In “Of Outer Spaces.The Jazzfest  Berlin goes digital“ Nico Daleman reflected on what it does to a music like jazz, which lives from the presence and performance of its interpreters and audience, to be conveyed in „real time” via live stream. How much the Jazzfest Berlin proves to be an exponent of a lively, diversified and international Jazz music scene is now shown by Nico Daleman looking at the programmes of “Jazzfest Berlin – New York“ – section of the festival, which are presented as tandems between the silent green in Berlin and the roulette in Brooklyn New York.

Joel Ross‘ ensemble, Jazzfest Berlin 7. November 2020, Roulette in Brooklyn, New York © Wolf Daniel


Besides Outer Spaces, the digital version of Jazzfest Berlin also took place in real spaces around the world. On Friday and Saturday, the programme presented a tandem between the Betonhalle in silent green Berlin, and the Roulette in Brooklyn, New York. For a festival that uses the tag of “Jazz” as an umbrella for different expressions of improvised, “real time” and cross-genre music, the association with more traditional jazz institutions on other side of the Atlantic, validates this categorisation. 


Tomas Fujiwara, Jazzfest Berlin, 7. November 2020, Roulette in Brooklyn New York © Wolf Daniel


On Friday afternoon, the opener of the series delivered a categorical statement on how to properly jazz, straight from New York. Saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin’s classic bebop quartet combo started with a refreshing and energetic tribute to Alicia and John Coltrane. Most of the other performances at Roulette maintained a constant musical language of recognisable jazz, even though there were interested in unusual instrumentations such as vibraphonist Joel Ross’ ensemble that included harp; Tomas Fujiwara ensemble of two drum sets, two guitars and two trumpets; and Ana Webber Septet that included cello and different flutes, reeds and saxophones. Farther from the tradition were the pointillistic free improvisations of Ingrid Laubrock and Kris Davis that created a sparse and lose contrapuntal atmosphere where silence could be heard as a third performer.  


Ingrid Laubrock and Kris Davis, Jazzfest Berlin, 7. November 2020, Roulette in Brooklyn, New York © Wolf Daniel


On this side of the Ocean, more eclectic forms and formats of music were showcased. Max Andrzejewski and Johannes Schleiermacher, a duo of drums and saxophone complemented by a rich number of modular synthesizers and electronic sounds, found in video artist Isil Karatas an outstanding interdisciplinary collaborator for their free improvisation with surreal quotidian sounds. The virtual participation of guitarist John Dietrich via Zoom was as close as we got to a telematic performance, a format that would have been worth exploring deeper, given the current situation and given the already established connection between Berlin and New York. Continuing with more electronic amusements, Dan Nicholls and Ludwig Wandinger assembled a last-minute performance of a remix of Y_OTIS’s last release by. With a heavily computer-based set that samples and remixes some of the pieces of this album, the duo seamlessly demonstrated the possibilities of computer-based live electronics in the performance of real-time music. 


Vocalist Cansu Tanrikurlu, MEOW! Project, Jazzfest Berlin, 7. November 2020, silent Green in Berlin © Camille Blake


The highlight of this series goes to the MEOW! Project, driven by the hypnotic performance of the vocalist Cansu Tanrikurlu, that unapologetically transforms her voice from glitchy autotune, to pitch-shifted crooner-style voices and other playful tricks that lead this project of avant-garde pop into exquisite foolishness. Self-aware and naïve, political and silly, elegant and grotesque, an elementary concept taken to exhaustion as musical material. Together with curator Nadin Deventer taking the camera briefly to announce Biden’s victory in the presidential election while the cats chanted “focus on the arts!”, the ensemble registered a moment for the books.

Without falling into generalisations, what results palpable from these paired concerts are the distinct conceptions of Jazz that the Berlin and New York stages showcased. While the Berlin concerts had more avant-garde style, mixing different instrumentations, sound sources, genres and art forms, the New York scene appears to be firmly rooted in a tradition that sees Jazz as the primary musical expression that carries with it the realities of years of slavery, segregation, ghettoisation, mass incarceration and marginalisation perpetuated against African Americans.

Ultimately, the comparison between those two sides of the same coin allows the Jazzfest Berlin to be the exponent of a vibrant scene of music that branches out both from the traditional concept of Jazz, and from the pressuring influence of the European “New Music” institutions. This effectively creates a “third stream” within musical genres, more closely related to what the people in America have labeled Contemporary Improvisation.  

With the kick-off event on November 5th at 7:00 p.m. in the concrete hall of silent green, the video livestream started on ARTE Concert and on Berliner Festspiele on Demand. The live stream is also available on the websites of the ARD radio stations and Deutschlandradio, the Europe Jazz Network and the partners in the USA – Roulette in New York and the US-wide jazz broadcaster WBGO. You can find out the exact schedule of the daily live streams from November 5th to 8th at