REPORT: First Night of 2015 Berlin Jazz Festival

Cecile McLorin Salvant introducing her band

Sebastian writes: 

I'll be doing a proper round-up review of the  Berlin Jazz Festival, [UPDATE: My round-up is now published on Telegraph onlineso here are a just few a few day-by-day, night-by-night preparatory jottings. This is the 51st Festival, and the first with Richard Williams as Artistic Director. Afer a 50 years retrospective last year, the theme of the current festival is where jazz is now - with an emphasis on its sheer variety and diversity - and where it is headed. There are performers of 30 nationalities from all five continents participating. The audience throughout the first night was appreciative and involved.

The opening evening presented three performances which could not have been more different - which was the point.The first set was a collaboration between the large Berlin-based free improvising  group Splitter Ensemble and the AACM veteran trombonist and academic George Lewis entitled "Creative Construction Set." This project is going to get another airing at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival on the afternoon of Sunday November 22nd. The performance evolved by means of the players leading their groups, and George Lewis leading the whole proceedings, by putting up A4 sheets with instructions on them. It was at its most interesting when oscillating between instrumental sounds and mostly electronic noise. This is the first of two large Berlin-based groups performing at either end of the festival, which will end on Sunday with the Divan der Kontinente group, Berlin-based, but including performers from a wide range of musical traditions, thereby allowing a spotlight to be cast on the current Berlin scene.

The cetral set, taken for broadcast by all of Germany's public radio stations, was from Cecile McLorin Salvant. Her regular pianist Aaron Diehl was replaced in a new collaboration with French (Burgundy)- born pianist Frederic Nardin who has also recently made  a big  mark recently as the
progenitor of a very well-received big band version of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. The singer gave a mesmerising and bold set, with her range of expression, vocal compass and timbre exploited to the full but, she also held the audience completely, and perhaps above all in an unaccompanied encore, Bessie Smith/ Porter Grainger You Should Be Ashamed, sung from the right at the front of the stage.


I didn't know what time it was
Look at Me
Wives and Lovers
Ballad of John Henry
Let's Face the Music and Dance
So in Love
What a Little Moonlight Can Do
Encore : You ought to be ashamed (unaccompanied)

Vincent Peirani's Living Being

 Accordionist Vincent Peirani brought his rock-y Living Being quintet to town. It is based around the duo partnership with lively saxophonist Emile Parisien that they first came to being in drummer Damiel Humair's quartet and also in duo settings. Parisien had talked in the pre-concert talk about the strength and depth and liveliness of this musical partnership. In Living Being the duo harness a Fender Rhodes, a rock bass player and a powerful drummer, and the whole thing goes electric. There is a lot of compositional and arranging thoughtfulness here, but as ever the crowd is won over the most when Peirani indulge in the kind of tearing-up fast pursuit races they have been perfecting throughout their collaboration, and with which they ended the evening.

Richard Williams opening the Festival with
George Lewis (background right)

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