The third day of the festival begins in the afternoon with a screening of “Step Across the Border”, the 1990 documentary about the life and music of Fred Frith, followed by a discussion with the guitarist. Later that afternoon an artists’ talk with Silke Eberhard and José Davila will give insights into their joint work and the collaboration with Henry Threadgill, which premiers later in the evening.
The main stage programme ricochets from Europe to the US, but the actual substance of the sounds we’ll experience is far more eclectic than that range suggests. The dazzling young Belgian pianist Marlies Debacker, who’s a key part of the Cologne scene’s nexus of jazz and contemporary music, opens the evening with a solo performance. Next, Ellen Arkbro, a Swedish composer now based in Berlin, presents the German debut of her collaborative project with pianist Johan Graden, a dark cycle of break-up songs lightened by the aerated arrangements and tender melodies. For the finale of Saturday’s main stage programme, the singular reedist and composer Henry Threadgill presents a major Jazzfest Berlin commission, blending his agile quintet Zooid with Berlin reedist and composer Silke Eberhard’s acclaimed large ensemble Potsa Lotsa XL. Threadgill, who’s experiencing another creative peak on the heels of his acclaimed autobiography and one of his most ambitious large-scale compositions, has written a concert-length work, making this rare Berlin appearance even more unique.
The powerful American free jazz ensemble Irreversible Entanglements featuring spoken word artist and composer Camae Ayewa (aka Moor Mother) performs on the side stage music from its new album “Protect Your Light”. The ensemble is followed by the trio of drummer Julian Sartorius, keyboardist Dan Nicholls and filmmaker Lou Zon, who share an accretive, highly interactive marriage of manipulated field recordings, electronics and morphing grooves. Two more experimental performances take place in the Kassenhalle, marking the late night programme at Festspielhaus: “matter 100”, a brand new project from Slovenian pianist Kaja Draksler with an eclectic group of European improvisers, melds text and abstract sound, while the American free jazz saxophonist and newcomer Zoh Amba shares her instinctive, earthy attack during her Jazzfest Berlin debut in a first-time trio.
Concurrently, A-Trane hosts the German premiere of one of Norway’s most exciting new groups, the Marthe Lea Band, which brilliantly weaves influences from African and Scandinavian folk music into a heady, rump-shaking blast. Berlin’s Banquet of Consequences, an exciting new sextet led by bassist Antonio Borghini, brings its spirited mash-up of Dutch, Italian and South African jazz traditions to Quasimodo to end the night with a joyful bang.