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Jazzahead! 2017

Henning Bolte By

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Jazzahead! Trade Fair/Festival
Bremen
April 27-29, 2017

Jazzahead!, the annual market place of/for jazz in Hanseatic city of Bremen in North-Western Germany, with a total of 40 showcases and a concluding club night with more than 110 concerts, is impossible to cover adequately in one report. In this article you'll find a review mainly of the showcases of musicians/groups from Germany and some comments on the musicians/groups from this year's partner country Finland. It is not only the sheer number of showcases that makes it impossible but often also the accessibility and sound quality of the three halls that make inspection (im)possible. Too often the Schlachthof venue, a defunct slaughterhouse, was so crowded that it was not even possible to get into the concert hall, let alone to find a place to view or to sit down (or both). Of the performances I could see, these three (in alphabetical order) were my personal favorites for different reasons: the quartet of German drummer Eva Klesse because of the enthralling vibe emerging, the all female Shamania herd of Danish drummer Marilyn Mazur because of the sheer joy this 11-piece ensemble diffused and the flaring musical magic French-German Tarkovsky quartet of pianist Francois Couturier, cellist Anja Lechner, saxophonist Jean March Larche and accordionist Jean Louis Matinier ignited. Also I have a spot for the two Finnish drummers Markku Ounaskari and Teppo Mykänen and there was the opportunity to enjoy their playing in the two different piano trios of Aki Rissanen and Kari Ikonen and the group of Raoul Björkenheim.

What it is (not)

Jazzahead! is a trade fair primarily related to the musical product 'jazz.' It has become an indispensable place and main occasion to deal with and facilitate all affairs to make possible the live performance of jazz, its recording and distribution, its maintenance, and to improve it. There is an abundance of live music but it is no festival in the normal sense. It is a hybrid of 40 showcases for the professionals also open to local audiences and there is an added public club night on Saturday, spread all over the municipality with its more than 110 concerts among which concentrated shows at the old Sendesaal (broadcasting hall) (ECM night), concerts of Jazz Denmark at Marriott hotel or the French collectives at Spedition (shipping agency) at the Central Station. The club-night runs parallel with the Overseas Night. This set-up makes that Jazzahead!, besides its function as a trade fair, also attracts a multitude of local/regional audiences. The four days of the Jazzahead! trade fair are preceded by a 14-day multi-arts and culture festival, organized in a cooperation between the city of Bremen and the partner country (Finland). Therefore the opening ceremony of Jazzahead! is a double celebration, both of the end of that arts festival and the start of the trade fair.

What it offers

The 40 showcases with groups from 19 countries are divided into four modules: the eight showcases of the PARTNER COUNTRY, this year Finland (Thursday night), the 16 showcases of the EUROPEAN JAZZ MEETING (Friday), the eight showcases of the GERMAN JAZZ EXPO (Saturday), and the eight showcases of the OVERSEAS NIGHT (Saturday night). The musicians/groups showcasing in these four modules are chosen by four international juries consisting of presenters (of concert venues and festivals) who are mainly from Europe and a few from abroad (North America, Asia) plus the two representatives and artistic directors of the trade fair, Peter Schulze and Ulrich Beckerhoff. Noticeably there were no participants from Africa and South/Middle America. The juries could choose from a total of 547 applying groups from 55 countries. That means an average of 138 groups per category. The most important selection criteria are musical quality and the capability of performing internationally at an adequate level. For the final assessment also instrumentation or country of origin are taken into account in order to secure a varied and interesting presentation.

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