Why you shouldn’t miss out on Leuven Jazz – an interview with Joris Vaes


For the fifth year in a row, the city of Louvain will be plunged in a series of concerts and parties that revolve around one thing only: jazz. Leuven Jazz is a weeklong celebration of one of humankinds most innovative music genres. Wait – what’s jazz doing on Elektropedia? Well, the genre has been living through a renaissance lately. With influences coming in from all corners of dance music culture, this movement has become intrinsically intertwined with the hip hop and electronic scenes internationally.

In order to find out more about the things planned this week we rang up Joris Vaes, label CEO at Tangram Records and promoter / booker at Het Depot and Leuven Jazz. No one is in a better position to convince you why Leuven Jazz should be on your calendar. So, by all means: Joris, the floor is yours!

Leuven Jazz - so tell us, which performances shouldn’t be missed this year?

"We’ve got the legendary Sun Ra Arkestra playing on Thursday March 23, which is definitely something that you can’t miss out on. Avishai Cohen and SCHNTZL will do their thing the day after. Our closing night on Sunday 26 will be a much needed cooldown with Chassol’s AV experience and support by Gondwana favourites, Mammal Hands.

All of that aside, it’s needless to say I’m personally looking forward to having The Gaslamp Killer and Lefto over on Saturday, March 25. Both DJs are my all-time favourites, so it’s great to see them on the bill together at Het Depot. We’ll start the night with a screening of two episodes of “In Transit” - the documentary by Kurt De Leijer on Lefto’s DJ travels. Having the worldwide premiere of the episodes on Los Angeles and Detroit will create the perfect warm-up for a great night."

The lines between what’s considered jazz and electronic music are clearly blurring with the rise of bands like STUFF., Badbadnotgood, etc. What is your opinion on this trend?

"I love the blurring of lines between any genre or art form whatsoever. It’s always interesting to see the results that come out of this tension of exploration. If these experiments come from the hands of great musicians like STUFF., it can only be applauded."

Most things that come out on your Tangram Records are clearly influenced by jazz as well. Do you feel that jazz rhythms are what the electronic music scene needs nowadays? 

"I think that when you start blending electronics (that have the tendency to be programmed and synced) with jazz - a genre that is largely based on improvisation - the sounds are bound to be interesting to say the least. I think every scene could do with a little more jazz for that matter!"

In the light of the 45toeren DJ competition, you are the patron of Rafîki, a young local DJ that is also doing the warmup at this show. Why is she a talent to watch?

"In my opinion, Rafiki was the DJ with - hands down - the best selection. I mean, even the other competitors were asking her for track-ID’s after her sets. That should have been enough but she topped that by an ambition to develop an AV-DJ-set in the future. She’s been working a lot with images and film and wants to combine that passion with her new found love, DJ-ing. How could I not be intrigued?"

Any other raw talents - both national and international - that we should keep an eye on?

"Well, we’re releasing an EP by Frenchie Megavolt at the end of this month. Barney Artist and Moses Sumney are guys I’m keeping an eye on to see what they’ll be doing in the future. As for the locals… sorry for the promotion of my own artists, but keep an eye out for Audri. She rocks."

Leuven Jazz takes place throughout venues in the city, between March 18 and 26. More information and tickets can be found here.

Het Depot hosts The Gaslamp Killer and Lefto after the premiere of Lefto’s ‘In Transit’ Documentary on Saturday March 25th. Info and tickets right here.

Joris Vaes