The 60th edition of Jazzfest Berlin provides a space for music that is playful and intuitive and brings together different generations in 36 projects.
Coming generations are at the centre of the action right from the start: even before the festival opens, the Jazzfest ImproCamp will offer children an interdisciplinary approach to improvisation from the beginning of the second week of the autumn holidays and during the festival. And two children’s choirs from Berlin will perform in the opening of the concert programme at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele in the commissioned production “Apparitions”, which has been adapted specially for this context by the French musicians Antonin-Tri Hoang and Romain Clerc-Renaud – just one of the many world and German premieres at the festival.
The programme of exceptional established artists from a variety of different traditions who have shaped the history of improvised music for 60 years includes the composer, saxophonist and flautist Henry Threadgill with a commissioned composition for his ensemble Zooid and the Berlin line-up Potsa Lotsa XL led by saxophonist Silke Eberhard. This year’s invitation maintains the long series of artistic collaborations with leading figures from Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) that has been a regular feature of recent editions of the festival. Together with six other international co-operations involving Berlin artists, the project also epitomises Jazzfest Berlin’s identity as a platform for artistic encounters between international greats and the avantgarde of the Berlin jazz scene.
The pioneer of free improvisation Fred Frith, who originally started out in experimental rock, will appear on stage for the first time in an intergenerational trio with the trumpeter Susana Santos Silva and percussionist Mariá Portugal (BR). Alexander von Schlippenbach and Aki Takase will draw on the creative storehouse of over 100 years’ together lived experience of (free) jazz history. And Andrew Cyrille, who made his first appearance at the Berliner Jazztagen over 50 years ago with the legendary pianist Cécil Taylor and now presents the European premiere of his duo with Bill McHenry, will share the closing night with two other icons: this year’s Albert-Mangelsdorff-Prize winner Conny Bauer, one of the GDR’s original free jazzers, who will revive some long-standing connections between the US and (East) Berlin avantgarde scenes in a trio with Hamid Drake and William Parker, and Joyce Moreno, one of the forerunners of the progressive tradition in creative Brazilian popular music, who will present a live performance of previously unpublished songs from the 1970s that she has recently released as an album Natureza.
Compelling evidence that female voices are far too often ignored when musical history comes to be written is also demonstrated at Jazzfest Berlin in a work by Nancy Mounir dedicated to female vocaclists in the liberal Egypt of the1920s. The vast range of the human voice can be heard in ten different projects from all around the world. In addition to Joyce Moreno and Nancy Mounir, the composer and singer Ellen Arkbro presents a deeply melancholy side of herself in her latest collaborative project with the pianist Johan Graden and the Netherlands-based composer, singer and double bassist Fuensanta brings contemporary broken echoes of the traditional sounds of her Mexican homeland together with her Ensamble Grande.
There is also a clear female influence in the broad spectrum of strong musical voices from the younger generation in this year’s programme, including the trumpeter and avantgarde jazz musician Steph Richards, the collective Irreversible Entanglements featuring the spoken word artist Camae Ayewa, aka Moor Mother, the guitarrist Mary Halvorson with pianist and composer Sylvie Courvoisier and the Natural Information Society initiated by Joshau Abrams in the special Chicago feature “Sonic Dreams: Chicago” with, among others, Mike Reed’s The Separatist Party and Bitchin Bajas.
Also represented in the programme are not only two of the most interesting up-and-coming free jazz saxophonists, Zoh Amba, raised in rural Tennessee, and Camila Nebbia, now resident in Berlin but originally from Buenos Aires, as well as three of Europe’s most exciting freely improvising pianists, each with their own projects: Marta Warelis, Marlies Debacker and Kaja Draksler with the German premiere of her new project “matter 100”. Meanwhile the French pianist Eve Risser presents the result of an intense exploration of music from West Africa with her Red Desert Orchestra.
The creative energy of a new generation of Norwegian musicians is represented in this year’s programme by the saxophonist Marthe Lea and clarinettist Andreas Røysum, who will perform the closing concert of this year’s festival at Quasimodo.
The concert programme extends beyond the Haus der Berliner Festspiele to include the nearby venues Quasimodo and A-Trane, and the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which will open its doors for the project “Ghosted” by the Australian-Swedish trio led by Oren Ambarchi.
Haus der Berliner Festspiele and other venues | Schaperstrasse 24 in 10719 Berlin