Debacker // Arkbro / Graden // Threadgill’s Zooid / Eberhard’s Potsa Lotsa XL

Marlies Debacker, Johan Graden, Ellen Arkbro, Henry Threadgill, Silke Eberhardt’s Potsa Lotsa XL

Marlies Debacker // Johan Graden, Ellen Arkbro // Henry Threadgill, Silke Eberhard’s Potsa Lotsa XL © Rebecca Ter Braak, Miki Anagrius, Alan Nahigian, Ruth Hommelheim

The 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, and pianist Johan Graden present the German debut of their wonderfully dark and sensitive collaboration project. For the grand 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. 

Jazzfest Berlin Story  – “(Un-)Learning Jazz”

This year's online magazine Story on the topic of (Un-)Learning Jazz presents some fascinating glimpses into the lives and work of some of the artists in this year's line-up and asks about the conditions of jazz education. What criticism of the academic system is justified and how does one find one's own way in the widely ramified jazz biotope? The Story sheds light on the work of Marlies Debacker, Silke Eberhard and Henry Threadgill, among others.

Learn more


Marlies Debacker solo


Belgian pianist Marlies Debacker is emblematic of a new wave of musicians who are equally adept at and committed to improvisation and composed music. Since moving to Cologne to earn her master’s degree at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln, she has deftly toggled between both worlds. In 2016, she founded Trio Abstrakt with saxophonist Salim Javaid and percussionist Shiau-Shiuan Hung, which has interpreted the music of composers like Peter Ablinger, Mark Andre, and Clemens Gadenstätter, among others, and she has also worked with some of neue musik’s most important groups, including Ensemble Musikfabrik. Simultaneously she has built strong ties to Cologne’s dynamic improvised music scene, collaborating with figures like Carl Ludwig Hübsch and Etienne Nillesen. As heard on her 2022 album “Shimmer”, she’s forged an impressive solo practice that weaves these various threads together within a bespoke fabric of variation, occasionally complementing her piano with inventive clavinet manipulations. Certain pieces develop specific motifs with rigorous focus, while others seem to let sound itself determine the shape of a piece. Debacker also experiments inside of the piano to alter timbre, whether deploying percussive effects or generating texture-rich clouds of sound, with tones that almost seem electronic. Each performance draws upon her broad expertise, creating abstract sonic portraits unmoored from any single practice.



Marlies Debackerpiano


Marlies Debacker in conversation with Thomas Gläßer

Tothe interview in the media library


18:30 / German premiere

Ellen Arkbro & Johan Graden “I get along without you very well”

(SE, UK, BE, JP)

Berlin-based composer Ellen Arkbro has been turning heads for several years now, creating minimalist music of astonishing harmonic depth, often working with various combinations of church organ and brass using just intonation – an ancient tuning system from the second half of the 15th century that is not yet based on the tempered tuning common in Europe today. But there’s far more to her music, and this project with fellow swedish keyboardist and long-time collaborator Johan Graden showcases her talents as a singer and songwriter. The pair’s 2022 album “I get along without you very well” is a devastating breakup album marked by slow-motion beauty. Over airy yet funereal rhythms, melodies soar and sparkle as the singer grapples with loneliness, recovering a sense of self amid stunning layers of brass and winds that hang in the air, both shadowing Arkbro’s almost conversational vocals, which impart a pop-like concision within her jazz-derived articulation and unerring sense of pitch. Graden is a quiet virtuoso, never adding more than what’s necessary to the arrangements, which somehow feel weightless and pack a serious punch. For the project’s German premiere the duo has assembled an excellent cast that will sure bring new dimensions to the gently interactive charts: cellist Lucy Railton, bassist Petter Eldh, trombonist Nabou Claerhout, clarinetist Michiko Ogawa and Konrad Agnas on the drums.



Ellen Arkbrovocals, trumpet
Johan Graden – piano, synthesizer, clarinet
Lucy Railtoncello
Petter Eldhdouble bass
Michiko Ogawaclarinet
Nabou Claerhout – trombone
Konrad Agnasdrums

20:00 / World premiere

The Creative Music Universe of Henry Threadgill: Zooid meets Potsa Lotsa XL

(US, DE)

After the pandemic thwarted an invitation to bring Henry Threadgill’s quintet Zooid to Jazzfest Berlin in 2020, the remarkable Berlin saxophonist and composer Silke Eberhard was enlisted to honour the legendary Chicago musician’s work instead. With the blessing of Threadgill, Eberhard created dynamic new arrangements of pieces spanning his career, performing them with her excellent large ensemble Potsa Lotsa XL – which won the 2023 German Jazz Prize as Large Ensemble of the year. Threadgill was so pleased with her take on this music that he decided to compose a long-form work to be played by Zooid and Potsa Lotsa XL together, a world premiere.

Threadgill is a curious thinker with a vivid, child-like imagination, qualities that have enabled him to create one of the most enduring, influential and original bodies of work over the last five decades. As documented in his book “Easily Slip Into Another World: A Life in Music”, which will be presented on friday during an artists’ talk, Threadgill joined his Chicago colleagues in the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and went on to lead a steady string of innovative ensembles beginning with his singular trio Air in the 1970s. His music has always reached well beyond jazz, fuelled by a ceaseless interest in not only other musical traditions, but all art forms and science, which provided a metaphor for the compositional system he uses in Zooid – the term for a cell that can move independently within an organism – his longest-running group.

Eberhard’s dynamic large ensemble, which grew out of a group formed to play the music of Eric Dolphy, will adapt Threadgill’s Zooid system, where musicians are assigned to a number of specific intervals within which they can range freely, producing a buoyant, sometimes dense polyphony. In this history-making concert – commissioned by Jazzfest Berlin – Threadgill's ensemble meets some of the most exciting improvisers of the Berlin jazz scene. An evening that is further proof that at 79, Threadgill remains fully engaged and prolific, finding wonder in our world and working hard to share his humanistic perspective with listeners.



Henry Threadgillalto saxophone, flute, bass flute, composition
Liberty Ellmanacoustic guitar
Christopher Hoffmancello
José Davilatuba, trombone
Elliot Humberto Kaveedrums, percussion

Potsa Lotsa XL
Silke Eberhardalto saxophone
Jürgen Kupkeclarinet
Patrick Brauntenor saxophone, clarinet
Nikolaus Neusertrumpet
Gerhard Gschlößltrombone
Johannes Finkcello
Taiko Saitovibraphone
Antonis Anissegospiano
Igor Spallatidouble bass
Kay Lübkedrums

Silke Lange conductor



Potsa Lotsa XL – Eine Sekunde Nichts

Tothe short film in the media library


Silke Eberhard in conversation with Maxi Broecking

Tothe interview in the media library


Commissioned by Berliner Festspiele / Jazzfest Berlin
Funded by Hauptstadtkulturfonds