18th edition of Gent Jazz Festival closes with a record attendance

Article Contributed by Gent Jazz Festival | Published on Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The last record-breaking edition of Gent Jazz Festival dates from 2012. Then, 38,000 people visited the Bijlokesite. This year, the festival added another thousand, thanks to big names like Yann Tiersen, Diana Krall, Gregory Porter, Jamie Cullum, John Zorn and Joan Baez. Equally impressive: the new stages, as well as several musical discoveries and the Ghent jazz scene.

There was no denying it this year: the new festival tent towered over the magical Bijlokesite and gave even more allure to the performances of the various headliners, who passed by there from June 29 to July 9. Also, the Garden Stage, the festival's second stage, became an open-air venue for the very first time, and with that, it became even more of a hotspot in between the headlining acts on the Main Stage.

Also striking: the new warranty system for reusable cups meant that the Bijlokesite was always very clean - a big difference from previous editions. Visitors also appreciated (especially during the first festival weekend, with temperatures up to 32 degrees) free tap water and the sale of filtered tap water at a reduced price.

The festival would also like to thank all the volunteers and staff for flawlessly managing the cancellation of Sting on Monday July 8, and for creating - together with the Belgian top acts Novastar and Stef Kamil Carlens - such a positive atmosphere on the Bijlokesite and a relaxed festival day.

The highlights of festival director Bertrand Flamang

"RYMDEN stood out during the first weekend - a piano trio conducted by Bugge Wesseltoft that bridges the gap to the future. Bugge has always been an innovator, but with this fantastic rhythm section his sound gets a completely different drive. Of course you couldn't do without Judi Jackson in the first weekend either, who only needed a few songs to turn the unfamiliarity of such a large stage into such a passionate set that she got everybody clapping. Jackson really has everything to become one of the leading ladies in jazz and, one day, a headliner at Gent Jazz Festival. She reminded me of Jamie Cullum, who once made his first big waves outside the UK at this festival, and you could tell that from his phenomenal set this year: the emotional connection he has with this festival is unmistakable."

"The same goes for José James, who seems to really enjoy his Bill Withers set, and it was of course also a happy reunion with Gregory Porter. In hindsight, I'm happy that we had to make that Sunday a standing festival day at the last minute: Porter and James could really go full throttle, with fire and pace, and they loved it! Who also went all the way: Vincent Peirani! We've been following him for years, and it's great to see how he's progressed from an exceptional musician to a real headliner. And of course, you also have to say that about STUFF. They closed a day full of Ghent talent and international top names, and the band absolutely proved that they are top of the bill. They were the band everyone was talking about, and that's just wonderful to see."

"And if I may choose one more surprise: Blick Bassy was a real hit. I discovered him in New York at the Winter Jazzfest – blown away! – and he also impressed at the Gent Jazz Festival with a very enthusiastic concert and incredibly strong songs that are firmly rooted in his Cameroon roots. Finally, in the meantime, John Zorn has also kicked off the last day of the festival with overwhelmingly. But that's no surprise, of course."