2013 Enjoy Jazz Festival
November 6-14, 2013
It's always a treat to return to Heidelberg for Enjoy Jazz. As a very intended contrast to most jazz festivals, that compress a lot of music into a very short time, Enjoy Jazz's founding premise, when it was first conceived 15 years ago by Festival Director Rainer Kern, was to program only one show a night, but make the festival run for 6-7 weeks, so that the amount of music actually programmed turns out the same.
It's been a winning formula, as Enjoy Jazz has grown into one of the country's largest and most respected of its kind. For six-and-a-half weeks in 2013, jazz fans from the Heidelberg/Mannheim/Ludwigshafen region (all venues no more than 20- 25 minutes drive from each other) have access to a broad cross-section of music, ranging from established artists like Joshua Redman, Uri Caine, Carla Bley and John Scofield to up-and-comers Marius Neset, Arun Ghosh, Michael Wollny and Third Reel. There's a mix of American artists, ranging from Brad Mehldau and the FLY trio, featuring the pianist's rhythm section of Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard along with saxophonist Mark Turner, to Peter Evans and Chris Potter, while artists from around the world are represented by everyone from Norway's Jaga Jazzist and Nils Petter Molvaer to Tunisia's Anouar Brahem, Switzerland's Nik Bartsch and South African legend Hugh Masekela, reunited with his duo partner of over 50 years, pianist Larry Willis.
But beyond the opportunity to catch some of today's best artists in the context of one show per night, which allows for a much better opportunity to absorb the music rather than running off to the next show, after which the first show can sometimes seem a distant memory, Enjoy Jazz is, for its second year running, also making inroads into jazz education with another two-day symposium, curated by German sociologist and musicologist, Dr. Christian Broecking. How Jazz Became Art and Attack(ed): A Transatlantic Dialogue brought together a group of academics and other professionals to discuss everything from photographer Arne Reimer's series and, recently, published bookAmerican Jazz Heroeswith the subtitle How German Journalism Pays Tribute to American Culture, to Götz Bühler's flip side of the same idea, European Jazz Legends, both series originally running (European Jazz Legends still running, in fact) in the German Jazzthing magazine. Berndt Ostendorf, professor emeritus of North American Cultural History at the Amerika Institut, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, spoke of growing up in the fifties and the birth of American Studies in Europe, while Canadian-born/American-resident Kurt Ellenberger (currently spending eight months in Germany) spoke of the challenges and opportunities of the digital age, and Sociology Professor at University of California Santa Cruz Herman S. Gray delivered a lecture, Jazz and Value, Jazz as Value.
When a jazz festival begins to incorporate daytime educational programming to become more than just a festival (though that can, admittedly, often be plenty good enough, as has always been the case with Enjoy Jazz), it speaks to a growing sense of responsibility for ensuring that the history of the music is carried forward. Important discussions such as these are essential as a public forum for attendees looking to expand their horizons and understanding of a music that, while acknowledged as rooted in American culture, has slowly, over the past six decades, become a truly global concern, with every culture bringing something of its own into the mix to keep the music alive and growing. It was significant, in Bühler's speech, when he posted a single, simple but very compelling sentence on the projection screen: "There is no such thing as European Jazz." His follow-up, which explained that each country in Europe brings something different to the evolution of jazz, was a point that should be taken seriously by those who constantly refer to "European Jazz," as if music from a collection of countries can be distilled down into a single identifiable entity. It's difficult enough, these days, to empirically define "British Jazz," "Norwegian Jazz" or "American Jazz," for that matter; and so discussions that start off using the term "European Jazz" are already in trouble.