April 23-26, 2015
Ten years ago nobody would have dared to claim that the city of Bremen, situated in the north-western part of federal Germany, would stand as the place to be for jazz professionals, but it has become a matter of fact. Bremen IS definitely the place to be. The 'free' city, with a longstanding Hanseatic merchant tradition, has accomplished just that with steady, unswerving determination and dedication. The Hanseatic League, a merchant network in Northern Europe, dates back to the 13th century and 'free' means that Bremen has succeeded to keep an autonomous state and still does so today. The 10th edition of Jazzahead!
stood firm and still has a growing perspective as a music-related fair event. Jazzahead! is
During the ten years since Jazzahead!'s 2006 start, this event has grown rapidly and developed into the biggest and broadest meeting place for all kinds of professionals in the jazz field, from Europe and also increasingly from overseas. The 10th edition brought 929 exhibiting companies and 3,010 industry attendees from 55 countries, an increase of 31%. The musical portion offered 110 concerts: 40 showcases plus 70 concerts at 27 Bremen area venues on the Club Night Saturday. This year's 16,000 concert visitors outnumbered previous years' figures by far. The concerts attracted 16,000 concert visitors, an increase here too.
Rising demand was accommodated by moving to hall 7 of the fair conglomerate, situated at the head of the Bürgerweide area, near the old slaughterhouse. It now offers one contiguous exhibition space on the same level with two big adjacent concert halls, 7.1 and 7.2 . This new location is not only more spacious in the exhibition area, but also makes it easier to move between showcase venues. As a result, the Schlachthof venue was no longer overcrowded, as it had been in recent years. It was more comfortable and delightful to attend the showcases there. Unfortunately, the great set-up and equipment offered by the new exhibition space and two concert spaces went hand in hand with acoustics that will need to be improved in the years to come.
What is this thing called Jazzahead! and what are participants doing there? First and foremost, Jazzahead! is a fair, with exhibitors from 55 countries: individual musicians/groups, music collectives, record labels, booking agencies, festivals, jazz organizations, etc.. It is the triarchy of suppliers, intermediaries, and customers/audience.
You can meet so many people there that minds are buzzing constantly, from breakfast until deep into the night. For instance, a festival director will have talks with booking agencies to learn about touring schedules at least two years ahead, exchange plans and ideas, get in contact with colleagues about joint actions, etc. Organizations like the Europe Jazz Network or the German Bundeskonferenz Jazz have their meetings here, whilst checking out musician showcases or talking with them at fair hall booths. The event enables attendants to speed-connect with people and results in creating shortcuts. There are also a lot of panels and demonstration sessions to attend, and then you have the daily showcases; the real music thread of the festival, starting with a special program realized by partner country France, a German program, a pan-European program and a program with showcases from overseas. All this is augmented by a Club Night on Saturday, which spread over 27 venues in the urban area of Bremen. So a lot of musicians and groups will be mentioned in subsequent parts, contextualized as well as possible and/or provided with links to more detailed information.
Watching the Jazzahead! event, it seems (all at the same time): highly structured and channelled, chaotic, governed by secret rules, target-oriented, planned, accidental. In fact, it's a constantly readjusted, personal/functional mixture of those elements. The viability and vitality of the event is nourished by that. Another important element is close coordination of the organization with relevant European partners and with partners abroad during the planning phase of every year's edition. It is manifested in the international juries for the showcases and an annually changing partner country. After Spain, Turkey, Israel and Denmark in previous years, this year's partner country was France. Switzerland will be the partner country next year. The partner country program lasts two weeks and spans a variety of cultural disciplines such as concerts, literature readings, film screenings, exhibitions, art projects, and lots more. France, Partner Country
France succeeded Denmark as partner country this year. Being the partner country is not only a big thing during the four days of the fair; the city of Bremen took a chance, and together with Institut Français Bremen, decided to run a broader cultural program, "Accents Français," during two weeks in April. This cultural week comprised music related movies, literature and exhibitions, amongst others a Camus exhibition, an exhibition dedicated to jazz trumpeter and writer Boris Vian and an exhibition on Laurent Garnier, an important character in the ground-breaking French electro scene.
The French organizations facilitated not only the showcases and participation of French musicians. The showcasing musicians, as well as other participating musicians, were paid decently for their concerts. France brought/presented additional concerts and special nights in addition to the French showcase program. Trumpeter Eric Truffaz's group opened the cultural weeks on April 9, and a gala concert was held at Bremen's most prestigious concert hall, Die Glocke, during the April 25th club night with performances of the Vincent Peirani Quintet and The New Musette Quartet of Richard Galliano, featuring guitarist Sylvain Luc. Additionally, France presented a Sacem Night (Friday), a Creole Jazz Night (Saturday) and a night with the Collision Collective (Saturday). Sacem is a non-profit, collective management society run by musicians, composers, and publishers. The Sacem Night presented the quartets of two young and upcoming female musicians, trumpeter Airelle Besson, and pianist Raphaële Atlan. Creole Jazz Night brought Meddy Cerville's Tropical Storm from Réunion (situated in the Indian Ocean) and Jowee Omicil + Bash Band, a Haitian group. Collision Collective is a musical exchange created by several French musician collectives related to concert series and festivals. The collective brought five bands to Bremen performing in one venue, Spedition, during the club night: So-Lo-Lo, Petite Vengeance, Polymorphie, Pulsar, Helved Rüm.
This brief description shows that France is a fairly organized country. That becomes still more evident when you look at the "Jazz En FranceFrench Jazz Directory": a guide of 626 pages, produced with the support of the Ministry of Culture (DGCA) and IRMA
(Centre d'information et de ressources pour les musiques actuelles). Under the subsequent headings you will find an abundance of information: artists/agents, festivals/venues/contests, media/publishers, photo/film, labels, education/research, organizations. The guide comprises 3000 musicians/groups, 60 musical collectives, 160 labels, 40 music contests, 110 journalists, 80 radio stations, 2300 schools, 170 agents and producers, 600 festivals, 300 associations, as well as 800 venues.
The Jazzahead! organization offers a series of useful facilities and possibilities to the partner country. Musicians of Jazzahead!'s featured partner country can register as co-exhibitors at the partner country stand, which enables them to benefit from all the advantages an exhibitor registration has to offer: the opportunity to submit a showcase application, listings in the print and online participants indexes, access to the contact details of all registered participants, and the chance to schedule meetings prior to the event. The guest country stand is an umbrella stand at the Jazzahead! trade fair, serving as contact point for French jazz musicians, festival organizers, club promoters, agents and bookers or other official institutions. French Night
For the opening French Night, an international jury selected eight showcases. The configurations in order of appearance were:
Vincent Peirani/Emile Parisien, Orchestre National De Jazz (ONJ), Sylvain Rifflet Alphabet Quartet, Théo Ceccaldi Trio, Donkey Monkey, Henri Texier Hope Quartet, Papanosh, Thomas de Pourquery Supersonic.
Two duos, a string trio, two quartets, one quintet, and two large ensembles, one of them the prestigious National Jazz Orchestra, a longstanding French institution. This is an ensemble with a strictly limited working term, changing leadership and, for every working period, new members as well. The current installation, under the leadership of guitarist Olivier Benoit, is a bit atypical because it also had a couple of well-established names among its ten members, including bassist Bruno Chevillon, drummer Eric Echampard and pianist Sophie Agnel in addition to highly impressive and promising talents like saxophonist Alexandra Grimal and violinist Théo Ceccaldi. No vocalists were involved in the selection of the French Night (besides the singing of the instrumentalists in the show of Thomas de Pourquery Supersonic).
A more detailed description of all showcases would go beyond the scope of this article, which is therefore confined to some clues through a few qualifying keywords that can lead to the video recordings of the respective showcases. The videos will be available on the French-German television station ARTE TV
and on the Jazzahead! website
during the next five months. It's a very useful tool for readers as well as future Jazzahead! applicants to get a thorough impression.
Shows with immediate and uninhibited fireworks were the performances of ONJ and the string trio of Ceccaldi. ONJ tends to the grand gesture and a big sound. Ceccaldi, who is also a member of ONJ, has this Paganini attitude when playing. It is reinforced by the abruptness and jump cuts of the music his trio is playing. He is one of the fastest growing young French musicians getting involved in more and more enterprises. The Peirani/Parisien duo is one of the most embraced and successful acts of this moment. Its music is full of creative turns on evergreens. French musette is the regional playground they indulge their virtuosity on. Thomas de Pourquery, described as "one of the most prolific and eccentric saxophonist from the current French free jazz scene," brought together musicians from various fields (jazz, electro, rock, drum & bass) to create and celebrate a new amalgam of music inspired by Sun Ra. With high energy and restless drive, he and his musicians play games with various historical styles, tongue in cheek, sometimes over the top but always getting back on the ground at the last fraction of a second, right in time. It seems a bit too much at certain moments, but that's just what launches the soul to another place in space. It has a sense of drama, energy, it's funky fun. During the After Show in the basement of the Schlachthof, Pourquery proved that he can go even further into dark, roaring and throbbing realms full of grippingly deep pulse. Papanosh, a promising, up and coming group, is a good example of young musicians who have deeply absorbed traditions and melted them into something fresh, original, and captivating. The group, with an intense mutual attention and interchange, convincingly succeeded in casting the raw substance of the jazz tradition into the here-and-now of our present times. They sounded 'wham!' from the first second of playing. Another band of similar characteristics, although different stylistics, was Sylvain Rifflet's Alphabet Quartet. Rifflet, a new name for listeners outside France, merges rock and repetitive minimal patterns with Asian colorings. The combination of Joce Mieniel's versatile flute playing, Phil Gordiani's electric guitar, and Benjamin Flament's metallophonic percussion yields a highly appealing, unique sound. As a saxophonist and leader, Rifflet is a skilled economical configurator of the group's gratifying originality.
The Donkey Monkey duo of pianist Eve Risser and percussionist Yuko Oshima has been around for a while. Their performance has not changed that much, but it revealed that it still resonates with the audience and is still highly entertaining. It was good that rock solid master musician Henri Texier, from an older generation, was there to perform with his Hope Quartet, comprising the alto sax and clarinet of Sebastian Texier, the baritone sax of Francois Corneloup, and the drumming of Louis Moutin, a classic. Texier still executes a magical leading tone on his double bass. My purely personal choice from this ample sample would be Papanosh, Rifflet and Texier. Other Profiles
Organizations not enjoying the benefits of the partner country privilege, like the Danish, Styrian, and Swedish jazz organizations, also set up clearly discernable profiling concerts.
Denmark set up a program with the Makiko Hirabayashi Trio featuring Marilyn Mazur, Maria Faust's Sacrum Facere, the Søren Bebe Trio, Jakob Anderskov's Piano, Drums and Strings featuring drummer Peter Bruun and the booming young group Offpiste Gurus. Moreover, well-known Danish guitarist Jakob Bro was presented as part of the special ECM night at the famous Sendesaal venue, with his trio of bassist Thomas Morgan, and drum legend Jon Christensen.
The Styrian jazz organization from the city of Graz, well-known from The Graz Jazz Bigband and its collaborations (John Hollenbeck amongst others) as well as its musical education at the Kunstuniversität, presented a series of concerts, Syrian SoundZ, at Club Moments during the Club Night, namely Patrick Dunst's "Tribal Dialects," Edi Nulz, Bartholomey/Bittmann, Laura Winkler and Wabi-Sabi-Orchestra, and Marina and the Kats. Finally, the Swedes organized a Sunday Brunch
with three showcases, by The Other Woman, Susana Risberg Trio, and Cure-A-Phobia. Journalism Award
The Prize for German Jazz Journalism was given out for the third time at Jazzahead!. The award, endowed with 5,000 Euro, is sponsored by the Dr. E. A. Langner-Foundation from Hamburg. This year's jury consisted of former awardee Ralf Dombrowski, journalist Hans Hielscher, and musician Nils Wogram. It was awarded to Berlin based Wolf Kampmann. The award is a central element in the structural promotion of German jazz.
Another prize usually awarded at Jazzahead! is the prize of the Europe Jazz Network (EJN) for Adventurous Programming. EJN, the European association of producers, presenters and supporting organizations who specialize in creative music, contemporary jazz, and improvised music, awards a European promoter who exemplifies the values of EJN and skillfully succeeds to create visionary and fascinating musical programs for the audience. The 2015 Award was presented to the Moers Festival in Germany, one of the oldest and most original jazz festivals in Europe. It was unanimously chosen by an independent jury of jazz professionals and EJN members for the festival's commitment to always innovate and experiment while remaining faithful to its identity. Previous winners of the EJN Award for Adventurous Programming have been: Lisbon's "Jazz em Agosto" (2014), the Amsterdam "Bimhuis" (2013), and Dublin's "12 Points Festival" (2012). The winner was announced during Jazzahead! but from this year on, the award ceremony will take place at the awarded festival itself: this year at MOERS FESTIVAL
, held May, 22-25. Conferencing
Jazzahead! boasts many conferences, seminars, and panels. This year's program was richer, had clearer contours and a higher urgency than last year. One of the reasons for that is the funding of Europe Jazz Network (EJN) projects. One of these projects focuses on historiography: "The Shared Roots Of European Jazz," led by Francesco Martinelli. Another project is "Jazz In Balance" for which a new website was launched at Jazzahead!. The project is "lead by jazz organizations from Scandinavian countries including EJN members Jazz Denmark, Svensk Jazz, Norsk Jazzforum and many others. The website aims to be a tool for music event organizers, festivals, and venues, to address issues of gender balance, ethnic discrimination, and diversity in the general jazz scene. The website features a series of good practices, stories, and resources that can be used by presenters to identify the forms of discrimination that are often unintentionally perpetrated in the music scene."
Other conference activities addressed cooperation, exchange and circulation, visions on change (audience development, interdisciplinary, digitalization) and working conditions for musicians, as well as presentation/marketing, and booking. Other Showcases
In addition to the central French showcases there were the usual three other showcase programs: the German Jazz Expo (8 groups), the European Jazz Meeting (16 groups), and the Overseas Night (8 groups). All showcasing musicians/groups were selected by international juries. As mentioned earlier, the showcases can be watched on ARTE TV, the French-German TV station, and on the website of Jazzahead! 2015.
A closer look at all showcases reveals that apart from the usual core of quartets and quintets, vocalists were highly represented (Kellylee Evans, Ceyl'an Ertem, Veronika Haresa, Almut Kühne, Natalia Mateo, Ed Motta, Live Maria Roggen, Carmen Sousa, Daniel Wilfred, David Wilfred). Also strikingbesides the two French accordionists Richard Galliano and Vincent Peiraniwas the abundance of large ensembles (Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra, Australian Art Orchestra, FatSo, Fischermann Orchestra, Hattler, Orchestre National de Jazz, Thomas de Pourquery Supersonic, Troker) and ensembles with strings (Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra, Atom String Quartet, Franz von Chossy, Memento, Theo Ceccaldi Trio). As usual, many piano trios or ensembles with pianists played an important role (Florian Favre Trio, David Helbock Random/Control, Julia Kadel Trio, Omer Klein Trio, Peedu Kass Momentum, Myriad 3). Also, five duos were presented: Donkey Monkey, Harcsa/Gyémánt, Kühne/Ullmann, Peirani/Parisien, Shilkloper/Neselovskyi.
Instead of a full description of the many performances, a few qualifying keywords may provide some clues and direct the reader to the videos of the respective showcases on ARTE TV and the Jazzahead! website. German Jazz Expo
The eight showcases of the German Jazz Expo were selected from 90 applications by an international jury. The configurations in order of appearance in Bremen were:
Hattler, Natalia Matteo, Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra, Julia Kadel Trio, Nautilus, Memento, Almut Kühne/Gebhard Ullmann, Björn Lücker Aquarian Jazz Ensemble
The selection presented a considerable range, a broader spectrum of the jazz universe, from electronic groove bands, like Hattler, to open/free improvisation constellations, like Nautilus and Kühne/Ullmann, a combination with a string quartet like Memento, the classical piano trio of Julia Kadel, two constellations headed by a vocalist, Natalia Matteo and Kühne/Ullmann, and a classical quintet, Björn Lücker's Aquarian Jazz Ensemble.
It was a selection of applicants, and as such not necessarily representative of jazz from Germany. Contrary to 'centralistic' states with organizations, there is no such thing in Germany. Germany is a federal state and the member states are sovereign when it comes to cultural affairs and education, a core value of current German state organization. Since 2008, however, there is a central organization, Initiative Musik Initiative Musik
, funding rock, pop and jazz. It focuses on young talent, artists with a migrant background, music export promotion, and live music venues. The Federal Government 's Commissioner for Culture and the Media provides the majority of the funds. So far, more than 20 percent of the overall funding has been approved for jazz-related projects. In order to raise international awareness for musicians from Germany, the German Jazz Expo at Jazzahead! has been facilitated by Initiative Musik since 2010. Nonetheless, groups still had to cover the greater part of the costs of participation themselvesin contrast to the groups of partner country France that were fully funded by the French music organization.
As mentioned earlier, showcasing groups presented a considerable range, a broader spectrum of the jazz universe, on a fairly high level of performance. All constellations were rock solid and impressive, none of all executing uninhibited fireworks. Natalia Matteo and Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra played their games with historical styles in various ways, at times tongue in cheek. Matteo did it all over. Andromeda started more cautious and obligatory, but got much looser and hilarious in a great way. Almut Kühne/Gebhard Ullmann fully focused on its very own edgy thing in uncompromising ways. The Julia Kadel Trio has deeply absorbed traditions and melted them into something fresh, original, highly concentrated and captivating.
Hattler and Natalio Matteo were groove-driven and highly entertaining. Matteo has a great stage presence as well as a great sense for drama and timing. She knew how to transform traces of evergreen material in utterly captivating ways and created a kind of John Barry update amongst other elements. She has full command of her band such that both fully worked for each other. Kadel and Kühne/Ullmann were edgy in different ways, but wove in more recognizable elements in the finishing part of their performance. Studnitzki's Memento, with its string quartet, offered the richest colorings and dynamicsoften of a subliminal Piazzolla or Morricone type, and at times a Brazilian vibe.
Most of the musicians were from a younger, or the youngest generation, except the two highly accomplished musicians, Hellmut Hattler and Gebhard Ullmann. Hattler has grown out of German 70s' pioneering band Kraan and is still a top-of-the-bill performer. Ullmann is an internationally well-known musician and one of the mainstays of the German free impro-scene. My purely personal choice from this ample sample would be Kadel, Matteo, Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra. European Jazz Meeting
The 16 showcases of the European Jazz Meeting were selected out of 254 applications. 'European' has to be regarded in a broad sense. Most of this year's showcases came from the Eastern part (Austria, Hungary, Israel, Poland, Russia/Ukraine, Turkey) and Southern part (Switzerland (3x), Italy, France) of Europe, with a strikingly high percentage of groups from Switzerland. From the Northern part there were groups from Estonia, Norway, and Iceland, from the Central/Western part a group from The Netherlands, and Great Britain (plus, of course, the showcase groups of the German Expo). Here are the configurations in order of appearance in Bremen:
Peedu Kass Momentum (Estonia), Franz von Chossy Quintet (Netherlands), Veronika Harcsa & Bálint Gyémánt (Hungary), Atom String Quartet (Poland), Omer Klein Trio (Israel), Weird Beard (Switzerland), Ceyl'an Ertem (Turkey), Come Shine (Norway), David Helbock RANDOM/CONTROL (Austria), Fischermanns Orchestra (Switzerland), ADHD (Iceland), Arkhady Shilkloper/Vadim Neselovskyi (Russia/Ukraine), Louis Sclavis Silk and Salt Melodies Quartet (France), Florian Favre Trio (Switzerland), Mop Mop (Italy).
The chosen groups were all very good, performing on a fairly high level, with an impressing stylistic range, and a great variety of temperaments and temperatures. More insight may be gained through the showcase video recordings, which will be available online for a few months on the Jazzahead! website
and on the German-French TV channel ARTE TV
Among the showcases there were rock solid ones, like Peedu Kass Momentum, Franz von Chossy, Mop Mop, as well as Louis Sclavis Salt And Silk and Arkady Shilkloper/ Vadim Neselovskyi contrasted by showcases with immediate and sometime uninhibited fireworks, such as Helbock Random/Control (what's in a name!), Harcsa & Gyémánt, Ertem, Souza, and in another way, also Fischermanns Orchestra with its mild conduction form allowing spontaneity, surprising turns, and nice skew sounds. Swiss pianist Florian Favre opened his trio's performance with a good dose of playful humor inducing a well working amount of attentive relaxation of the audience. Some took surprising, amazing creative turns on evergreens and standard material, like Come Shine, whereas others played games with historical styles in various ways, tongue in cheek or not, like Helbock Random/Control. Whereas Helbock was the straight chaser hopping through the universes of Theolonius and Hermeto, Monk, and Pascoal, grabbing all kinds of instruments on the way, Come Shine overarched strongly stretching a seeming heterogeneity of material. Starting from its surprising "Caravan," inspired by Ellington's 1932 version, it finished with a beautiful rendition of the Otis Redding classic " (Sittin' on) The Dock Of The Bay" in a charming, simple Joni-mode.
Some have really absorbed traditions and melted those into something fresh, original, and captivating, as did the Atom String Quartet. Others focused on their very own edgy thing in uncompromised ways like Harcsa & Gyémánt. The strongest rock-and groove parts came to the fore in Islandic jam band ADHD, cool Italian Mop Mop configuration, Swiss group Weird Beard, and during the Florian Favre Trio concert. But in both Weird Beard and Favre's trio, these elements were woven into a very personal sound and musical landscape. Weird Beard is floating through very gentle melodic passages, passing into more harsh mountain streams, always opening up wide horizons by its endearing compositions with a Motianian touch. Favre's Trio is a highly versatile unit, as punchy as playful melodic and joyous. When it comes to the highly groove driven units, Mop Mop and ADHD: Mop Mop is the urban sunny summer variant, ADHD is the more autumnal prairie variant, and both very suitable for festivals.
Among the European showcases there were also these two unique, highly accomplished, still sharp and charming musicians: horn player Arkady Shilkloper and bass clarinetist Louis Sclavis, successfully teaming-up with younger musicians. Together they created something shining and vibrating beyond category and short-windedness.
A lot of 'deep' regional colorings manifested themself in various beautiful ways like in Omer Klein's Trio, the Atom String Quartet, the duos Shilkloper/Neselovskyi, Harcsa/Gyémánt and unmistakably in the passages opened by Louis Sclavis' Silk and Salt Melodies as well as in Souza's and Pascal's highly entertaining Lusitanic wanderings.
My purely personal choice from this ample sample would be the duo Shilkloper/ Neselovskyi, Come Shine, and the Atom String Quartet. Overseas Night
The Overseas Night has eight showcases and is a bit of a strange collection. That collection almost seems arbitrary, but in fact depends on applications and subsequent selection by an international jury, as do all other showcase programs. For musicians and groups from overseas, it's clearly quite expensive to apply for and perform in Bremen. Not only is it a question of how to get financed, it also raises the question why: what is the purpose? There are enough groups not lacking the motivation, and in particular those from Canada and artists residing in Germany, like Ed Motta. This year's selection again presented three Canadian groups:
Kelleylee Evans (Canada), Australian Art Orchestra (Australia), Bänz Oester & The Rainmakers (South Africa), FatSo (Colombia), Marianne Trudel Quintet feat. Ingrid Jensen (Canada), Myriad 3 (Canada), Ed Motta (Brazil), Troker (Mexico).
A really challenging act, socially, both cultural and artistically challenging for the musicians and the audience, was the performance of the Australian Art Orchestra in which five jazz musicians, Peter Knight (electronics, trumpet), Paul Grabowsky (piano, musical director), Tony Hicks (reeds), and Niko Schäuble (drums), teamed up with two indigenous Australian vocalists, the wagilak songmen, David Wilfred and Daniel Wilfred, from the remote Arnhem Land. Especially, the song lines of wagilak songman Daniel Wilfred were as intense and deep as they were unusual, even unaccustomed or strange. Interaction with the instrumentalist also happened in a special, uncommon way. At times the instrumentalists expanded and contextualized vocal lines, especially by mimicry of nature sounds. Sometimes both collided, making it an utterly fascinating, transgressive experience. The song lines of the wagilak songmen stand for a quite different relationship of body movement, vocalizing, e-motion, imagination, and memory. As another wagilak songman once put into words: "we don't carry along a lot of paper like you. It's in songs for us. We got a map here in our mind." That means that it's not possible to work in usual fusion manners. "Central to the AAO mission is a commitment to collaborate across cultures with key projects including a long-running collaboration with Australian Aboriginal people," according to the program notes. Confronting those different senses and approaches carves out another trace every time. The musicians went into it all unreserved, and without letting it fossilize as a nice intercultural artifact. The location and occasion, however, did not form a conducive context for listeners making their ways through the frictions. A place like the wonderful concert hall of Musée du quai Branl
in Paris is surely more conducive than a Messehalle at a music fair; but this is meant as an incitement to invite the group to more conducive contexts. Club Night
The Club Night
offered by far the most concerts, a whopping 70, even competing with the evening concerts of the European Jazz Meeting. In order to offer the audience some guidance, the organization outlined three thematic routes to be taken by (rented) bike, a concept borrowed from the famous SummerJazz-BicycleTour in the countryside of Groningen in the north of The Netherlands [LINK].
Moving through the city was a necessity anyway if you wanted to get some impression of the variety of the night. The route taken started at the Courtyard Marriott hotel near the central train station, where the Danish groups had their basecamp, continued to the old Sendesaal, situated some six kilometres away, and back again to the fair building and the Schlachthof behind central station. The groups who played at the fair building and Schlachthof, Souza/Pascal, Sclavis, Favre, and Mop Mop have already been discussed in the preceding section.
Maria Faust performed at the Courtyard Marriott with the Sacrum Facere ensemble of her last album ( Sacrum Facere
( Copenhagen Barefoot, 2014); an impressive opus. The ensemble consists of accomplished younger musicians, among them the Copenhagen Italians pianist/drummer Emanuele Maniscalco and clarinetist Francesco Bigoni. Faust is an experienced, adventurous leader of larger ensembles. She is a classically trained conductor and reed-player from Estonia, living and working in Copenhagen. She has won several Danish music awards.
The album is a highly fascinating re-imagination of Estonian folksongs, especially runo singing from the Setu region, close to the Russian border. She reworked it for brass ensemble, three woodwinds, prepared piano, and kannel, the table cither, a common instrument used in folk music of that region. In Bremen, she performed without a kannel player. The music written by Faust is very much adapted to the individual musicians, thus gaining in depth while at the same time reaching into the ancient sources and local sound contexts. At first ear, the ensemble sounds like an update of Charlie Haden's Liberation Orchestra. It is an association validated after more listening even when it is clear that it goes into quite different directions in the used musical sources. The short impression of the ensemble's concert evoked the same fascination as the album did before. The music was of great honesty, true to the source, heartfelt, and sonically sophisticated.
The famous old Sendesaal of Radio Bremen (Keith Jarrett recorded one of his first solo-albums there), like in former years, was the place for a series of concerts with ECM-artists who have released a new album recently: Jakob Bro (Gefion
), Mathias Eick (Midwest
), Giovanni Guidi (This Is The Day
) and Andy Sheppard (Surrounded By Sea
Guitarist Jakob Bro opened with his trio of Thomas Morgan and drum legend Jon Christensen. Bro and Morgan have grown into an amazing tight unit through which the music radiates in tranquil but vivid flow, snaking like a Möbius strip. It might as well turn all of sudden, with subtle moves, and open up new directions. That was evident right from the start. Because of the gentle flow of the music it is not immediately recognized in its improvised nature.
Jon Christensen, the great master of space and shades, distance, and duration lurked from behind his cymbals to strike with adequate weight and vibration at the right moments. The music shifted, almost imperceivable, and with an enormous rhythmical feel underneath, especially in Morgan's bass playing. Christensen kept on doing his wild things, smashing, smacking, and stroking the cymbals, all with grandioso timing. The music turned into driving, pushing up and forward mode, and even turned into a short hopping dance. The way it emerged almost by itself from the radiating and wonderfully meshing sounds was a highly rewarding experience. It goes beyond common expectations of guitar playing and virulent imaging of young guitar heroes. It is the power and strength inside which made it great music outside into new directions. Conclusion/Prospect
Bremen clearly manifested that new generations are taking over, generations only partly connected to old networks and senior musicians, generations for which everything seems within reach. As a result there is a larger variety instead of some clear traces to dig into and deepen out. As regards the presented music, it became clear that every approach or style, from heavy free improvisation to reinventions of standard repertoire can be developed and shaped in (highly) attractive ways.
It is a big challenge for jazz as an art form that recycles heterogeneous musical sources and cultures in its own recombining and reinventing ways. It is a still bigger challenge to renew and attract substantial interest and get acclaim from changing audiences, to see how and where subcultures grow and develop. Social technology and media play a facilitating yet devastating role in the ongoing process. At Jazzahead! the search for viable and productive routes through the digitalized urban jungle can be intensively experienced.
By watching the showcases, you can not only experience a great variety of musical re-combinations and some real new inventions, but also various forms of presentation and framings to make musical events happen and relate to the audience. Although there were good examples, musicians still too often seem to be stuck in quite conservative, dull patterns of appearance and presentation.
What can be seen in Bremen is the result of joint filtering mechanisms, strong ones, valid ones and also (lots of) dubious ones of the jazz-related music business. To a certain degree the outcomes reflect developments and new frontiers in the music. However, for the real thing there are other places, festivals dedicated to the development of the essence of the art form and the discovery of new territories.
Next year's edition will host Switzerland and focus on its multifaceted jazz scene. "Swiss jazz is a fixture on the European jazz scene, with its diverse and sometimes even unconventional stylistic aspects, wealth of outstanding musicians, and rich festival landscape." Jazzahead! 2016 will be held from 21 to 24 April. The Swiss cultural festival will be held from 7 to 24 April.