The Jazzfest Berlin 2016

January 20, 2015

This year is primarily about conversations, artistic director Richard Williams explained in the covering program folder. The exchange between ideas of single artists and their audiences for example. Ideas, which separate or/and connect generations.Therefore improvisation was and is always necessary. Improvisation is the original domain of jazz, as we all know.

Artistic dialogues in a duo, a trio set or in larger orchestral formations are welcome this year. Saxophonist Joshua Redman for instance will give an intimate concert with pianist Brad Mehldau. There latest album release “Nearness” (live recordings from 2011) are just published and they become one of the best jazz releases in the year 2016. Even the ECM release “In Movement” from drummer Jack DeJohnette with Ravi Coltrane and Matt Garrison belongs in this year’s best list of recordings. The master drummer present this work in Berlin. Right on the opening concert Tuesday, November-1 saxophonist Mrs. Matana Roberts is giving a concert. It is a honoring statement about the deceased German dance choreographer Pina Bausch at the Martin-Gropius-Bau museum. Roberts composition “For Pina” she presents in the course of the exhibition “Pina Bausch and the dance theater”, which runs already since September.

Further concert highlights:

Thursday, November-3, 7pm at Haus der Berliner Festspiele:
Mette Henriette and her 11-piece ensemble from Norway. Mette Henriette Martedatter Rolvag describes herself as “an independent composer and saxophonist whose artistic visions span far beyond the borders of sound”. Her debut album, released late in 2015, certainly impressed with the uniqueness of this young Norwegian musician’s approach. Two discs showed two different ways to blend the sounds of free improvisation with the requirements of composed music. The first disc was by a chamber-jazz trio of saxophone, cello and piano, the second by a 13-piece ensemble including brass, strings and bandoneon. In both formats her pieces, some of them no more than a minute in duration, are often delicate in coloration but always powerful in impact. Her own playing shows a young woman who has listened to the great figures of free jazz but has used their innovations to create a language of her own.
Thursday, November-3, 11pm at Haus der Berliner Festspiele (side stage):
Oddarang, one of the best Finish jazz projects. Formed in Helsinki 10 years ago by drummer Olavi Lauhivuori, Oddarang offer music without boundaries. Although distinctively Nordic, their soundscapes are never static, even at their most pensive and delicate. This is a band whose members love an anthemic melody and who are perfectly prepared to exploit the possibilities offered by electronics (each member has a keyboard and laptop avaiable for use on stage), not least the deployment of volume that reaches roomshaking levels without compromising the music’s subtlety and sophistication. “London Jazz News” summed up a recent appearance as “a bewitching mix of strong, brooding melodies, menacing rock volume, folksong-like wordless vocals and delicate sounds (like dripping ice).”

Friday, November-4, 4pm at Haus der Berliner Festspiele:
Documentary Filmscore “The Jazz Loft According to W. Eugene Smith”. Smith was an important photographer. The starkly dramatic pictures taken by Eugene W. Smith during World War Two and in Vietnam while an assignmentfor “Life” magazine helped to bring him recognition as one of the pre-eminent photo-journalists of his generation. But he also nurtured a love of jazz and a fondness for the people who play it, and when he rented a dilapidated New York loft in 1957 it became an open house for like-minded musicians, whose activities he recorded in still photographs (40,000 frames) and on film and 4,000 hours of audio tape. Zoot Sims and Roland Kirk were among the regulars, and Thelonious Monk used the space to prepare a 10-piece band for a celebrated Town Hall concert in 1959. Smith died in 1978, aged 59. This fascinating full-length documentary film makes use of his archive, along with newly recorded testimony from those who knew and admired him.

Friday, November-4, 7pm at Haus der Berliner Festspiele:
Brad Mehldau & Joshua Redman Duo – The friendship and collaboration between Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau goes back to the early days of their professional careers in New York, and reached a new dimension in 2013 when Mehldau arranged and produced Redman’s album “Walking Shadows”, in which the saxophonist performed vintage and modern ballads with accompaniment from a conventional jazz rhythm section (including Mehldau) and a 15-piece string ensemble, plus flute and french horn. The “New York Times” described the result as “the most sublimely lyrical gesture” of Redman’s career. Born a year and a half apart, in 1969 and 1970 respectively, two of the great improvisers of their generation share an affinity that is rich and deep. In 2013 the “New York Times” critic Nate Chinen called Mehldau “the most influential jazz pianist of the last 20 years.” This tour represents their first outing as a duo in five years.

Friday, November-4, 11:15pm at Haus deer Berliner Festspiele (side stage):
Yazz Ahmed’s Family Hafla. With this seven-piece band “Hafla” (means celebration), Yazz Ahmed, born and raised in London / UK, combines the use of melodies, harmonies and rhythms from Arabic music with atmospheric textures familiar from Miles Davis’s music of the Bitches Brew era. An experienced and propulsive rhythm section supports the poised solos of Yazz Ahmed. Having led her band in concerts in Kuwait, Algeria, Ukraine and Bahrain, Ahmed makes her German debut with this performance.

Saturday, November-5, 7pm at Haus der Berliner Festspiele:
DeJohnette / Coltrane / Garrison. Jack DeJohnette (born in 1942) has known Ravi Coltrane (born in 1965) and Matthew Garrison (born in 1970) since they were children. He played with their respective fathers, John Coltrane and Jimmy Garrison, when he spent a week as a guest drummer with Coltrane’s band in 1966, the year before the great saxophonist’s death. In fact Matthew Garrison is DeJohnette’s godson; after his father’s death in 1976 he moved to Italy with his mother but returned to live with the drummer and his family at their home in Woodstock while finishing high school. The three first played together in 1991, after Ravi Coltrane had completed his studies at the California Institute of Arts. The music they make is neither nostalgic nor restricted by the apparent simplicity of the instrumental format. As DeJohnette told “Jazz Journal”: “The music adjusts to its times.”

Sunday, November-6, 7pm at Haus der Berliner Festspiele:
Steve Lehman Octet. Born in New York City in 1978, the saxophonist and composer Steve Lehman can be heard in many formats, none of them more striking than the octet exploring the tonal theories to which he was exposed while studying the music of Olivier Messiaen in France. But the complexity of those theories, which lie behind the contemporary idiom known as “spectral music”, never obscures the emotional punch of Lehman’s absorbing compositions, providing inspiring settings not only for his own agile improvisations but for those of such fine soloists as Mark Shim and Jonathan Finlayson. “One of the transforming figures of early 21st century jazz,” according to the “Guardian”, Lehman was named No.1 jazz artist and No.1 alto saxophonist in the 2015 critics poll of “Down Beat” magazine, which also awarded five stars to the octet’s most recent album, “Mise en Abime”.

Sunday, November-6, 9pm at Haus der Berliner Festspiele:
Eve Risser’s White Desert Orchestra. A graduate of France’s Orchestra National du Jazz, with whom she recorded albums dedicated to the music of Robert Wyatt and Astor Piazzolla, the pianist and composer Eve Risser was born in Colmar in 1982. She studied classical flute and improvised music in Strasbourg before moving to Paris, where she formed the 11-piece White Desert Orchestra in 2015, recruiting friends from the Paris Concervatoire to play the music written for her final exams. Among her priorities, she told “London Jazz News” before the first public performance, was to achieve “a balance between masculine and feminine energies”. What she also achieves is a fascinating balance between composition and improvisation. About her own contribution, she said: “I throw myself in front of the public, completely exposed.”