The Hemphill Stringtet // Hamid Drake’s Turiya // Craig Taborn
Three American improvisers connect past to the present and beyond. Chicago cellist Tomeka Reid leads a string quartet through rarely heard arrangements by Julius Hemphill while Chicago drummer Hamid Drake fetes Alice Coltrane. New York pianist Craig Taborn presents a new commission looking ahead.
18:00 / European premiere
The Hemphill Stringtet
Cellist Tomeka Reid, who has played Jazzfest Berlin previously with Art Ensemble of Chicago, Dave Douglas, Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble and Rob Mazurek’s Exploding Star Orchestra, returns as a leader for the first time, with the European premiere of a string ensemble she assembled earlier this year for Chicago’s Frequency Festival. She formed the project to perform “Mingus Gold”, a dazzling 1988 effort by alto saxophonist and composer Julius Hemphill – known best as a founding member of World Saxophone Quartet – that arranged three indelible themes by the titular bassist in a bracing new context, reframing the originals in beguiling fashion. Reid, who has been improviser-in-residence at the Moers Festival in 2022, shares Hemphill’s indifference for genre boundaries. For The Hemphill Stringtet she enlisted violinists Sam Bardfeld and Curtis Stewart and violist Stephanie Griffin – like her, musicians equally at home in jazz and contemporary music contexts – who inject the performance with ferocious energy, occasionally adding improvising accents and lines. The programme also includes several compositions Hemphill wrote for World Saxophone Quartet, transcribed for strings.
Sam Bardfeld violin
Curtis Stewart violin
Tomeka Reid cello
Stephanie Griffin viola
Hamid Drake’s Turiya: “Honoring Alice Coltrane”
feat. Naïssam Jalal
(US, GB, FR, NO, IT)
The singular Chicago drummer Hamid Drake – a close collaborator of Fred Anderson, Don Cherry and Peter Brötzmann among others – first met Alice Coltrane at a concert in the Chicago area when he was only 16 years old. At the time, the keyboardist and singer had come into her own creatively and the young percussionist carried on a correspondence with the artist who helped him achieve his truly holistic musical world. He formed this ensemble to celebrate her spirit, touching on her exploratory jazz work and the religious music she performed at her Northern California ashram. Thanks to Drake’s endless invention on percussion, the group’s shape-shifting performances move through different tunes, grooves, and moods with seamless grace. The core band is comprised of bassist and long-time collaborator Joshua Abrams (Natural Information Society), the multifarious keyboardist Jamie Saft, sampladelic Norwegian DJ Jan Bang and the rising Italian vibraphonist Pasquale Mirra. For this special performance, the group’s frontline will include the British trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey, a key member of London jazz groups like Nérija, Kokoroko and SEED Ensemble, as well as the French-Syrian flutist Naïssam Jalal as special guest, rounding out a line-up that individually brings out different sides of Coltrane’s generous artistry.
Naïssam Jalal flute
Sheila Maurice-Grey trumpet
Jan Bang electronics
Jamie Saft piano, keyboards, Fender Rhodes
Pasquale Mirra vibraphone, percussions
Joshua Abrams double bass, guembri
Hamid Drake drums, percussions, vocals
21:30 / Premiere
Pianist Craig Taborn visited Jazzfest Berlin virtually in 2020, playing in a trio with Mary Halvorson and Ches Smith as part of a series of livestream concerts from Roulette in New York City. This year Taborn is coming in person, for an exciting Jazzfest Berlin commission. The pianist is one of the most peripatetic figures in jazz and improvised music, a deep listener with an abiding love for countless eras and styles, whether black metal or Baroque music, yet there is nothing pastiche-like in his work, which rigorously synthesizes his inspirations and concepts in drum-tight contexts. While Taborn thrives on improvisation, he develops and ponders his ideas over time. At Jazzfest Berlin he presents a brand new quartet with his close collaborator, violist Mat Maneri – they both play together in Smith’s Bell trio as well as Taborn’s electric combo Junk Magic, among other more ephemeral contexts – along with two Berlin-based musicians that he is playing with for the first time. Taborn knows bassist Nick Dunston from the latter’s extensive work in New York with the likes of Vijay Iyer and Tyshawn Sorey, while Portuguese percussionist Sofia Borges is more of a wildcard in this setting, a committed improviser with a broad sonic palette, who creates atmosphere and texture as much as rhythm.
Commissioned by Berliner Festspiele / Jazzfest Berlin
Craig Taborn piano, electronics
Mat Maneri viola
Nick Dunston double bass, electronics
Sofia Borges percussion, electronics