The annual XJAZZ Festival is back with a colorful mix of concerts exploring the many diverse facets of contemporary jazz. Hilda Hoy has her tickets already.
Not just big brass! The annual XJAZZ Festival presents a fresh and diverse look at today's jazz.
For the average person, the term “jazz” might conjure up an image of a man on a saxophone, wailing away in a smoky bar. Or perhaps the Jazz Age of the 1920s, when flapper girls and their dapper companions danced the Charleston in
illicit speakeasies. But forget any stereotypes you may have about the jazz genre: The
XJAZZ Festival (www.xjazz.net) is here to present a fresher, more diverse, and thoroughly modern look at what’s happening in jazz today. From 3–7 May, the festival’s concert program presents a wide view of contemporary jazz in all its many facets.
“The spirit of jazz is the spirit of openness,” legendary jazz pianist-keyboardist Herbie Hancock once said. Or as Sonny Rollins put it, “Jazz is the type of music that can absorb so many things and still be jazz.” Reflecting this openness, the XJAZZ concerts include not only the kind of music that you might typically think of as “jazz” but also electronically improvised soundscapes, contemporary takes on classical music, and singer-songwriter performances. The Atom String Quartet, for example, playing on 5 May, uses the instruments of a traditional chamber music ensemble to play improv music that merges jazz with Polish folk music. Nigerian saxophonist Orlando
Julius will play with the band Heliocentrics at Bi Nuu on 4 May, delivering a lively, rhythmic fusion of Afrobeat, R&B, and funk that is guaranteed to get every body in the house moving. The following night, legendary Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, considered one of the founding fathers of the Afrobeat genre, will perform songs from one of his greatest inspirations, US bebop drummer Art Blakey. At the more electronic end of the spectrum is
Pantha du Prince, performing 7 May at Funkhaus. Somewhere between a minimal techno musician and conceptual sound artist, he coalesces acoustic elements and digital features into the kind of many-layered, symphonic soundscape you can get lost in. Similarly, the music of Berlin-based composer Martyn Hyne starts out deceptively hushed and simple, though his guitar loops and electronic elements gradually build up to a hypnotically lush sound. See him work his magic live on 4 May at Emmauskirche in Kreuzberg. Award-winning trumpet player Sebastian Studnitzky will be at Lido on 6 May with his latest musical project, KY organic, which marries trumpet and piano, jazz and minimal techno for clear, emotionally striking melodies. For more on what drives his musical style, flip to his interview on p. 58.
Clockwise from far left: Jacob Collier; Mopo; Adam Baldych and Helge Lien Duo; Dinosaur; Gilad Hekselman Trio; Global Dance Kulture; Orlando Julius. Inset, below: Ace Tee.