A beautiful jazz day in Ghent

Written by | Festivals, News

This year Jazz In Europe contributor, Jacques Nachtegaal together with photographer Maurits van Hout visited the Gent Jazz Festival. Below is Jacques’ thoughts on the music together with a great series of photo’s from one of our favorite photographers Maurits van Hout.

As is well known, Gent Jazz Festival (5-15 July) has a new organization and this means different choices. More media are welcome, but not all at the same time. And that means that photographer Maurits van Hout and I could only enjoy a beautiful penultimate day of Gent Jazz 2023.

The festival in the Belgian city once again took place on the Bijloke site. The day started on the main stage with the Lara Rosseel Orchestra and this turned out to be a masterful fusion of jazz/classical and world music. Rosseel selected 12 fellow musicians and asked them to take part in her project “Ark”. Today at Gent Jazz was the third concert in succession of this collective and what a concert: it was noteworthy that even during the final notes of the concert, the audience stood to give a standing ovation. The tribute applied not only to Rosseel but to all members of this formation. Afterwards, Lara said backstage that she would like to play in the Netherlands as well. In my opinion, the orchestra of the bassist, composer and bandleader certainly belongs at festivals such as North Sea Jazz.

The Golden Girl:

The moment the gold-clad Lakecia Benjamin took to the stage, something had happened. The well-filled tent became quiet, however Benjamin asks for “noise”. During the concert, the saxophonist asked several times to share as many photos and videos as possible on social media, however there was also musical spectacle. Lakecia played the “stars into the tent”, to coin a Dutch expression. She plays up tempo with an ease as if it were child’s play and especially when she starts talking about John Coltrane and splashes out on one of his up-tempo compositions in a masterful way as she goes wild receiving a huge round of applause that she received by kneeling on the stage. The audience is more than flabbergasted by her playing and her stage performance, that much is clear.


If you can speak of a child prodigy, then this applies to Julian Lage. He played at the Grammy ceremony as a 12-year-old and at the age of 1, became a guitar instructor at the jazz department of the illustrious Stanford University. Now, 20 years later, he has 8 albums to his name and has been nominated twice for a Grammy. He is also the sparring partner of John Zorn and regularly plays with Bill Frisell. During performance Lage left the sound technique in the hands of his wife Margaret Glaspy who was partly responsible for Julian’s cinematic musical escapades. Close your eyes to his music and you end up in another dimension, as it were. Lage and his musical companions, bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Rudy Royston, are such a strong trinity that musical perfection radiates from it.

Photography: Maurits van Hout


It has been many years since Branford Marsalis was last at Gent Jazz, but his memory of it is still very much alive. It was a great summer evening for that earler performance, and it was the same on this penultimate day of Gent Jazz. Marsalis’ playing was flawless and as modest as he is, he also offered plenty of space to his 3 musical partners: pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner. Marsalis often retreated to the back of the stage to drink some water and just listen to the solo’s of his musical friends. In addition to his own work from his last two quartet albums, Marsalis also played my Nat King Cole all-time favorite “When I Take My Sugar To Tea”. He did this in such a wonderful, beautiful and tight arrangement that it almost looked as if this song was composed for Branford; Masterful.

A Nice ending:

Before returning home, Photographer Maurits van Hout and I walked to the Garden Stage to end a wonderful day of Gent Jazz with Stéphane Galland and his Rhythm Hunters. The Dutch bass guitarist Louise van den Heuvel especially made a great impression; a name to remember.

In closing it’s worth noting that in addition to music, Ghent has much more to offer. Think of a walk through the always fascinating and surprising Ghent or an atmospheric boat trip through the center of the city, a visit to the cozy shopping streets or through the courtyards of Ghent surrounded by tranquility. It will certainly make the visitor decide to come to Ghent more often. Especially with the free “Jazz in ‘t park” (6 to 10 September in the Voorhavenpark). in the offing, you can’t ignore Belgium’s most hospitable city.

Text: Jacques Nachtegaal (Het Collectief N&P)

Last modified: July 28, 2023