Jazzfest Berlin 2018 reflections part 2

Written by | Festivals, News, Reviews

It was not until the third day of the festival that friends of classical jazz could rejoice, as the WDR Big Band reinterpreted the standards of the “Great American Songbook” with the charismatic singer Jazzmeia Horn.

The singer is a formidable scat vocalist and she is a master of timing. As long as she moves in the middle octave register, her singing is truly soulful and elegant.  The orchestra of the WDR Bigband is well versed in supporting both scat vocalist as well as individual soloists who also left their strong marks with their solos, especially the two saxophonists, the Austrian-born Karoline Strassmayer and Johan Hörlen, who come from Sweden, making a thrilling contribution.

Since 2016, the WDR Bigband’s chief conductor, Bob Mintzer, who continues to modernizes big-band jazz and keeps it alive. Mintzer went through the big band schools of Buddy Rich and the legendary orchestra of Thad Jones and Mel Lewis. Bob Mintzer is also as a tenor saxophonist of the very highest quality.

Time flies! On the afternoon of the festival the third day, I had an appointment for an interview with the young London saxophonist Nubya Garcia. She performed with her group (with some of the best musicians from the current British jazz scene) in the Kreuzberg club “Prince Charles” a very cool trendy nightclub with sunken bars that was originally built as a swimming pool. After Nubya Garcia’s soundcheck, we sat backstage and talked about her family, Caribbean background, with whose music she grew up on in her native London. Early on, she chose the saxophone and one of her role models is Sonny Rollins.

Nuyba said she adores playing his albums “Saxophone Colossus” or “Way Out West” nearly every day. Nubya Garcia has been playing together with her musicians for 15 years in various projects. At that time a real collective of talented musicians formed in London whose most influential school was the street and not the music academy. This can be clearly heard in their thrilling music. The sound she and her colleagues create is captivating and moves the audience. Nubya really makes her audience dance.

The closing day of the festival was themed “Melancholic Sunday”. In addition to the newly introduced “Kiezspaziergang” and various “neighbourhood concerts” in small hidden places in the morning, a “Silence Meal” was offered in the Festspielhaus at noon and an exhibition by the artist Arthur Jafa in collaboration with the Serpentine Galleries London opened. In the afternoon, the Estonian saxophonist Maria Faust performed her composition “Machine” in the Berlin Gedächtniskirche, a Nordic homage to the sea and water as the core element of life. Following this, Canadian artist Kara-Lis Coverdale, with Estonian roots, introduced her “Shadow Encounter”, a soundscape of electronic music she presented as a trained organist on the church organ.

Four very intensive days of music in Berlin ended on the 4th of November. The festival wheel while not re-invention, was fresh and artistically framed in an ambitious concept, and perhaps not for jazz purists?  I do recognise it’s always easy to express criticism in times when it is important to initiate the greatest possible media attention in order to keep things fresh and current. The events in Berlin this year were all sold out, so the team around Nadine Deventer can be happy and look to the future with confidence!

Writer: Jan Fritz –  Read part 1 here.




Photo credits &  YT Video: Berliner Festspiel & jazz refreshed

Last modified: December 5, 2018