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River Jazz Festival: Three Brussels venues host lively event from 23 November to 9 December
A common passion for jazz fuels the 9th edition of the River Jazz Festival, staged by three lively arts venues in Brussels from 23 November to 9 December.
Jazz Station, Marni and Le Senghor are established addresses in the capital’s cultural scene who come together to offer a fortnight of sophisticated, diverse and upbeat jazz.
The Bulletin is offering readers the opportunity to win tickets to festival (see below).
The evocative name of the festival is a reference to the Maelbeek, an underground river flowing through Ixelles, Etterbeek and Saint Josse. It serves as a geographical and historical link for the three venues promoting jazz sounds.
The programme is packed with 17 concerts by a range of Belgian and international musical talents. The gigs include four CD releases, two family music events and the River Jazz Night concert series dedicated to the incredible diatonic accordionist Anne Niepold.
Adding to the festival fun and creativity is a swing evening, a talk and a photo exhibition by the Bruxelles Pixels collective with five artists showing the city in a non-conformist light in all three venues (work by Eric Ostermann at Marni, pictured above).
For the opening night on 23 November, Belgian jazz master vocalist David Linx performs alongside French pianist Gregory Privat. The duo present the album Be My Guest: The Duos Project that features talented guests from all over the world. It’s a fusion of narration, poetry, songs and music.
Multi award-winning Linx is a performing artist, lyricist and composer with a stellar international career. It will be a treat to hear him with gifted pianist Privat (pictured above), who is originally from Martinique. He began by learning classical piano before turning to jazz and improvised music with a particular focus on Afro-Caribbean music. In 2022, he released the highly-acclaimed solo piano album Yonn.
Linx and Privat also make separate appearances in the festival. Linx with the Jazz Station Big Band on 7 December and Privat with his trio on 2 December.
Another highlight is River Jazz Night on 9 December, when Belgian player and composer Anne Niepold is given carte blanche to present three projects performed consecutively in each of the venues.
A daring and talented diatonic accordionist player, Niepold is renowned for her singular approach to the instrument. She’ll switch from brash to adventurous playing to deliver spectacular performances that alternate between circus and symphony.
Niepold first teams up with pianist Florejan Verschueren at the Jazz Station, before duetting with UK accordionist Andy Cutting at Senghor (pictured above). For her finale concert, she revives the group Musette is not Dead in the bar of Marni.
Among the international contingent of musicians, Franco-American trio Romain Pilon (guitar), Jeff Denson (double bass), Fred Pasqua (drums) display their instrumental talent at Jazz Station on 24 November. Denson and Pilon (pictured, main image) met 20 years ago at Berklee College Of Music, both sharing a taste for adventure and a love of jazz. Since then, they have forged brilliant careers on either side of the Atlantic, recording with some of the greatest jazz names in the world.
After a remarkable first album composed together and around thirty concerts in the US, they present their new work, Finding Light, with French drummer Fred Pasqua completing the trio. Their music is interactive and generous, reflecting the pleasure these musicians have in playing together. Influences range from Led Zeppelin to Wayne Shorter, Miles Davis, Hendrix and Satie.
Dutch saxophonist Joris Potshumus performs in a perfectly harmonious trio with Matheus Nicolaiewsky (double bass) and Sander Smeets (drums) at Jazz Station on 8 December. Their ease in alternating fast swing melodies and moving ballads while playing without harmonic instruments testifies to their musical versatility and freewheeling style. The trio mixes hard-hitting hard bop with complex modal structures, creating a masterful electrifying sound.
Two family events are set to thrill budding jazz fans. Les Héros du Mojo by bluesman Guy Verlinde at Marni on 25 November is a magical and positive performance force exploring African-American culture. In this interactive concert, the guitarist and harmonica player flicks from blues to rock'n roll, from gospel to boogie-woogie.
Another fun experience with audience participation, Griboujazz 2 invites five to 10 year-olds into the fizzing mind of an impro musician. The concert at Senghor on 9 December features Thomas Champagne, Guillaume Vierset, Nicholas Yates and Fabio Zamagni with illustrations and animations by Renato Baccarat.
Get ready to hop around in the Easy Swing evening at Jazz Station on 1 December. The dance classes will transport everyone to the heart of New York’s Harlem district in the jazz age.
Finally, as part of the Jazz Portrait cycle, Jacques Onan from the Maison du Jazz in Liège, delivers a talk on the Belgian musician and composer Michel Herr at Jazz Station on 5 December. Herr will be present to comment on his ongoing rich career.
River Jazz Pass Three concerts €35.
River Jazz Night (9 December) Two concerts €20, three concerts €30.
River Jazz Festival
23 November to 9 December
Marni, Le Senghor and Jazz Station
Photos: Anne Niepold & Andy Cutting ©JPohl; Joris Posthumus ©Eddy Westveer; GribouJazz-II ©Nicholas Yates
Win! A River Jazz Pass, granting access to three concerts of your choice. Simply fill in your details below. We'll email you on Sunday (12 November) if you've won.