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The Checkout Lands in Antwerp, Belgium for Jazz Middelheim

Bruno Bollaert
Pharoah Sanders performing at Jazz Middelheim

Jazz Middelheim is probably the oldest jazz event in Belgium, originally founded in 1969. It can also make a claim as one of the most adventurous with its programming.  

Jazz Middelheim is set deep inside Park Den Brandt, also translated as Nightingale Park, set in the midst of a lush Belgian forrest. The grounds support two garden styles, English and French. To the backdrop of its three stages are sculpture gardens and a castle constructed in 1789. At night, a neon green light shines on the building and reflecting brilliantly off the nearby pond.

This week the Checkout sat down with the festival's artistic director, Bertrand Flamang, to share some of his favorite performances from the past decade at Jazz Middelheim. 

That highlight reel includes one of Ornette Coleman’s last European performances; the irreverent Dutch master drummer Han Bennink with his Instant Composers Orchestra; and a first meeting of three potent musical minds, Pharaoh Sanders, Zakir Hussain and Joachim Kühn. We'll also showcase one of the last European performances by pianist Geri Allen, with saxophonist David Murray and drummer Terri Lynne Carrington. 

Flamang also celebrates the legacy of Toots Thielemans. And we'll hear the the Belgium harmonica player on his 90th birthday in 2013, playing one of his most famous compositions, "Bluesette," a jazz standard that turns into a bossa nova.

We're highlighting these great performances with help from Klara, Flemish Public Radio. You can also stream live at Klara.be through the weekend, to hear upcoming sets by many of Belgium's hottest jazz acts, like FONS featuring Logan Richardson (Friday at 10am).
Finally, this year the Checkout is hosting a series of Jazz Talks at Jazz Middelheim, to be featured on upcoming shows. Our guest today was Kamasi Washington, celebrating his new album, Heaven and Earth, and sharing a playlist of eclectic influences, ranging from Busta Rhymes to Igor Stravinsky.


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For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.