The 60th edition of Jazzfest Berlin provides a space for music that is playful and intuitive and brings together different generations in 36 projects. The past, the present and the future are connected on many levels in the festival programme – both in the lived experience of musicians who have spent decades consistently redefining the rules of music and in the creative potential of a group of people who are seen as experts when it comes to playing and intuition: children.
Even before the concert programme begins coming generations are at the heart of events in Jazzfest Berlin 2023: during the autumn holidays the Jazzfest ImproCamp will give 30 children, invited through various different social institutions, a chance to explore a holistic, transdisciplinary approach to the art of improvisation. The children will be able to take a look behind the scenes and meet festival musicians in a series of conversations and workshops. The concert programme will also open with a further 30 children aged between nine and twelve from two Berlin children’s choirs, appearing on stage at the festival theatre after several days of rehearsal with Antonin-Tri Hoang and Romain Clerc-Renaud in their commissioned production “Apparitions”. Lastly, additional workshops and a seminar on Artistic Leadership will expand the scope of Jazzfest Berlin 2023’s activities with exciting encounters between festival musicians and students from the Jazz Institute Berlin and the Hanns Eisler School of Music Berlin.
This year’s concert programme also features a number of exceptional established artists from a variety of different traditions who have spent the last six decades consistently redefining the rules of their music and their respective instruments. Prominent amongst these influential artists is the composer, saxophonist and flutist Henry Threadgill (US), with a composition commissioned for a musical collaboration between his ensemble Zooid with the Berlin-based musicians of Silke Eberhard’s Potsa Lotsa XL. Here this year’s festival maintains the long series of artistic encounters with leading figures from the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) in Chicago that has been a regular feature of Jazzfest editions over the last six years. And the pioneer of free improvisation Fred Frith (GB), who originally started out in experimental rock, will share a stage for the first time with the trumpeter Susana Santos Silva (PT) and percussionist Mariá Portugal (BR) in an intergenerational trio. Alexander von Schlippenbach (DE) and Aki Takase (JP) will draw on the creative storehouse of 40 years of marriage and a total of over 100 years’ lived experience of (free) jazz history. And Andrew Cyrille (US), who made his first appearance at the Berliner Jazztagen over 50 years ago with the legendary pianist Cecil Taylor and now presents the European premiere of his duo with Bill McHenry (US), will share the closing night with two other icons: Conny Bauer (DE), one of the GDR’s original free jazzers, who will revive some long-standing connections between the US and (East) Berlin avantgarde scenes in a trio with Hamid Drake (US) and William Parker (US), and Joyce Moreno (BR), one of the forerunners of the progressive tradition in creative Brazilian popular music, who will present a live performance of previously unpublished songs from the 1970s that she has recently released as an album “Natureza”.
While at the beginning of her career, as a 19-year-old who dared to sing about being a woman in the first person, Moreno fell victim to censorship by the military dictatorship in her native Brazil, 45 years later her voice now epitomises the great diversity of original, independent female voices within the global musical landscape. The fact that this is too often ignored in the writing of music history is emphatically demonstrated at Jazzfest Berlin in a work by Nancy Mounir (EG): the multi-instrumentalist from Cairo has spent five years in archives researching the female singers who led independent lives in the liberal Egypt of the 1920s.
There is also a clear female influence in the broad spectrum of strong musical voices from the younger generation in this year’s programme, including trumpeter and avantgarde jazz musician Steph Richards (CA), the collective Irreversible Entanglements that includes the spoken word artist Camae Ayewa (US), aka Moor Mother, gitarrist Mary Halvorson (US) with pianist and composer Sylvie Courvoisier (CH), as well as the Natural Information Society (US) initiated by Joshau Abrams in the special Chicago feature “Sonic Dreams: Chicago” with, among others, Mike Reed (US)’s The Separatist Party and Bitchin Bajas. Also represented in the programme are not only two of the most interesting up-and-coming free jazz saxophonists, Zoh Amba (US), raised in rural Tennessee, and Camila Nebbia (AR), now resident in Berlin but originally from Buenos Aires, as well as three of Europe’s most exciting freely improvising pianists, each with their own projects: Marta Warelis (PL), Marlies Debacker (BE) and Kaja Draksler (SI) with the German premiere of her new project “matter 100”. The composer Ellen Arkbro (SE) and the pianist Johan Graden reveal a deeply melancholy side of themselves in their latest album and the composer, singer and double bassist Fuensanta (MX), who lives in the Netherlands, brings contemporary broken echoes of the traditional sounds of her Mexican homeland to Berlin together with her Ensamble Grande. The creative energy of a new generation of Norwegian musicians is represented in this year’s programme by the clarinettist Andreas Røysum (NO) and the saxophonist Marthe Lea (NO). And the French pianist Eve Risser (FR) and her Red Desert Orchestra, musically located in the transcultural space between Europe and Africa, present the impressive results of an intensive exploration of music from West Africa.
This year’s concert programme once again extends beyond the Haus der Berliner Festspiele to include the nearby A-Trane and Quasimodo as well as the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which will open its doors for “Ghosted”, a project by an Australian-Swedish trio led by Oren Ambarchi (AU). Thanks to our partnership with the ARD radio broadcast network and Deutschlandradio, you can also listen to the concerts on the radio throughout Germany – either live or with a time delay. Further insights into and information about the artists, as well as features on the theme of “(Un-)Learning Jazz”, can be found in our online story format for this year (published on 4 October).
International greats meet the avantgarde of the Berlin jazz scene in seven exclusive artistic encounters, ten projects from around the world feature the human voice in all its many guises and this year there are once again numerous world and German premieres along with exciting artists’ talks and film presentations. We look forward to you joining us!