Ostend’s Storm! is a fresh wind through jazz festival scene


An adventurous festival by the sea brings the younger generation of jazz artists to the fore, with a focus on crossing traditional boundaries

All jazzed up

When Ostend’s Storm! premiered two years ago, many questioned whether there was room for yet another jazz festival in the country. Turnout quickly showed, however, that the public’s appetite for inventive sounds from new and old faces was as voracious as ever.

From 6 to 28 February, this adventurous music festival organised by arts and culture centre Vrijstaat O will enjoy its second run in the city by the sea. And while its bigger, more established brothers, like Ghent Jazz, Jazz Middelheim and Brosella, focus on getting big names, Storm! homes in on younger and local talent, offering a wide revue of where the younger generation is taking jazz today.

The subtitle for this year’s three-week festival is “Jazz not jazz”, revealing the vast diversity and manifold faces of the genre. Today’s jazz musicians, says organiser Pieter Koten of Vrijstaat O, often play with ways to break free of the genre’s traditional boundaries. They blend and cross between genres such as rock, soul and pop with ease, and take adventurous detours into other disciplines, including performance, literature and contemporary dance.

A perfect example of this tendency is guest of honour Fulco Ottervanger (pictured).  A Belgian-based Dutch jazz pianist and composer, Ottevanger flirts with the boundaries of music and other mediums such as theatre and dance as he performs at several moments throughout the festival.

You can find the 30-year-old playing with his popular contemporary jazz trio, De Beren Gieren, as well as in the first performance by the Reverse Archeologists, his collaboration with fellow keyboardists Jozef Dumoulin and Kris Davis.

But Ottevanger is not the only musician pushing at the borders. At centre stage of Storm! lies a two-day festival-within-a-festival, taking place on 20 and 21 February in De Grote Post cultural centre and jam-packed with artists making the most of their genres.

One welcome name on the line-up is Israeli trumpeter Avishai Cohen Triveni, who sold out a concert last year at Vrijstaat O and this time is arriving with his new album, Dark Nights, in tow. Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick’s seamless weaving in of pop and rock notes demonstrates how jazz today is not limited to any specific sound.

Finally, on Saturday, the 21st-century jazz-fusion band BRZZVLL will join forces with British-Trinidadian poet and musician Anthony Joseph for a soul-filled funk party to close the main weekend of the festival.

Storm!, 6 to 28 February, De Grote Post and other venues across Ostend

Photo by Kerlijn Van der Cruyssen