Programme – Thursday, 3 November
The opening night of Jazzfest Berlin takes off on the main stage of the Festspielhaus with three of the most exciting figures in contemporary US jazz.
Chicago cellist Tomeka Reid presents the European premiere of a top-class string quartet she assembled to play the music of composer and alto saxophonist Julius Hemphill, including his dazzling “Mingus Gold”, an adventurous arrangement of three tunes by the titular bassist. Drummer Hamid Drake presents his new project with a stellar American-European line-up honouring the music of Alice Coltrane, who endures as a bedrock of spiritual jazz. The celebrated New York pianist Craig Taborn closes the festivities on the main stage with a Jazzfest Berlin commission for a new quartet featuring two Berlin-based musicians he has admired but never worked with – bassist Nick Dunston and drummer Sofia Borges – and long-time collaborator, violist Mat Maneri.
When the action on the main stage ends, the audience is invited to split up in two groups in the Haus der Berliner Festspiele: At the Seitenbühne, the Johannesburg-based collective The Brother Moves On – the first of two South African groups performing over the weekend – collaborates with young British reedist Chelsea Carmichael. At the same time the Kassenhalle becomes the centre of a programmatic collision of Eastern European folk traditions and jazz with the wild and woolly Lumpeks, a raucous collaboration between Frenchmen Louis Laurain, Pierre Borel and Sébastien Beliah and Polish singer, percussionist and folklorist Olga Kozieł, sounding as if the Ornette Coleman free jazz band hailed from Poland’s Lubin region.
Two concerts outside of the Festspielhaus inaugurate a celebration of the undying vitality of European free jazz from its very beginnings through the present day. Trondheim-based saxophonist Mette Rasmussen brings her new Trio North to Berlin for the first time, with guest drummer Chris Corsano, at A-Trane, while later at Quasimodo the Portuguese saxophonist Rodrigo Amado leads a new improvising quartet featuring Alexander von Schlippenbach on piano, Gerry Hemingway on drums and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on bass.