River Jazz Festival: breathing space for jazz

© Arnaud Ghys
| Toine Thys' Orlando.

After the digital edition at the beginning of this year, a new era is dawning for River Jazz. By bringing the festival forward from January to the end of November/beginning of December, the organisers stay out of the way of colleagues at the Brussels Jazz Festival and Djangofolllies. This will give the Brussels jazz lover and musician extra breathing space.

The date may have changed, but the concept remains. A sophisticated programme is presented across three venues – Théâtre Marni, Jazz Station, and Le Senghor. It offers a cross-section of established names, with pianist Kris Defoort and saxophonist Toine Thys' Orlando Project at the forefront, as well as younger musicians yet to be discovered, such as trumpeter Pauline Leblond, who is bringing her double quartet. French double bass player Basile Rahola, although he has not been in Belgium for long, presents brand new material of his recently released album Moments, which he recorded with local musicians.

Besides premieres – be sure to check out Moods, the new “party album” by Jazz Station Big Band – there will also be “cartes blanches” as usual. On the opening night, Kris Defoort opts for an intimate set full of improvisation. For this concert, a sort of antidote to the titanic work required for his recent opera work, he is joined by tuba player/trombonist Michel Massot, flautist Pierre Bernard and guitarist Benjamin Sauzereau.

You can also hear locals Jean-Paul Estiévenart and Antoine Pierre inject groove and lyricism into new compositions by French double bass player Géraud Portal, there's an evening of Swiss jazz, and of poetry by South African Lebo Mashile, sung by Tutu Puoane, a children's show with pianist Pierre de Surgères and the “Birdland” exhibition by jazz expert Serge Dehaes.

The apotheosis of the festival is the River Jazz Night. This time Fabian Fiorini, known from Octurn and MikMâäk among others, will take on various guises. Under the headings “Messe Noire”, “Blanche” and “Transcendent Red”, the pianist and comedian presents various facets of his musicianship solo, in duo and in group (including a string quartet).

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