Jammin’ at the North Sea Jazz Festival ‘99

All Aboard!

Alvester Garnett

July 1999

So... I'm writing this on the train now from Cuneo, Italy to Nice, France. We just barely made it in time because the driver took a supposedly "quicker" route on the suggestion of a friend and it actually ended up being longer! But at least we made it.

I just finished up a gig in Giaveno, Italy with Werner "Vana" Geirieg. The rest of Regina Carter's band is on a break. We spent two nights there and the people were absolutely wonderful! Me AND my belly loved that place and the people! They fed us like crazy and the food was spectacular! The sauces were fabulous. On top of it all we didn't have to spend a dime; they paid for all of our meals! I only had to pay for using the phone for Internet service, which was pretty cheap. I'm pretty sure that Regina's band had to feed themselves on their days off back in Nice. On top if it all Vana and I made some extra cash. Now that's what I'm talking about!

vang2.JPG (12679 bytes)Our gig on Saturday July 10th, at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Den Haag (The Hague) Holland went great. I received a lot of compliments from various musicians and record industry people about my playing. This festival is so huge that at any given hour between 2 p.m. and 2 a.m. there are at least 10 to 12 different bands playing on different stages at the same time. They even broadcast some of the performances live on TV. Our show was aired live and excerpts were repeated, so that gave us even more opportunity for feedback. I was very happy to hear great compliments from Latin jazz stars like Hilton Ruiz and Danilo Perez's drummer since a good part of our show is Cuban based. At least I'm headed in the right direction. I just have to practice even more...

I even lucked into an extra gig while at the festival! When I went through the artist's entrance with Regina’s band, Lou Donaldson happened to come along looking for a drummer, since his drummer wasn't able to make the gig due to last minute scheduling changes. He knew Regina’s guitarist Rodney Jones (who has played with virtually all the old cats) and asked him for a recommendation. Of course he graciously recommended me and bang—I had the chance to play with another old master and earn an extra $600! We did it with no rehearsal and I got a pile of compliments off of that hit too.

Al Foster (Miles Davis' drummer for most of the 70's, currently with Joe Henderson) had heard about the drum situation with Lou. He was backstage listening while I was playing, since he went on after us with John Scofield and Joe Lovano. He told me afterwards that it sounded like the regular drummer had made the gig since I was making all the stops and starts at the right time! Lou himself thanked me and said I played the gig like I'd been in his band for years! Scofield also dapped me up and Russell Malone mentioned that he had even more respect for me after hearing me swing hard with the older cats.

As a matter of fact Al Foster tried to hook me up with the actual head of Yamaha drums, who was in attendance. I talked to him briefly but didn't dig his vibe. Get this—I said to him, "So what does it take to become a Yamaha artist?" He replied with some mumbo jumbo about how the company wasn't really taking on many more artists. So then I clarified that I was a drummer and that I was interested in their drums. His reply was, "Do you know who Rodney Green is?" Now that was arrogant and rude! On top if it all the man is Japanese and he knows that it was disrespectful! But that's OK, because in a way, that only inspires me to work harder at being a success. Someday he'll be ASKING ME to play his drums! I prefer supporting American companies anyway when it comes to audio and music equipment.

OK, now I'm at my hotel in Nice—HUGE room, but no more free food—well...except breakfast!

Another hip feature of the North Sea festival is that I always get to see so many of my musician friends and make some new ones along the way. It helps to keep one’s self in the eyes of one’s peers. Also they had jam sessions every night of the festival, from Friday thru Sunday. The sessions usually end when breakfast is served, 7 a.m.! I sat in Saturday and Sunday night and didn't get back to my hotel until 6 a.m. one time and 4:30 a.m. the other time. I saw bassist, Steve Kirby there and on TV with Elvin Jones (Elvin was Coltrane's main drummer in the 60's). It's impossible to see every show so it was nice to catch a few minutes of Kirby, my former Cyrus Chestnut Trio bandmate, with Elvin on the TV.

Roy Hargrove was there every night of the festival from beginning to end. That boy sho' luv ta' play! His rhythm section was the house band. The first night I sat in with John Ormond, Abbey Lincoln's bassist and my former bandmate. The group also included Roy and a bunch of other musicians whom I didn't know. On the second night, which I enjoyed more, they had Delfeayo Marsalis on trombone and a strong British bass player named Larry who plays in Courtney Pine's band (I might see him in London in two weeks). Also there was a good female alto player from Holland (no not Candi Dulfer!), plus Roy, another good trombonist, Ray GallenRoy Ayers' alto man, and a slew of other musicians. It was a lot of fun and I put my "Stanky Swing" on 'em and we had a ball!

Later I went and hung with Abbey Lincoln after her show. She was in great spirits and we had a good, yet brief, "hang". Her manager Billy Hoogstraten was there. You know that record by Stan Getz entitled, "Billy Highstreet Samba"? It was titled for him—he used to manage Stan Getz also! Ora Harris, Betty Carter's former manager was there too. Marc Cary, John Ormond and Jaz Sawyer made up her rhythm section. Unfortunately, I missed her concert. I fell asleep after watching the Formula 1 race and didn't get up in time. I didn't have a schedule for the Sunday shows and I mistakenly assumed that they would be starting later. They went on at 7 and I didn't get over there until 8:45.

An Invitation...?

At least I got to see the F1 race. Did you hear about Michael Schumacher's crash?! He broke his right leg! He crashed not even 30 seconds into the British Grand Prix race. They said it was a loose screw on his rear brake fluid line, so all of the Ferrari mechanics are being questioned. It's all over the news in Europe but probably not the US. Next year they are bringing an F1 race to Indy so I might be going come next fall. Thinking back a couple of days, I had flown into Montreal for the DuMaurier Festival that was held on July 8th. There I had a chance to see the track where the Canadian Grand Prix is held every June. As a matter of fact, anyone is allowed to drive, rollerblade, or jog around it at certain times when races aren’t being held. What do you think? Is my little truck ready for a few laps around the F1 track? You can ride shotgun and if we flip over you can call the ambulance! Don't worry—I'll let you use my cell phone. :)

One slight inconvenience of the North Sea Jazz Festival is that we didn't stay in the main hotel right next to the Congress Centre where all the concerts are held, so we had to take a 10-minute cab ride or get the festival reps to take us. It kind of kept us out of the loop but at least our hotel was not the madhouse that I remember from the 5 other times that I've played there. Also the breakfast, which was free and "all-you-can-eat," was great and much better than what was offered in the main hotel! It had all the fixin's and I'm sure you would have enjoyed it!

More about the festival:

The "North Sea Jazz Festival" was held July 9th - 11th, 1999 at the Congress Centre of the Hague in the Netherlands. The Congress Center is a huge convention center featuring 17 different stages.

Bands at the festival this year included:

1. The Roy Hargrove Quintet
2. The Count Basie Orchestra with Special Guest Milt Jackson on vibes.  [Their show was a tribute to the recently deceased singer Joe Williams who sang with Basie in the '50's.]
3. David Sanborn Band
4. Bob James Trio
5. Pat Metheny Trio, with Larry Grenadier and Bill Stewart
6. Roy Ayers
7. Benny Golson’s All Star Quintet
8. Arturo Sandoval's 'Hot House'
9. Herbie Hancock’s Gershwin's World'
10. The Joe Zawinal Syndicate
11. Celia Cruz
12. The Kenny Garrett Quartet
13. The Regina Carter Quintet—featuring ME!
And the list goes on and on....

Peace, Out,
Alvester

Alvester’s Web site: www.jazzworld.com/alvestergarnett