Once again the Jazzfest Berlin will be inaugurated with a special programme on the main stage of the Festspielhaus. The opening night takes off with a pair of dynamic duos surrounding a project that enlists a group of 30 child singers between the ages of nine and twelve from Berlin collaborating with three experimental ensembles from Paris. Before the music begins, audience members can get to know some of the musicians with an informal artists’ talk in the upper foyer.
Guitarist Mary Halvorson, one of the most original voices of our time, presents her collaborative duo with the Swiss pianist Sylvie Courvoisier, deftly balancing melodic dialogue with excursions into pure sound. The Parisian ensemble Novembre presents its “Apparitions” project, complementing the quartet’s modular bebop passages with a cello trio, a second trio called Bribes and 30 children from two Berlin youth choirs, turning the auditorium into a light and space scenery for a musical dramaturgy of appearance and disappearance. Finally, the Berlin free jazz icon Alexander von Schlippenbach and fellow, top-class pianist Aki Takase perform music from the married couple’s dazzling new album “Four Hands Piano Pieces”.
But the action on the main stage is just the beginning of the varied festivities. On the Festspielhaus side stage the riveting Mexican singer, composer and bassist Fuensanta presents her Amsterdam-based Ensamble Grande, a crew of disparate musicians from across Europe that brings her elastic, traditional Mexican music influenced folk-jazz songs into Technicolor reality.
Two evening concerts outside of the Festspielhaus’ confines offer two radically different manifestations of freely improvised music. At A-Trane a hard-hitting, wide open trio featuring the rising bassist Brandon Lopez, veteran drummer Tom Rainey and German reedist Ingrid Laubrock deliver rigorous free jazz explorations, while over at Quasimodo the French cellist Valentin Ceccaldi brings his new Bonbon Flamme project to Berlin, creating a wild, high-energy explosion of progressive rock and jazz.