this person “made it” and that person didn’t, in terms of public recognition, is largely a mystery. The famed jazz producer Orrin Keepnews once told me that some musicians were “inevitable,” meaning that regardless of what he did as a producer, or anyone else, that cram was going to rise to the top. The talent was too immense. Coltrane, Monk. Sonny Rollins. That’s true.

What becomes of so many others, why some rise and some don’t .. who knows. Good fortune certainly plays a role. But it remains a mystery. Just like individual songs. Why this one makes it and that one doesn’t. Who knows.

A noteworthy discovery in Rotterdam was Ntjam Rosie, a resident there for a while now, but originally from Camaroon. She’s a singer in the manner of perhaps a Lizz Wright or Angelique Kidjo. Soul, world music, jazz, R&B all have a place in her music, as does, certainly, sounds she’s heard in Camaroon. She’s a trained vocalist who writes just about all of her own material and is bent on carving a career based on that. Her latest album Elle exhibits her songwriting. It’s a good disk, but in performance, like most good artists, she is more dynamic and engaging. It should be that way and not the other way ‘round.

Performing at Ahoy, she exhibited charm and a relaxed ease, fronting a larger ensemble with percussion, flute and vibes to go with the basic rhythm. She was energized and so was the crowd. Her voice is pristine and she communicates her lyrics directly and clearly. A fine sense of rhythm and harmony. Her influences she channels through her own filter and it comes out a mixture of pop, soul and world music, with underpinnings of jazz harmony. She’s not pushing pop hooks in order to be heard. Very musical.

Her story is spreading around Europe. Why this one makes it and that one doesn’t, who knows. But this lady could be one whose name is heard more and louder. Her music is accessible without playing down to the crowd. It’s her own voice -- inward and outward. Who knows ………

On a different note, Dutch saxophonist Tineke Postma has had successful albums in the United States, the latest The Dawn of Life (Challenge Records), out in Europe and due in the U.S. soon. It’s outstanding, with her European quartet. She’s also recorded with people like Geri Allen and Teri Lynne Carrington and is part of the recently released Mosaic Project, with Esperanza Spalding, Allen, Helen Sung, Ingrid Jensen, Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson and Dee Dee Bridgewater. She has a gorgeous sound and an infectious approach to music. She’s already carving out a sound that belongs to just her.

At Ahoy, her set was superb, playing with pianist Marc Van Roon, bassist Frans Van Der Hoeven and drummer Martijn Vink. Dynamic and strong music. Great communication among the quartet. She’s a very fine player whose rewards are only just beginning and are well deserved.

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