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Jazzfest Bonn 2018

Henning Bolte By

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Jazzfest Bonn
Bonn, Germany
May 3-5, 2018

The city of Bonn, situated on the banks of the Rhine River south of Cologne in the German state of North Rhine Westphalia, is the southernmost part of the Rhine-Ruhr region, Germany's largest metropolitan area, with over 11 million inhabitants. Bonn formerly functioned as the capital of the Western part of Germany (1949-1990) and as the seat of government of reunited Germany. Bonn currently shares the status of Germany's seat of government with Berlin, with the President, the Chancellor and many government ministries maintain substantial presences there, with about 8,000 of the 18,000 federal officials remain in the city. A total of 19 United Nations (UN) institutions operate from Bonn today. Therefore, it holds the name of Federal City. The city has a rich musical life with an historical foundation provided by a significant classical music tradition. Ludwig van Beethoven was born there in 1770 and Robert Schumann died in Bonn-Endenich in 1856. Concerning composers nearby city of Cologne had greats such as Jacques Offenbach, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Mauricio Kagel and Bernd Alois Zimmermann.

Design, mission, practice

Jazzfest Bonn could still be considered young festival, now in its ninth year. With strong determination, the festival team, led by saxophonist Peter Materna, has worked to establish and imprint its name upon the city, the region and on a wider scale. The festival has a clear, recognizable structure and focus and has been successful with its moderate and audience friendly programming policies. Audience friendly here means that the festival attempts to tailor a selection from the broad(er) field of jazz that suits the specific tastes of its local/regional audience. It turned out that the Bonn audience has its strongest affinity with the transitional zone between jazz and pop (like this year's appearance of Incognito, Julia Biel, Lyamboko, Ed Motta]. That core is augmented by adequate and strong challenges in the presentation of musicians and groups (for a list of musicians that took part in the festival see here).

The basic unit of presentation is the double bill concert, taking place at carefully chosen significant locations across town during 12 nights, totaling 24 concerts this year. Bonn does not simply rely only on big names as ticket sellers but on a combination of that core and challenging enrichment by national and international names giving the program a clear profile every year. Of this year's edition 24 acts, ten were from Germany and three had a German connection. Five acts had a mixed European line-up, four were from the US, three from the UK and one act came each from Brazil, Japan, Norway and Sweden. Three female led groups, Saskya, Ulita Knaus and Julia Biel, participated and two egalitarian female/male duos played the festival. Saskya is a young all female group consisting of saxophonist Anna-Lena Schnabel, bassist Lisa Wulff and pianist Clara Haberkamp Trio .

That the festival is treating its audience as an intelligent partner is apparent from the remarkable design of its information and educational component. The clearest example is the unparalleled high-quality festival magazine zettbe: with its solid and attractive graphic design and its stimulating and reflective content. It illuminates a series of basic themes of music making in jazz and improvisation in a collection of articles by known writers. It lends the festival integrity and a solid image (in competition with classical music events in town). zettbe: has its very own design resembling a bit (but not too much) Germany's largest jazz print-magazine Jazzthing, produced in nearby Cologne. Also the educational component of the festival has some fine examples of familiarizing interested and engaged novices with the process of music making as in the program "lusty glances through keyholes" for young people giving them access to the sound checks etc..

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