The first time I attended Berlin’s jazz festival, back in 1969, the programme at the Philharmonie included Duke Ellington and Miles Davis. But in a basement nightclub called the Quartier Latin (long since renamed Quasimodo) a group of younger musical dissidents were holding an anti-festival, giving me my first live exposure to the remarkable gifts of the saxophonist Peter Brötzmann. Today, of course, Brötzmann is a revered elder statesman of the European free-jazz scene, which he did so much to bring into being, but the intensity of that experience remains a vivid memory.

One of the great pleasures of spending the past year preparing for the 2015 Jazzfest has come through taking a chance to become better acquainted with today’s Berlin music scene. I knew that the city was full of creative activity throughout all the arts, but I was hardly prepared for what I discovered at three festivals which provided a clear view of the amount of fascinating jazz and jazz-related music being made in the city all year round.

The first was January’s Kollektiv Nights, an event run by locally based musicians at Tiyatrom, a small 1960s building in Kreuzberg now used as a home for Turkish theatre. Three nights, with three bands per night, delivered a considerable amount of interesting music, and I was particularly impressed by the compositions of the alto saxophonist Wanja Slavin, the striking voice of Lucia Cadotsch and the highly original work of the vibraphonist Charly Birkenhauer.

Four months later, also in Kreuzberg, the ambitious XJAZZ festival took over the whole district – bars, churches, theatres – over four nights to provide a much wider array of music, from the delicate chamber-jazz of the trio led by the vibraphonist Karl Ivar Refseth to the wild ride provided by the Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra. This is a festival so densely programmed that it is impossible to hear everything, but I enjoyed the confrontational Hyperactive Kid, featuring the brilliantly textured guitar of Ronny Graupe, and a more conventional but superbly realised suite for tenor saxophone (Peter Weniger, director of the UdK’s Jazz Institute), vibes (David Friedman, who founded the UdK’s jazz programme), and a double string quartet, creating a sound perfectly suited to the ambiance of the Emmaus-Kirche.

Finally, in August, came A l’Arme!, which began with a night at Berghain before moving on to Radialsystem V, on the other side of the S-Bahn tracks. The imaginative programme devised by the curator, Louis Rastig, enabled me to become acquainted with Selvhenter, a very powerful group of four women based in Copenhagen, and to hear the great American bassist William Parker with konstruKt, the Turkish improvising quartet.

But it was the opening night at Berghain that provided the most memorable experience, as the American bass guitarist Bill Laswell and the Canadian bass saxophonist Colin Stetson exploited the club’s astonishing sound system to the full. It was operated close to the limits of the human ability to withstand volume, but it was never just loud: the two men were opening out the possibilities of music, which is one of the things jazz has always done.

A l’arme! Festival 2015, Colin Stetson © Geert Vandepoele

Laswell was playing duets with Peter Brötzmann back in the 1980s (they were also together in the band Last Exit), and Stetson is one of the saxophonists inspired by classic Brötzmann albums such as “Machine Gun” and “Nipples”. Listening to them filling every corner of Berghain with howling noise, I couldn’t help thinking of that night at the Quartier Latin in 1969. And I felt that I’d come home.

The Jazzfest Berlin 2015 under the artistic direction of Richard Williams will take place at Haus der Berliner Festspiele and other venues in Berlin from 5 to 8 November 2015. Richard Williams writes about jazz and other music in his blog “The Blue Moment”.