Every now and then at Holland’s annual North Sea Jazz Festival, the Jazz Café—the small room that hosts the festival’s talk events—fills to capacity. People spill out into the hall, even while 12 other venues in the Rotterdam Ahoy complex are pumping out live music. During the fest’s most recent edition, in July 2017, at the same time that Chick Corea, Mary J. Blige, Dianne Reeves, Laura Mvula and other popular acts were performing elsewhere, more than 100 people parked themselves among the small tables—and even on the floor—to hear Terrace Martin and Michael League talk.
The popularity that these two musician-producers enjoy is remarkable, and due as much to their studio collaborations as to their own recordings. Alto saxophonist/keyboardist/producer Martin has worked with hip-hop heavyweights like Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg as well as major jazz names like Kamasi Washington and Robert Glasper, and—with pleasant surprise and high expectations—he’s been a member of Herbie Hancock’s touring ensemble since 2016. League is the bassist and leader of the stylistically expansive Snarky Puppy, and he has produced his band’s recordings in addition to those by David Crosby, Becca Stevens and others. He also toured with his new, world-and-blues-inspired group Bokanté last summer, while organizing the second GroundUP Music Festival, an eclectic three-day event that took place in Miami in February.