June 2, 2021

New names Gent Jazz ‘Back to Live’: Wim Mertens, José James, Tigran Hamasyan Trio, Dijf Sanders, Tutu Puoane Quartet, Bandler Ching & Naima Joris

Get the impression that we are looking forward to this summer? After announcing the first Gent Jazz names at the end of last week – Jef Neve, STUFF. and Gonzalo Rubalcaba & Aymée Nuviola – here’s already the second batch! Once again, including some big names!

On July 11, Wim Mertens is headlining the festival. Last year, the famed pianist had planned to celebrate his 40-year career with a world tour, but due to ‘circumstances’, that didn’t happen. Fortunately, Wim Mertens’ birthdays are as timeless as his music, and so this summer, he will blow out forty candles at Gent Jazz after all.

Another piano hero, albeit one with slightly fewer years under his belt: Tigran Hamasyan is the headliner on July 18. After a couple of masterful solo adventures, the Armenian jazz musician has finally released another ‘trio album’ last year: The Call Within. The perfect synthesis of his passion for music (history), by the way. And it is with this album and also this trio that Hamasyan will be performing at Gent Jazz in July.

On July 9, José James is also heading towards the festival with an album that plays an important role in his career: his breakthrough album The Dreamer. When the record was released in 2008 on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings, The Guardian wrote that the American musician “sometimes suggests a 21st-century Leon Thomas, but he also exhibits a highly personal mix of Bobby McFerrin’s tonal delicacy and the R&B and soul feel of D’Angelo.” This may explain why José James already played Gent Jazz twice before. More good news: on July 9, he will be joined by Naima Joris, whose melancholy debut EP moved countless music lovers to tears when it came out a couple of months ago.

Finally, the festival is also welcoming three other high-profile Belgian acts. For years, Tutu Puoane has been one of the best jazz vocalists in the country and her latest album with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra – a tribute to Martin Luther King – is still reverberating after three years. On July 13, she will bring her own quartet to Gent Jazz.

Dijf Sanders and Bandler Ching will be added to the July 17 line-up – with STUFF. headlining that day. The former is a true Renaissance man whose records – a mix of psychedelics, electronics, and more stuff that ends with ‘ics’ – are usually aptly characterised as mind-blowing trips. And the latter is brilliant saxophonist Ambroos De Schepper’s band, whose EP Sub Surface was received so well last year that one review said that “they might just rival STUFF.” Ever seen a jazz catfight? Head towards Gent Jazz on July 17!

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