Jazzfest Berlin

Jazzfest Berlin 2014

The Jazzfest Berlin 2014 achieved a new attendance record: around 7,000 visitors attended a total of 17 concerts by 25 formations. This success was not just down to the fact that the festival was celebrating its five-year anniversary this year: the dramaturgical and artistic concept by festival director Bert Noglik quite obviously won over the audience. Not just one but many leitmotifs were introduced. In several concerts, the driving forces of jazz were audibly at work, and it was proven that musical innovation can be enlivened by past influences in a way that is fruitful and liberating when it goes beyond one-dimensional nostalgia. This year, for example, it was Alexander von Schlippenbach and Aki Takase as well as alto saxophonist and bass clarinettist Silke Eberhard who paid their respects to the jazz legend Eric Dolphy. And with his programme “Monk’n’Roll”, Francesco Bearzatti put Thelonious Monk into a rock context, while Mostly Other People Do the Killing harked back to early jazz with “Red Hot”. Not least of all, the last-minute performance by Archie Shepp, an icon of modern jazz, who stepped in for the sick Benny Golson, represented a highlight of the festival.

“This is triumphant music” – the words used by Martin Luther King at the very first Jazzfest – was another festival leitmotif. They emphasised the role of jazz in the struggle for freedom and equality, as well as its empowering qualities: Denys Baptiste’s multimedia performance of “Now Is The Time – Let Freedom Ring!” in the run-up to the festival, and “Tribute: MLK Berlin ’64”, a project especially commissioned for the Jazzfest Berlin by New York sound innovator Elliott Sharp, acknowledged this fact. The significance of the dimension of freedom in jazz, which ran through all three editions of the festival under Bert Noglik, was brought to the fore by another element of the programme: resistance, liberality and the joy of innovation in jazz during the former GDR. The work “Die Engel – Vier Kurzopern” by Jochen Berg and Ulrich Gumpert, composed before the Wall fell, demonstrated once again this year how jazz can act as a witness to history.

The concert by drummer Daniel Humair with the young jazz star Emile Parisien (saxophone) and Vincent Peirani (accordion) as well as the set by the unconventional band Get The Blessing were met with wild applause by the audience. Together with stage shows by the formations surrounding sax player and rapper Soweto Kinch, the Free Nelson Mandoomjazz trio, the Hedvig Mollestad Trio and drummer Eva Klesse’s band, the Jazzfest Berlin stood out one more for not being just a platform for contemporary trends and up-and-coming musicians.