On Friday night I played at the Gouvy Jazz Festival in Gouvy Belgium. I had never been to Belgium before, and I was struck by the beauty of its rolling hills and clear blue skies. I should tell you that after leaving miserably hot Paris I thought we would find relief from the heat in the Belgian countryside, but no luck. On our arrival they told us it was the hottest day of the year so far.
On our way to Gouvy we drove through rolling hills dotted with cattle and few horses. In one of the fields we even saw crop circles; everyone laughed when I said a dedicated fan had mistakingly thought we would arrive by air and so had written our names in the cornfield. Gouvy is a very small village, and the festival was held on a farm just at the edge of town. This farm belongs to Claude, a big Jazz fan, and he has been hosting this festival for 30 years. If you attend the festival you are welcome to camp on his property (though I don’t know if you have to pay), so the fields are full of tents and campers. Near his house, in the fenced in part of the property, there is a big tent set up for the concert. As the evening begins everyone comes up to the tent (which holds near 1,000 people) and the party begins. There are sausages cooked over big open fires and French fries (the best in the world I’m told) and of course lots of beer. Christmas lights are strung between the trees and make the scene very festive.
The backstage area borders on his vegetable garden, and the musicians relax in a camper and a little wooden shack. I thought there would be millions of mosquitoes, but I didn’t get bit once! A giant black beetle accompanied us on stage, but he kept to himself.
The audience was kind and generous, and after our concert we were taken to have dinner in the “restaurant”. It was a restaurant for sure, only set up in what used to be the stables. In truth I have NEVER had a more delicious meal. We were served salad, with a heavenly dressing, boiled potatoes, and a leg of ham for each person. I think the ham was smoked and it reminded me very much of some ham I had in Oviedo last summer, but this ham was covered with a mustard sauce. It was amazing. Though each of us tried, only Kenji (the bassist) finished his meal. Joe (the drummer) and I came in last, barely making a dent in the ham.
I was so tuckered out from all the loveliness and kindness I had experienced that I promptly fell asleep backstage, to the sweet sounds of Tom Harrell’s quintet.
Only a few hours later, around 6 AM, all of us traveled to Ystad Sweden. I wish we could have stayed longer in Gouvy because on Saturday Benny Green played, as well as Lou Donaldson.
If you travel the world to see Jazz festivals you MUST make it to Gouvy.