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Jazzdor Berlin

Henning Bolte By

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By this I do not mean that musicians have to show hyper expressive behavior. Exteriorization can also be very subtle and minimal. Most important is the effect on the perception of the listener. (S)he should be enabled to subconsciously notice/register the interactional traces. Eve Risser's White Desert Orchestra is a good example for the working of this. It is above all a question of collective awareness of this aspect. Emplacement and alignment of musicians/instruments on stage is also an important factor. For instance in TEE the drummer was placed almost invisible in the back on the right side (audience view) while in the WDO the drummer is mostly placed visible in the center in the front line.

Context/Platform/Breeding Ground

As already mentioned French festival Jazzdor Berlin is a bilateral affair with some offshoots too. This year's edition had a Paris—Rome -Zürich -Brussels—Cologne—Berlin—New York axis. Besides the basic musicians from Paris there were percussionist Michele Rabbia from Rome, trombonist Nils Wogram from Zürich, drummer Lander Gyselinck and keyboard wizard Jozef Dumoulin from Belgium, drummer Jonas Burgwinkel, pianist Pablo Held, bassist Robert Landfermann as well as the pianists Hans Lüdemann and Sebastian Sternal from Cologne, drummer Yorgos Dimitriadis, reedist Silke Eberhard, guitarist Ronny Graupe and drummer Dejan Terzic from Berlin and accordionist Andrea Parkins from New York. Jozef Dumoulin (B/F) belongs to a group of musicians that are present in two countries, in two scenes as saxophonist Robin Fincker (F/UK), saxophonist Daniel Erdmann (D/F), percussionist Jim Hart (UK/F), cellist Anil Eraslan (F/D) etc.. Jazzdor not only represents these interconnections at the Berlin edition and the Strasbourg mother edition, Jazzdor also fuels and fires these like in a neural network thereby strengthening the connections and initiating new branches.

If a European country wants to present and promote its musicians in another European country it is an obvious and natural approach to go to that country and match and combine musicians from both countries to foster enduring exchange and artistic development. That is what Jazzdor has done for the past 12 years. Other countries have different, often unilateral approaches or leave it to the musicians themselves to join forces and collaborate. It is a mystery why France still is the only country consequently following the bilateral route. My impression is that this and other measures actually facilitate access of French musicians to foreign audiences, labels and collaborations with musicians in other countries and consequently becoming a known or even popular name. Germany, but also Eastern European countries, clearly show that. On the other hand, you can see that for example musicians from Eastern Europe migrate(d) to France and asserted themselves on the French scene.

An event such as Jazzdor Berlin is embedded in a larger interlocking supportive infrastructure, as the part Jazz Migration, which was created in 2002 for young upcoming musicians and groups. Every year Jazz Migration chooses four units to give training to in order to help build their career nationally and internationally, and to support them by organizing concerts in venues and at festivals (about 10 for each unit). The yearly chosen units are also adopted by a major venue or festival.

Participation at events like Jazzdor Berlin is one of the possibilities. This year two of the four selected groups, Ikui Doki and Novembre, participated in Jazzdor Berlin to give them international exposure. Ikui Doki is adopted by Paris Jazz Festival and the group Novembre by festival Banlieue Bleu.

Conspicuously some of the musicians of the two groups have performed earlier at Jazzdor Berlin (cumulative effect). In that context, and with its long-term approach, Jazzdor can be considered a breeding ground for the artistic growth of young-up-and-coming as well as for established musicians and groups (see also my review of Jazzdor 2017 Strasbourg).

Reach in/reach out

The other eight units went with their music along a couple of different trails. They reworked folk music sources (Bedmakers, Michel Portal 5), played energizing straight ahead (François Corneloup Quintet), worked round spurt and slowing down (Roberto Negro DaDaDa), dealt with heavy real time creation (Dimitriades/Lemoine/Parkins) and did their thing with playfully orchestrating particles and giving it transient shape (Pablo Held Trio, Novembre).

Pianist Roberto Negro's DaDaDa unit with the unbeatable Émile Parisien and the forcefully beating, as well as subtly rustling and soughing, Michele Rabbia opened, set the standard, fired things up and triggered the next group, The Michel Portal Quintet. Bass clarinetist Michel Portal (1935) is (still) a driving force in the French jazz/music scene and the most prominent one on his instrument together with Louis Sclavis. He cannot be pinned down to a definite direction, style or whatever and thus has never become father figure for any specific kind of music. From hard core classic to deep funk, blues and Latin, he played and plays everything. He constantly seeks for fresh blood in his group(s) and collaborates with musicians from all generations, French or otherwise that have something to say and to contribute, like new French accordion wizard Vincent Peirani, French saxophone canon Emile Parisien or amazing Belgian drummer Lander Gyselinck . The most longstanding musicians in his quintet (and other units) are pianist Bojan Z and bassist BrunoChevillon, both heavyweights of the French scene. The new colors he recently started to inject come from German trombonist Nils Wogram (1972), long time duo partner of Bojan Z, and new European revelation, thirty-year-old drummer Lander Gyselinck from Belgium. The quintet played a colorful and greatly flowing set with lots of Cuban and other Latin tinges too.

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Jazz Near Berlin
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