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Cologne Open 2018

Henning Bolte By

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Cologne Open
Stadtgarten
Cologne, Gemany
March 1-2, 2018

Cologne Open, the first edition of a new showcase festival offering a selection of the city's jazz musicians, spanned two nights in the renowned Stadtgarten venue. It was launched on the occasion of a meeting of the newly established Artistic Exchange Platform (AEP) of Europe Jazz Network at this venue. This report first provides some background information before reviewing the individual musical performances of the two nights. The reader can work his or her way through the background and proceed to the individual concerts or work the other way round.

The first edition of the Cologne scene showcase festival was launched by/at the Cologne Stadtgarten venue to celebrate the newly established Artistic Exchange Platform (AEP) of Europe Jazz Network. The AEP meeting brought together some twenty different artistic directors of Jazz festivals and venues from all over Europe, to discuss the artistic aspects of their programming in order to coordinate and collaborate more tightly on future perspectives.

Stadtgarten is one of the major venues in Cologne besides Loft and Subway. Since its foundation 31 years ago it has developed into a profiled place, presenting and stimulating a broader spectrum of contemporary music. A giant step was its recent transformation into an artistic center fully concentrating on that task. Under the lead of artistic director Reiner Michalke and former artistic director of internationally renowned Moersfestival it has now been upgraded to an European Center of Jazz and Contemporary Music, extra funded by the Federal State and the central German government. The German term "Aktuelle Musik" means "up-to-date music" or "currently relevant music."

The venue Stadtgarten derives from the Initiative Kölner Jazz Haus e.V., which still is the carrier of the center. The original initiative founded its own recording label JazzHausMusik. Later two collectives of younger musicians came into being, the Klaengkollektiv also with its own recoding label and three-days festival in November, and the Impakt Kollektiv that has its recordings on bandcamp. The Klaengkollektiv gathers musicians as drummer Jonas Burgwinkel and bassist Robert Landfermann (the universal rhythm tandem of Germany), pianist Pablo Held, trumpeter Frederik Koster, Die Verwandlung-according to flourishing, deeply ingrained German custom all manifold award winners. There is also the annual Winter Jazz meeting organized by two musicians, saxophonist Angelika Niescier and bassist Ulla Oster, both associated with Stadtgarten.

Showcasing Cologne scene's offspring

Through Cologne, normally one of the warmer regions of Germany, swept a chilling cold wind (from the east) during those two days, converting the city into a strong wintry setting.

The focus of the Cologne Open Showcase Festival, two nights with each 5 configurations each in a 30 minutes set, was on Cologne scene's offspring. The first night on Thursday presented the sextet Makkro, the string trio + voice named phase::vier, the brand-new trio Aurora, a solo performance by guitarist Nicola Hein and the Salomea quartet. The second night on Friday had the voice-drum duo Lukasheva/Mahnig, the Enso quartet, the Mengamo power-trio and two solo-performances, one by vocalist Hanna Schörken and one by trumpeter/vocalist Pablo Giw. The program was chosen and presented by German music journalist Hans-Jürgen Linke, long time jury member of the annual Horst-und-Gretel-Will Grant, a Cologne jazz award/grant for young up-and-coming musicians under the age of 30. Four of its awardees participated in the showcase program: pianist Lucas Leidinger (Trio Aurora), vocalist Filippa Gojo (phase::vier), saxophonist Leonard Huhn (Enso) and drummer Dominik Mahnig (duo Lukasheva/Mahning). Awards and grants play an important role in Germany. They turn up as soon as you dig into the background of musicians (see below) and venues.

Strong forces and interconnectedness

The program had noticeable strong forces from Eastern Europe, namely violinist Zuzana Leharova (phase::vier) and vocalist Tamara Lukasheva (Lukasheva/Mahning Duo). There was also a strong vocal component with four vocalists: Filippa Gojo (phase::vier), Rebekka Salomea (Salomea), Hanna Schörken and Pablo Giw.

The festival offered multiple appearances by some of the musicians. Drummer Thomas Sauerborn (1987) figured in Makkro and Mengamo Trio as well. Drummer Fabian Arends (1990) figured in Makkro too and in the Aurora trio and bassist Oliver Lutz figured in Makkro as well as in Salomea.

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