NEWS/INTERVIEW: Full programme announced for Jazzfest Berlin 2018 (Nadin Deventer, artistic director)

Nadin Deventer, Artistic Director of JazzFest Berlin
Photo credit: Camille Blake/ Berliner Festspiele
The full programme for this year’s 55th JazzFest Berlin was announced this morning. Tickets go on sale on 8 September at 2pm local time. Sebastian writes:

The first and most obvious impression I have of the programme for JazzFest Berlin this year is that there is simply more of it. Both the press release today and my short interview with incoming Artistic Director Nadin Deventer (Richard Williams’ deputy during his successful three-year tenure) confirmed that impression. There will be:

- 35 concerts and ten other events
- 200 musicians from around 15 countries
- Eight festival commissions or first performances including new work from Jason Moran - James Reese Europe and the Absence of Ruin - and Mary Halvorson who is the festival’s second Artist-in-Residence
- Ten groups appearing in Germany for the first time (eg Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble, Jaimie Branch)
- Four world, European or German album launches (including Bill Frisell, Mary Halvorson, and Jason Moran)
- A more ambitious supporting programme
- 15 new organizations working in partnership with the festival, including organizations in Belgium, Norway, Poland, UK, US plus several new partners in Germany.

The aim to expand in this way was “not my main purpose”, says Deventer. “It happened. There are more partners involved, and we also did some good fundraising.”

When describing this year’s festival, Deventer is, not surprisingly, well aware that the running of this festival is surrounded by debate, controversy, cultural politics and an audience which in the past has not held back when it hasn’t enjoyed a performance. Berlin is also a city with a massive cultural offer every night of the week, and to make a visible statement beyond the community of those directly interested is not a simple task. So in the early phases in a ten-month process of planning this year’s festival she had discussions with a wide range of partners, and also a substantial personal reflection about what was possible in the first year, and what would be possible during the Artistic Director's three-year term.

Three features stand out. There are interlocking themes and programming strands, there is a shape or “dramaturgy” to the four days of the festival, and also a conscious effort to address a younger audience. As regards the topics/strands, today’s press release states:

“The festival programme sets various regional and thematic focuses. 17 projects from 12 countries represent an aspiring European jazz scene in all its vitality and diversity. Chicago can be experienced as a highly developed centre of creative exchange and collective togetherness in seven acts. The emancipatory historiography of African-American music, which speaks of suppression and racism as well as liberation and empowerment in equal parts, is illuminated from historical perspectives and variations through to contemporary Afrofuturism.”

The dancefloor at Prince Charles Berlin, which was once a swimming pool
Publicity photo
Nadin Deventer described to me the sequence of events that will unfold. The Thursday is conceived as a “grand opening, with 10 concerts all over the Festspielhaus, emphasizing the concept of the ‘Haus of Jazz’”. Then “Friday will be a blast focussing on more challenging music and spreading out across the city.”

“We have conceived a 'hyperactive Saturday' spread through town – including Prince Charles (a club night involving Makaya McCraven and Nubya Garcia). The nightclub was formerly a swimming pool. "Saturday will start early with workshops talks and films and a family concert – leading into a danceable late night.”

And for Sunday? “I wanted to bring the tempo down. By then we will have done so much... We need a quieter day, call it the melancholic Sunday." There are "Kiezspaziergaenge" (walks in the neighborhood), and little concerts in small venues. The evening concert will end with a Bill Frisell solo show, the European launch of a new album, and a new work from artist-in-residence Mary Halvorson.

Another feature is a deliberate attempt to widen the audience, not just with the incorporation of club nights, but also with the main stage programme. Deventer says she asked herself, "How can we address a younger audience? – and  the programme reflects this. In fact what we present on the  main stage will addresses a different audience every night. I was thinking – the audience that likes Bill Frisell might discover Kim Myhr and find they like him too. On Saturday, the Jason Moran project and Jazzmeia Horn are from one musical universe."

I also asked whether she was in any sense continuing the work of Richard Williams, how she felt about that. She quoted Isaac Newton back at me. "I like the expression.. how does it go?: 'If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants'?" (pp)

LINKS: Full programme as sequence with links
Programme as booklet

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