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Bill Charlap & Gary Hobbs at the Earshot Jazz Festival

Ab Baars

The best way to be immersed in the Dutch jazz scene is to attend the three-day musical feast in Amsterdam known as the Dutch Jazz Meeting. Every couple of years the Dutch Jazz Connection invites concert producers from around the world to experience the best jazz and world music groups in the Netherlands. Unlike typical commercial jazz festival performances, these are showcase concerts, with each group performing tight, 20-minute sets. It’s an interesting sampler approach; the lesser acts are quickly finished and the most compelling groups leave you wanting more.

Most of the 27 shows this year took place at the recently reopened Bimhuis club, which has moved to a new location overlooking the IJ harbor. The comfortable room with hardwood floors, red chairs and a bar in the back, is laid out much like the old Bim—wide rather than long—which allows more intimacy for the audience. One important difference is that the new room has stunning floor to ceiling windows just behind the stage that provide a spectacular view of the harbor and train tracks. Ordinarily a glass wall like this would present acoustic compromises due to reflected sound. Fortunately the Bim has a good p.a. system and a staff of excellent sound engineers to meet this challenge. Not once during the three days of performances did I hear any feedback or distortion, and the instruments were well balanced no matter whether they were acoustic or amplified. The building will soon house audio and video studios in the basement, and next-door will be the 750-seat Muziekgebouw concert hall and the Gaudeamus Contemporary Music Center.

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