Jazzfest Bonn 2018

Henning Bolte By

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Cologne Excursion: Stadtgarten, Cologne Musicians, astounding Loft venue

The federal state of North Rhine Westphalia has a unique international visitors program organized by the Kultursekretariat NRW around festivals and other art events that can apply for it. The office of Kultursekretariat is located in Wuppertal home of German jazz greats Peter Brötzmann is and Peter Kowald.

The Kultursekretariat program for Jazzfest Bonn was combined with an excursion to Cologne situated 35 km north of Bonn to visit two well-known venues there, Stadtgarten and Loft, and to meet with musicians of the vibrant Cologne scene (dealt with in an additional article later). Stadtgarten has recently received considerable federal funding to upgrade and establish it as European Center of Jazz and Contemporary Music (for more details see my report on the recent Cologne Open event).

The venue Stadtgarten emerged from Initiative Kölner Jazz Haus. The original initiative founded its own recording label JazzHausMusik. Later on, two collectives of younger musicians came into being, the Klaengkollektiv (also with its own record label and a three-days festival in November), and the Impakt Kollektiv that has its recordings on bandcamp. Klaengkollektiv gathers musicians as drummer Jonas Burgwinkel and bassist Robert Landfermann (the universal German rhythm section), pianist Pablo Held and trumpeter Frederik Koster, Die Verwandlung. There is also the annual Winter Jazz Meeting organized by saxophonist Angelika Niescier and bassist Ulla Oster, both associated with Stadtgarten too.

Quite a different story is the astounding Loft venue venue and its history. It is also well known, but is much smaller in size and budget. As a consequence of the enduring commitment of one person, flutist Hans Martin Mueller, it still offers unique facilities to (young) musicians. LOFT was founded in 1986, the same year as the opening of the Cologne Philharmonic Hall and the concert hall in the Stadtgarten. Next to the Musikhoch-schule, an area steeped in history, Hans Martin Mueller (flutist of the WDR Symphony Orchestra and back then a teacher at the Musikhochschule) rented an unused workshop for his workspace and especially as an open forum for music. It was an ideal location. However some of the neighbors were disturbed by the sounds. Painter Sigmar Polke (1941-2010), cofounder of the 'Capitalist Realism' movement with Gerhard Richter e.a., was one of them and carries the honor of having ended the LOFTs first rent contract with a private agreement, which made it possible to move to its present location.

As a smaller venue Loft offers excellent (and again unique) possibilities for younger generation musicians to curate concerts (as an example see this series curated by Cologne trombonist Janning Trumann here) and record in the high quality studio there. Loft even has accommodation facilities for recording musicians. Numerous studio and live recordings have been produced there and are regularly broadcasted.

Cologne not only houses these and a few other venues but is also home of the public radio, Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) of the federal state and the renowned WDR Big Band as part of the WDR 3 culture section of the radio station. The quite substantial jazz department of WDR 3 lead by Dr. Bernd Hoffmann has its own annual jazz festival (see my report on the 2018 edition here and for coverage of more NRW festivals see my report on Moers and on Münster. Adding the Bujazzo, the BundesJazzOrchestra, an equivalent of French Orchestra National de Jazz or the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, residing in Bonn, the Köln-Bonn region has a considerable jazz presence.


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