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Thursday, November 5, 2020

Jazzfest Berlin 2020 goes virtual (a preview)

By Paul Acquaro

If anything, Jazzfest Berlin's curator Nadin Deventer and the team behind the Jazzfest Berlin have taken the constraints and unpredictability of these Corona ravaged times and crafted them into something even bigger. Other mediums that had already played a part in the previous two festivals have become core elements: namely the extension of the concert into the world beyond the festival's main location and the multi-media works.

In recent years, the festival had spread itself into the western Berlin neighborhood where festival artists performed in apartments and stores in the neighborhood around the concert hall, as well as into some of the nearby jazz clubs. This year, the partnerships extended to a series of live concert/radio-broadcasts from other cities in Germany and into an exchange across the Atlantic to New York City. 

Commenting on the fluid situation, Deventer writes on the Festival's website "we were aware of the concern that all of this might have to happen without any audience at the venues. And now it has become clear: Audiences will no longer be allowed in any of the venues, either in Brooklyn, in Berlin or the other German cities. I am delighted that all 27 projects can take place over the four days of the festival as announced."

So, this year, the Europe based musicians are still playing live at the Silent Green art space (a more than a century old crematorium turned official art space) in Berlin, and US based musicians will play from Roulette art space in Brooklyn, NY, but without the in person audience. The concerts are still happening in real-time, the US musicians begin performing at 10 a.m. EST to appear - online - at 4 p.m. CET in Berlin. The concept, as of last week, before the latest set of restrictions kicked in, was to have a live audience at Silent Green who would watch the live stream from overseas and enjoy live the European bands. Now, everything can be seen online on Arte TV and the festival's own livestream.  

In addition to the work at the main concert hall at Silent Green, there are several commissioned multimedia works being presented at the Kuppelhalle. Revolving around the idea of 'Outer Spaces', the visions of Sun Ra, Thelonious Monk and other outwards looking cultural phenomenon inform site specific music, light, and video works. The artists include bassist Joel Grip with the ensemble "Topsi Unter Haltung" performing a ceremony in a "lost and reinvented artificial language" on Thursday (more info); Witch ’n’ Monk with LUX:NM and Jim Black: “FLUID FORMATIONS”, where percussionist Jim Black and the contemporary music ensemble LUX:NM perform to abstract video scores (more info); and “SUNNOSPHERE”, which finds the British pianist Alexander Hawkins and Berlin based video-artist and rapper Siska, working with a group of musicians to create an immersive sound world (more info)

Finally, or maybe firstly, leading up to the festival, the Berlin based "KIM Collective" - artists and musicians who have added to the in-person concert experience in previous editions with sprawling interactive sculptures and musical performances - has produced a series of videos highlighting the strange emptiness and performance-lessness of current times. From the American side, saxophonist Matana Roberts presents "Stay True" a provocative piece described as "a sonic meditation on American state sanctioned violence" (see here) and pianist Jason Moran contribute's video based performance "Sayins" (watch here).

There is a lot going on with the Festival, even more than is written here, and it's a bit hard to keep it all in mind! However, you can take you time, enjoy from anywhere, without a ticket. 

Activities begin Thursday, November 5th at 7 p.m. with a chance to meet the artists, followed by the Topsi Unter Haltung's 'Ceremony of Ceremonies'.

The concert's can be streamed from the Festival's site, see the schedule and video here.
or on demand on Arte.