The Jazzest Berlin is open. At the start on Thursday evening there was a string quartet, an extraordinary drummer and a complex sound collage.
At the opening concert of the 59th edition of the Jazzfest Berlin in the newly renovated building of the Berliner Festspiele, the focus of attention is on the motherland of jazz this Thursday evening at the start of the festival: the ensembles come from Chicago and New York and can be experienced here in three very different concerts one after the other are.
The jazz classic by Charles Mingus really gets the string quartet from Chicago moving: “Better Git It in Your Soul”, this request is aimed at saxophones and trombones in Mingus’ original, here two violins take turns in the solo.
How does jazz transform itself when it is transported into another world of sound by a string quartet? The cellist Tomeka Reid answers this question quite impressively with her Hemphill Stringtet. With charming grooves, rousing solos, but – because it’s a string quartet – of course without drums.
But then in the second concert it has a really big performance. Hamid Drake, also from Chicago, is one of the world’s most imaginative jazz drummers. In the first half of the concert, he uses his drum set in every imaginable direction, puts a woolen blanket over the drums, creating mysteriously muted sounds in this way, then tears off the material and lets the skins sound with full force again – a drumming that you can doesn’t see every day.
The beginning is as virtuoso as the continuation is spiritual, when the drummer leaves his set and steps forward with only a simple frame drum in his arm.
Drake now creates hypnotic grooves with his bare hands while singing ancient Indian words from Sanskrit. Inspired by Alice Coltrane, the pianist and singer who Drake met when he was young. Her spiritual approach to jazz, Hamid Drake tells the audience, shaped him in the early 1970s and is still his inspiration today.
Coltrane’s compositions such as “Turiya and Ramakrishna” are among the most-heard pieces of spiritual jazz – with which the musician and wife of saxophonist John Coltrane, who died in 2007, actually deserved much greater fame.
Studio shoot for the documentary series “Offline” with the Ukrainian and Russian models Valeriia Karamann (left), Tanya Chudnovskaia (2nd from left) Daniel Nikiforow (top right) and director and photographer Mehran Djojan (bottom right) (Source: ARD Kultur/Überan djojan)
Spiritual jazz is one of the focal points at this year’s jazz festival. Another will examine the influence of folk on jazz in various concerts. However, the New York avant-garde artist Craig Taborn moves as far as possible away from folklore tendencies on this varied evening.
The complex sound collage, which is performed here with piano, viola, double bass and drum set, supplemented by numerous live electronic devices, bears the title “Incept Method”. A term from higher mathematics, which has always played a role in music.
If you still haven’t had enough of jazz after four hours and three concerts on the main stage, you can still experience Lumpek on the stage of the Kassenhalle on this first evening, a French-Polish formation that combines free jazz with folklore in an enchanting way.
The second day will then continue happily with “Free Jazz and Gnawa-Grooves”, a concert with Peter Brötzman, Hamid Drake and Majid Bekkas, starting at 19:30, followed by a performance by artist Sven-Åke Johansson by the contemporary jazz piano trio of Estonian Kirke Karja.