Strasbourg-Berlin-Dresden Jazzdor Festival 2022 – London Jazz News
The Berlin Jazzdor festival – this was its 14th edition – has a reassuring clarity about its mission and the ideological context in which it wants to work. Sebastian writes:
Organized from Strasbourg, the festival intends to promote new collaborations, in particular but not exclusively between France and the Berlin scene. The lesson to be learned, and experienced in real time during performances at the Kulturbrauerei in Prenzlauer Berg, is that musicians tend to broaden their horizons through new collaborations, especially when they associate with people from other country.
This whole idea of “Völkerverbindung” (connecting people) is a well-known cultural trope in Germany. The message is clear: musicians – and people in general – should find crossing a border as natural and inevitable as the people of Strasbourg, a city whose tall and proud Notre-Dame Cathedral is visible from Germany, unless 7 kilometers away.
This “14th Strasbourg-Berlin-Dresden Jazzdor Festival” – which I attended almost the entire opening night – could have chosen to renew and strengthen this familiar mission after the forced two-year break. But the time spent outdoors has clearly given the programmers the green light to be more experimental. As Philippe Ochem’s introduction indicates: “This year’s program is more than ever a search for ‘the other’, in the face of which we can discover something new about ourselves.
The flagship concert was that of the last evening given by a quintet made up of pianists Florian Webersaxophonists Ana Lena Schnabel and Daniel Erdmanmore bassist Joachim Florent and drummer Edouard Perrault.
There was a completely new element this year: ‘Dresden’. Plans were made before the pandemic to work in partnership with the Tonne Club in Dresden, to allow some of the bands making the trip to eastern France to be able to play in more than one venue in Germany. These plans eventually came to fruition.
Another constant, Jazzdor has always been at the forefront of French programs for the development of lesser-known young talents, in particular through the “Jazz Migration” scheme, but also in other contexts. In some cases, these groups did not yet have the presence and level of professional performance energy needed to make an impact in a cavernous room.
WEDNESDAY JUNE 8
The act that left the strongest impression on the second night was the central act of the three on the evening’s program, “San”. Here we are witnessing a new three-way collaboration between musicians of Japanese origin. Taiko Saito (vibraphone) and Satoko Fujii (piano) worked together as a duo and made a well-received album, but the addition of the extremely lively and positive Strasbourg drummer brought a new dimension; the joy that the three musicians found through this collaboration was palpable. Yuko Oshima is known to Jazzdor connoisseurs, for having rubbed shoulders with Eve Risser in the duo Donkey Monkey. This Berlin performance had massive dynamic range, as the three musicians went from the faintest touch of percussion or a hiss on the piano strings to the elemental, overpowering noise of the three together. Taiko Saito also has a fascinating take on the “talking drums” of the vibraphone. Saito’s melody introductions were cheerfully factual and epigrammatic. The last two tracks, for example, were called “Freedom” and “Strawberries”. What more could you ask for in summer?
The first act of the evening was the saxophonist trio Matthew Bordenave with pianist Florian Weber and bassist Patrice Moretwho made a well-received trio album for ECM, Crossing released in 2020, and the live set above all revisited his thoughtful universe of chamber music. It was interesting to hear Florian Weber fit in so well in this context. It also set the stage for him to show off what he still has to offer on Friday nights.
I also heard the first part of a set from Julia Kadel Quintet “Idiome Uni”, already heard in Strasbourg last October (brief review here). Kadel has a solid group around her: Louise Volkman on the saxophone, Mary Reich on violin and viola, bassist Ivan Gelogne and drummer Emmanuel Scarpa. I didn’t hear the whole set, but the loudest part I heard was Kadel’s impassioned plea in French for tolerance and listening to each other.
THURSDAY JUNE 9
The Killer Popes is a Berlin-based band that took the experimental jazz-rock heritage of bands such as Polar Bear and added more – doing a lot more – elements to it. Not just mind-blowing synths and odd meters, there’s always a lot going on. As one writer put it: “blending electro-jazz, art rock, hardcore and club music into catchy, twisted music”. The band released a well-received album, The ego kills (Clean Feed), and involves two Britons based in Berlin, Dan Nicholls and Phil Donkin.
For their Jazzdor set, as a leader Oli Steidle explained, they would play their normal repertoire and then be joined by two French artists who would “slip forward”, the charismatic Marc Ducret guitarist, then singer Claudia Solal – who happens to be the daughter of one of the greats of jazz, the pianist Martial Solal. What a fascinating singer! Calling attention to the fact that she has a working Mariah Carey whistle register in her vocal arsenal seems reductive. Presence, diction, musicality, a fully committed way of assuming each word and each note that she sings. More please!
Other acts on Thursday included one of Jazz Migration’s bands, Susanna. I had heard them at the “Rencontres AJC” and I liked the delicacy and attentiveness, but this place seemed to me a little too big for their small, highly developed presence. There was also a performance from Switzerland Matthew Mazuethe trio and Michael Attias of the New York free scene. Attias has been hailed for his authenticity and his “lack of spectacle”, Mazué develops his art, and has a predilection for going around in circles and analyzing a rhythmic cell, as in the composition “Monolithe 1”. There was a clear purpose here, but I found myself wanting more of a sense of surprise…
FRIDAY JUNE 10
The second group on Friday gave the liveliest and most effective performance of the entire festival. A quintet by pianist Florian Weber showing much more range than we heard on Wednesday, plus the powerful young alto saxophonist Ana-Lena Schnabel, the vast expressive palette of tenor saxophonist Daniel Erdmann, with two very powerful and individual rhythms, the bassist Joachim Florent and drummer Edward Perraud had chosen a varied program of composition by each member, and they ensured full commitment to each other’s songwriting. Deutschlandfunk Kultur recorded the entire program; I can’t wait to hear it again.
The evening program opened with the program ‘Baldwin in Transit’ which I had heard in Strasbourg, with music composed by Stéphane Payen. Being able to compare the two, I simply noticed that this book was much more generously received in Strasbourg than here in Berlin. Berlin jazz audiences don’t like to be lectured and some of the Friday night audience clearly felt uncomfortable with the deluge of dense slam poetry in English, French and occasionally Dutch. Musically, as tends to be the case with Payen, we were in good hands. We could savor the poetry of Dominique Pifarelythe violin playing of and the glorious and addictive sound of the French flute of Sylvaine Helary. The closing act was Nutled by the flautist Delphine Jousseina deliberate juxtaposition of sleek and punk-ish.
A fifteenth edition of Jazzdor Berlin-Strasbourg is scheduled for 2023.
Sebastian’s trip to Berlin was sponsored by Jazzdor