2007 Sildajazz Festival
By Bob Putignano
This year's Sildajazz Festival marked the twenty-first anniversary of this world-class event. The very first festival was a combined film and Jazz festival with only a few traditional Jazz bands performing.
That was then, now the festival is five swinging days on the west coast of Norway. The Sildajazz Festival is more than just a series of concerts, it is a cool package of varied events when the small and gorgeous small town of Haugesund beautifully turns upside-down creating a unique exciting atmosphere of music of all genres with 350 musicians and 180 concerts, as well as outdoor art exhibitions, a huge parade with tap dancers leading the way with 150 musicians from all over the planet following, plus there is a sailing competition, all of which are quite impressive. Additionally, on the final day there were over 50,000 music fans dancing and enjoying this first-class extravaganza called Sildajazz.
Some of the many highlights this year were the dynamic performances of Bill Evans
with the sparkling guitar of Chuck Loeb, the beautiful Silje Nergaard, the funky
Ibrahim Electric, David-Clayton Thomas, the Knut Reiersrud Band, the Hard Luck
Blues Band, and Big Luther Kent and his very fine Louisiana quartet.
Big Luther Kent's band, despite having lengthy delays getting to Norway, was on fire on all of the performances I attended and, as usual, Kent's first-rate vocals were wowing the crowds. His crack band of New Orleans-based musicians consisted of old-time bandmates Bruce Elsensohn (who killed on piano) and the propulsive drummer Allyn Robinson, plus Sildajazz organizer H.R. Ziifle on his hot guitar and the driving bass of Glen LeBlanc. Kent and his band were well received in Norway, so much so that rumors of them returning next year were already circulating before this year's festival was over.
One of the many other musical amenities of Sildajazz includes a late-night hangout where musicians can jam after their regularly scheduled public performances. They were offered a great bowl of fish soup, beer, and a chance to let loose and carry on into the wee hours. On one particular evening Kent's band was offered a generous amount of Kroner (Norwegian currency) to lead the jam, which started around 2 a.m.; this jam turned into an international blowout of musicians all under the tutelage and leadership of Kent's wailing vocals and song selections.
Sildajazz has already established next year's festival dates on the Scandinavian Jazz Calendar for 2008 for August 6 through August 10. Organizers are already planning the next fest and preliminary plans have 2008 being the biggest event yet. I look forward to being there next year and so should you.