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Intensive jazz week in Tourcoing

Mid-october is the time for jazz lovers around Lille, with the Tourcoing Jazz Festival. This year it was from Oct. 16th to 23rd, and I suspect whoever invited the artists must have peeked at my music library; I just had to get the whole-week pass.

Saturday: Renaud García-Fons

Renaud García-Fons, La Línea del Sur (2009)

The festival opened with a concert in Mouscron, near Tourcoing, but on the belgian side of the border, where 5km are more than enough for a poor french driver to get lost…

But I digress.

Renaud García-Fons is a virtuoso at crossing the colors of mediterranean musics with the fantastic voice of his five-string double bass. The concert was based on La Línea del Sur; Sabrina danced flamenco in a couple compositions, answering the three others with the taps of her feet. I couldn’t help but imagine Zakir Hussain conversing with her in ultrafast tabla beats…

Sunday: Dhafer Youssef, Omar Sosa & Trilok Gurtu

Dhafer Youssef, Abu Nawas Rhapsody (2010)

Dhafer Youssef’s quartet opened this concert in the best way possible, with pieces from his project dedicated to 8th century poet Abu Nawas, intermixing energetic and joyful rhythms with contemplative singing. Wonderful. At the piano was an amazing young armenian, Tigran Hamasyan; Dhafer said he was proud to be part of his career, and, seeing how at 23 he’s already played with Chick Corea or Avishai Cohen, I can understand.

Omar Sosa, Afreecanos (2008)

The second set was Omar Sosa’s quartet, plus indian master Trilok Gurtu as a special guest. This was clearly more free-form, experimental jazz, incorporating electronics and samples, and under constant moment-to-moment mutation. Definitely on my to-listen list.

This concert was co-organized by the Tourcoing Planètes Jazz Festival and the Jazz en Nord Festival, which organizes events along the year.

Tuesday: Stefan Orins trio, McCoy Tyner quartet

The trio of Stefan & Peter Orins and Christophe Hache is a very local group; I saw them last year at La Malterie, a bar / concert cave / artist residence in Lille, where they regularly play or collaborate with the resident musicians, in particular in the various projects of Olivier Benoît. They were playing songs from their next album, Stöt.

McCoy Tyner Quartet (2008)

Following them, was some guy that was way to old and too respected by the rest of the audience for me to just discover now: McCoy Tyner and his quartet. This was clearly a different class of jazz, much cleaner, polished and refined. Maybe too much? I have to admit I tend to prefer the youngsters that play Jazz versions of Nirvana songs.

Wednesday: Ibrahim Maalouf, Rabih Abou-Khalil

Ibrahim Maalouf, Diachronism (2009)

I already saw Ibrahim Maalouf at an open-air festival this summer, but was really happy to have another chance in a smaller setting. He has lots of enthusiasm and energy on stage, and it shows in his music and his contact with the public.

Rabih Abou-Khalil, Al-Jadida (1991)

I knew Rabih Abou-Khalil from his old works, in particular Al Jadida, and his music really touched me. On stage, he revealed to be a really funny guy, adept of tongue-in-cheek humour, wearing his shirt color-coordinated with the group’s tuba (why, yes, a turquoise tuba), and dedicating a song to “this monument of british cuisine, the fish-n-ships”. Enlightening.

This concert was filmed and Rabih Abou-Khalil’s performance can be watched on Arte Liveweb; Ibrahim Maalouf was also recorded but sadly it does not seem to be online.

Thursday: Portico quartet, Manu Katché

Portico Quartet, Isla (2009)

The discovery: Portico quartet. They were announced as the recent revelation, and indeed they were a very good surprise. The hang and electronics come together to create their sonic atmosphere, somewhere between jazz and electro.

Manu Katché, Third Round (2010)

The disappointment: Manu Katché. He played with Jan Garbarek or Anouar Brahem, whose music always grabs me from inside, so I had high hopes. Unfortunately, all we got was clean, consensual jazz, played by good musicians but with too much ease… boring1.

Friday: Henri Texier, Dave Holland

This is a concert centered on the bass, with two great masters.

Henri Texier is very sensible to the problems humanity faces, be it political or ecological, with pieces like Louisiana Dark Waters, from the next album; a very humane set.

Dave Holland is a giant, both figuratively and literally; but then he was playing one of these acousting road basses with a truncated belly, so that was cheating a bit.

Saturday: Marcus Strickland, Wayne Shorter

Marcus Strickland trio, Idiosyncrasies (2009)

Marcus Strickland seemed quite impressed to open for Wayne Shorter, but then is there a jazz saxophonist out there who wouldn’t? I particularly liked the story with the strikes in France and how they had to repeatedly suffer hearing one of their themes as the train company’s jingle.

Wayne Shorter and his quartet played three pieces. The first one started slow, but then took us to a succession of places and we followed the masters on their voyage.

The other two pieces? the two encores. Just barely enough to let the audience recover from the trip and land back somewhere in reality.

  1. Though certainly not that boring to the middle-aged ladies next row, who didn’t chat as much as during Portico’s set. And then the younger generations get blamed for their lack of manners?

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