Fred Hersch & WDR Big Band highlight Gent Jazz Festival 2019

Written by | Festivals, News

Fred Hersch is one of the current leading jazz pianists. Also, the WDR Big Band is one of the best jazz orchestras in Europe. They join forces during Gent Jazz Festival 2019. The celebrated composer and arranger Vince Mendoza is the conductor. The concert on Saturday 6th July is one of the highlights during the jazz festival in the historic Belgian city.

Gent Jazz Festival (June 29 – July 9) presents a variety of musical styles, as has become common over the last few years. The popular artists who attract a lot of audiences enable the organizers to program jazz. The concert of the WDR Big Band with Fred Hersch is an event for the real jazz lover to look forward to. The American pianist often plays solo or with his trio. Last year, his performance was one of the highlights during Jazz Middelheim in Antwerp, that other great jazz festival in Belgium. Vince Mendoza’s master’s hand will undoubtedly be recognizable in the arrangements as compositions by Fred Hersch are performed by the pianist and the WDR Big Band

Jazz in Europe previously brought the news that Diana Krall, Gregory Porter and John Zorn were contracted for Gent Jazz Festival. The music of John Zorn closes the last day of the festival on the main stage. From half-past five to midnight, a series of his compositions are performed by a group of famous musicians. Of noteworthy consideration are a solo concert by pianist Craig Taborn and another with the John Medeski Trio.

Singer and pianist Jamie Cullum is the main attraction on Sunday, June 30th. His music is best described as light jazz. The trio of virtuoso Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba also plays on this Saturday, on the main stage followed by trumpeter Terence Blanchard, who has the E-collective A/B squared at his side.

Wandering on the festival grounds you run into musical surprises as I’ve learned throughout the years. There is always one concert at a time, so you can never choose the wrong performance: you like the music or you don’t. One surprise might well be J.S. Ondara on Thursday, July 4th –  His life story reads like a book. The young singer lived in Kenya and was eager to go to the US to become an artist (Bob Dylan is his idol). He managed to get a plane ticket to the promised land in 2013 and from that point on he made his dream come true. Neil Young asked him to go on tour with him. And the famous magazine Rollin Stone called J.S. Ondara “an invigorating new voice in American folk music”.

Legendary Joan Baez is in Ghent to that day. She is one of the most famous folk singers of the world. At 78 years old, she is now ending her career and travelling the world to say farewell to her fans.

On Friday, July 5th – Pianist and singer Diana Krall play with some greats in Ghent. The bassist is Robert Hurst. Kariem Riggins is the drummer. Saxophonist Lovano and guitarist Marc Ribot is a guest of this super trio. On the Garden Stage that day the Dutch saxophonist Yuri Honing can be heard. He is a poet among tenor saxophonists. This concert is also recommended!

The Gregory Porter concert on Sunday, July 7th is already sold out. The visitors can then make a comparison who makes the most impression as a jazz singer: Gregory Porter or Jose James, who is on the main stage before the popular singer with the hat.

Monday, July 8th concert is also sold out. Ticket sale went very, very fast when it became known that Sting had been booked!

Within a two week period, there are 9 festival days with over 50 concerts on the Main Stage and the Garden Stage, both located on the historic Bijloke Site. Gent Jazz Festival 2019 has one of the most intimate festival settings in Europe.

More information and tickets via

Senior writer: Peter Beije

Photo credits: Courtesy of Gent Jazz Festival – and (c) info: all rights go to original recording artist/owner/photographer(s).

Last modified: May 20, 2019