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Jazzdor Berlin

Henning Bolte By

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Kulturbrauerei (Prenzlauer Berg)
Jazzdor Berlin
June 5-8, 2018

Jazzdor Berlin is a satellite of the Jazzdor Festival of Strasbourg founded 31 years ago. This year's 12th edition of the Franco-German festival held as usual at Kulturbrauerei, an abandoned brewery in Berlin borough Prenzlauer Berg, presented 11 groups with 40 musicians during four nights. Among the 40 musicians were five female musicians: Sophie Bernardo, Airelle Besson, Silke Eberhard, Andrea Parkins and Rafaelle Rinaudo. They played mostly in egalitarian groups.

The festival brings bi-or multinational collaborations and introduces new as well as existing French configurations to the Berlin audience in a fine balance of younger and older musicians. Besides the French musicians, this year's edition had nine musicians from Germany, two from Belgium, and one each from Switzerland, Italy and the US. Some artists return in different combinations and constellations, and regularly there are new faces and configurations. This year's edition started with pianist Roberto Negro's trio DaDaDa and concluded with baritone veteran Francois Corneloup's quintet.

Personal highlights

My personal favorites of this year were a wondrous sound unit of bassoon, harp and saxophone, a surprising and intense pointillist trumpet-piano-drums trinity and an octet with a special twisted charm, vitality and joy of playing the music.

The bassoon-saxophone-harp unit of Sophie Bernado, Hugues Mayot, Rafaelle Rinaudo, called Ikui Doki, was a marvelous affair, captivating not only because of its attractive sound, or the entanglement of their respective instruments and their splendid musical humor, but above all because of the way the three musicians went for, and into, their unfolding stories (for characteristics of some pieces see the slide show at the top of this article). I knew Sophie Bernardo already from her strong contribution in several concerts with Eve Risser's great White Desert Orchestra (WDO) and harpist Rafaëlle Rinaudo from her daring duo with WDO bassist Fanny Lasfargues. It was a joy to see them joining forces with versatile reedist Hugues Mayot of the same generation and make something so strong out of it. Bernardo is a sassy, imaginative improvising musician and Rinaudo knows the ropes, the rough and the tender, the stormy and the serene side. She used the vibrations of the strings and percussion on her instrument (and body) in a marvelous way. Saxophonist Hugues Mayot operated with great sensibility here in terms of tone and presence.

French trumpeter Airelle Besson and the topnotch Cologne pianist Sebastian Sternal and drummer Jonas Burgwinkel started to work as a trio a while ago. However the trio constellation has not actually performed live so often as yet. The trio came forth from a tour together with Parisian bassist Ricardo del Fra four years ago. Musically they seemed to be destined to work with each other, but in practical terms it was difficult until now for them to work with each other more regularly. Jazzdor was good luck for them and it was apparent they were eager and highly motivated to play together. Compositionally and in terms of performance dynamics, interaction and liveliness, it became an extraordinary thing, enriching for all three musicians. The beautifully shaped music was remarkably fresh—a real nice surprise and more than worthwhile to be presented and heard elsewhere in the future.

The aforementioned octet is the TransEuropeExpress of renowned Cologne pianist Hans Lüdemann comprising four high-profile German and four French musicians: Silke Eberhard, Ronny Graupe, Dejan Terzic, Théo Ceccaldi, Yves Robert, Julien Pontvianne, Sébastien Boisseau. Saxophonist Julien Pontvianne is a new face. Dependent upon availability, he alternates with Alexandra Grimal.

The ensemble has previously played the Jazzdor Festival in 2014 (Berlin) and in 2015 (Strasbourg). Its first album, aptly entitled Polyjazz, was recently released by renowned Budapest BMC label. The music opens a new chapter of multiform interweaving, collaging and intertwining of heterogeneous approaches and ways of entering, different layers, voices and ensemble parts in playful competition with each other.

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