The Jazzfest Berlin took place in 7 cities from 5–8 November 2020.
Jetzt erst Recht: Now is the Time!
Since it was held for the first time in 1964, Jazzfest Berlin has been a platform for musicians from around the world. Over the years it has enjoyed particularly close links with musicians from the USA. In this year full of social challenges and political unrest – and only a few days after the presidential election in the US – Jazzfest Berlin will build upon this transatlantic dialogue in defiance of the Coronavirus crisis and place the creative centres of New York and Berlin at the heart of its 57th edition.
With Haus der Berliner Festspiele being currently under renovation, the festival will take place for the first time at silent green Kulturquartier this year. Organizing an international music festival in times of the pandemic, the festival team has been relying for months on improvisation as one of the core competences of jazz, thus building temporary bridges, searching out creative bolt holes in spaces between the analogue and digital worlds and, following the model of Sun Ra, sending musical signals out into space towards cosmic crossover with other art forms and hitherto unknown cultures.
While improvised bridges between US-American and local spheres in Berlin were once routed through the air and later through directional radio masts, in 2020 Jazzfest Berlin – New York uses fibre-optic cables under the Atlantic to overcome the barriers that have accompanied the pandemic. Together with our partner venue Roulette in the heart of Brooklyn, an acclaimed production and performance centre for experimental music and performing arts, and the silent green Kulturquartier as our main venue in Berlin, this year’s festival will take place simultaneously in two cities on two different continents. The Roulette’s theatre in the heart of Brooklyn will be linked directly with the underground concrete hall at silent green in Berlin-Wedding using a dedicated streaming line to connect two music scenes using concert quality multi-channel audio and video transfer and allow six top quality bands at each venue to enter into a dialogue between both sides of the Atlantic.
This hybrid live format will be complemented by the online video platform Jazzfest Berlin Off Stage. In light of the shortage of performance opportunities during lockdown, the festival commissioned video statements from interdisciplinarily working musicians in order to open up artistic perspectives on political and social events during the crisis both on this side of and beyond the Atlantic. The videos will be released in the run-up to the festival on the online platform Berliner Festspiele on Demand. In Jason Moran, Camae Ayewa a.k.a. Moor Mother and Matana Roberts we will hear from distinguished voices on the international jazz scene whose multimedia work has engaged with the history of African American music and emancipation, among other things. To conclude this year’s festival, the Berlin KIM Collective transfers its three video works including further musicians from the city into the final performance “De-Isolation”.
Meanwhile in the Kuppelhalle international sub-scenes from Berlin and London will come together in the Jazzfest Berlin Outer Spaces and form new interdisciplinary line-ups exploring the wider frontiers of jazz. Languages that were believed to be lost and have now been rediscovered, planetary sound spheres and indigenous cosmologies but also Berlin spaces that lie outside the mainstream will feature, as well as the legacies of the canonised outsider Sun Ra and Thelonious Monk. In site-specific works, the artists will allow immersive worlds of sound and images to develop in the intimate atmosphere of the cupola’s planetarium-like architecture.
Rest Assured. Bodi No Be Fayawood. Breathe. Rest. Refuel. In an unprecedented collaboration with Jazzfest Berlin the independent arts space Savvy Contemporary in Wedding will create an island of radical care and an open space for encounters, exchange and regeneration to be shared by musicians, artists and theoreticians from communities that are constantly reminded that their breath and the mere act of breathing are permanently in a precarious state. After two days of workshops, on the final day of the festival the artists will open up their exchange with performances, and both musical and theoretical contributions for the public.
Finally, in the Jazzfest Berlin Radio Edition the festival will intensify its decades-long partnership with the German public service radio ARD to dedicate a festival within the festival to the remarkable diversity of jazz in Germany – ranging from state-of-the-art European interpretations of the tradition to local artists crossing genre boundaries. A series of regional ensembles, each selected together with individual broadcasters throughout ARD’s national network, will present eight studio concerts – some of which will have a small, live audience – to be heard on the radio throughout Germany and seen online by video stream anywhere in the world.
Jazzfest Berlin is adopting new forms in 2020 in order to continue making the creative music scene accessible to as large an audience as possible. All this is only possible thanks to both long-standing as well as new partnerships and a strong collective will to find creative ways of dealing with the present crisis. Whatever form our productions take, our commitment to the most exciting and progressive manifestations of jazz remains unbroken. We invite you to follow the development and growth of our festival in real time – digitally on our online platform and in person in Berlin, New York and six other German cities – on the four days of the festival.
Thanks to our media partnerships with ARTE Concert, ARD radio stations and Deutschlandradio the festival can also be experienced online through video streaming as well as on the radio.
Artistic Director Jazzfest Berlin
Berlin, September 2020