XJAZZ Festival Berlin, starting on Thursday the 8th of May 2014: The event takes place on the outskirts of Kreuzberg, a flamboyant and most likely crazy (of the boring kind) area around train-station Schlesisches Tor. Spread over six venues, all within walking distance, about fifty performances are staged. A Marathon: CHRIS ADAMS hosts the opening show at Privatclub. A sleek german entertainer, shiny suit, short cut blonde hair, generous winking, performs rakish songs on girls and midlife crisis. While unfortunately aspiring to move like James Bond, his backing Band plays another role. They serve straight and laid-back jazz for the cool-vibed lounge. The Audience tends to the greyish hair and Jack Wolfskin jacket. Some kids lessen the average age, some people hold stemware. A relaxed, colloquial and familiar atmosphere on this early evening. The smokers room is near empty.
Back out on and up the street, heading to Bi Nuu, passing by McDonald’s. What do you say to a jazz musician with a steady job? Two Big Macs and a large order of fries, please. EMILIANA TORRINI, the fairy eyed singer from Iceland wears feathery earrings. They look soft and harmonize her dark-red dress. Ethereal clouds of voice and ambient pour over into the sold out venue. Several people brought not jet unwrapped flower bouquets. In the back, a group of friends talk about clothing and gadgets for babies. The beer: Carlsberg or something German.
While some people don’t complain about esoteric hover and whining. The four-piece ADHD start their set back at Privatclub. It’s a first highlight. An eccentric mix of jazz and rock from Reykjavik. The bands interplay is gorgeous and gives space for expansive improvisation. Saxophone or guitar take on an avantgardistic lead, while drums, Hammond, Moog or Rhodes lay a bed for every twist and turn. Some technical difficulties later, and some people already leaving Bi Nuu, the impressive trumpet player and composer NILS PETTER MOLVAER serves an old cliché. The Scandinavians affection for the atmospheric pile of sound.
The U1 up to Uhlandstr. stops at Kottbusser-Tor, while THE MOP MOP SOUNDSYSTEM loops weltmusik, jazz and anything with a groove to dubby textures. People were about 50 years of age five hours ago, here they are about 22. An evolution? In the sweaty Monarch club beer is tossed around in jars. Consequently the shacks interior is wooden handcraft of finest pine.
The festival follows quite a smart concept to stand out and save money at the same time. Bands or artists not being from Berlin don’t bring their regular staff. They collaborate with local musicians mostly. Every performance corresponds in some way to the city’s scene and gets a unique character. Probably only possible in a jazz context EMILIANA TORRINI, for example, supposedly met her band a day before the gig.