The tenth Jazzdor Berlin Festival will run from May 31st-June 3rd. Its eclectic line-ups have included Maggie Nicols in 2013 (above). Philippe Ochem, director of Jazzdor, spoke to Alison Bentley about the line-up for the forthcoming Festival in Berlin and the origins of Jazzdor in Strasbourg:
London Jazz News: Congratulations on the 10th anniversary of Jazzdor. What special events have you organised?
Philippe Ochem: As usual, we’ll premiere some new projects, especially German-French ones. First of all we have [drummer] Dejan Terzic’s new band, Axiom: it’s with [US saxophonist] Chris Speed, pianist Bojan Z and [New Zealand-born US bassist] Matt Penman. The French and German musicians are originally from the eastern part of Europe: Bojan lives near Paris and Dejan has lived in Berlin for a long time. This project was created especially for the Festival. There’s also the duo featuring Joachim Kühn and Émile Parisien. We’ve been working together with Émile and Joachim for a long while- I’ve known Joachim for more than thirty years. We’ve worked with Émile every year for the last four to five years. We put on the premiere of his new quintet, so now we have the opportunity to present this duo with Joachim for the first time.
LJN: Do you choose all the bands?
LJN: And you’re a musician yourself?
PO: Yes, even though I’ve stopped playing for the last two or three years. I was a professional musician for more than twenty-five years.
LJN: Do you think that affects your choice of bands and musicians?
PO: I’m sure yes, because it’s something different if you are a musician and a festival and concert organiser.
LJN: What do you look for when you choose the musicians?
PO: For me, the main thing is for them to play for the first time to the audience in Berlin- young musicians from the French scene. Then every year I try to put some musicians together, some French, some German. I try to be open-minded. Sometimes I’m able to book some totally improvised music but also a different kind of aesthetic. It doesn’t matter whether the musicians play written or improvised music. For me the most important thing is to try to present to the audience a special reflection of what jazz is today. You can see a lot of young musicians coming from France, Germany, the US, from everywhere in Europe, who are now playing together.
LJN: Are you planning to take Jazzdor to more cities as well as Strabourg and Berlin?
PO: No, I don’t think so. We have two festivals, [Strasbourg and Berlin] and a concert series during the year, in Strasbourg and the area around.
LJN: To talk about the Berlin Festival. This year you have some very long-established bands like Bernard Struber– his band has been together since 1988?
PO: His composition La Symphony Déjouée is something special. We were commissioned by the Ministry of Culture and the City of Strasbourg. We got some money from the city and the Ministry of Culture, so we’re working for the Bernard Struber Jazztett, which means we are doing business for him: we’re scouting for concerts; we try to commission him to write new music – we’ve done this job for two years now. Bernard Struber lives in Strasbourg. Some of his musicians still live in Strasbourg, such as Michael Alizon, and Raymond Halbeisen, but all the others live in Paris. And for the first time since last October the newcomer is Svetlana Kochanas the singer.
LJN: [French violinist] Dominique Pifarély has a long-standing band too- and he’s just recorded a new CD for ECM. Will he be playing some of that music?
PO: It’ll be the German premiere of this quartet, and the official CD launch. I don’t know if [ECM boss] Manfred Eicher will come to Berlin, but it’ll be a special evening.
LJN: And you also have some young bands- [multi-reeds player] Sylvain Rifflet’s band Mechanics and the Ceccaldi brothers, and qÖÖlp.
PO: That’s the third German-French project we have in our programme It’s a strange name- I don’t know exactly what it means! The aim was to put together these two young French brothers Theo Ceccaldi [violin] and Valentin Ceccaldi [cello] with those fantastic musicians from Berlin, Ronny Graupe on guitar and Christian Lillinger on drums- he’s well-known now in Europe. And, by the way, we will do this premiere in Berlin and then again in Strasbourg in November.
LJN: Christian is a very dynamic drummer and the Ceccaldi brothers sometimes make me think of Erik Satie. It’s a really interesting combination.
PO: Yes, that’s right. It also shows something about these young musicians, because they’re very well-trained in a classical way, but also in new music and improvised music. Theo Ceccaldi and Roberto Negro are also playing as a duo. They created a fantastic work based on Ligeti’s Quartets. It’s a mix of improvised and composed music. They’ve really worked on Ligeti’s music and reduced the Quartet for a duo: violin and piano. It’s really exciting.
LJN: And there’s world music- Naïssam Jalal and Electric Vocuhila, for example.
PO: Naïssam Jalal- her parents were born in Syria. She’s from Paris but she has a strong connection with her home country. She’s also a real jazz flute-player, very talented, and I like her band very much because all the musicians are from different countries: they’re German, French and Tunisian, so it’s a really nice mix. It’s a kind of post-Coltrane conception of music, and at the same time, into world music: really jazz, but also really ethnic.
Regarding Electric Vocuhila, it’s not easy to say in a few words but it’s a kind of ethno-jazz, Afrobeat too- they’re very energetic, and it’s a great band. And for the first time because of our tenth anniversary we’ll organise a dance floor, for Le Bal des Faux Frères.
LJN: Un Poco Loco seem to have the strongest connection with American jazz.
PO: Yes, because they play standards, but it’s really interesting to listen to it in detail. The general form is more or less classic jazz but inside it’s more complex. You can find some details in the writing which are really more from now.
LJN: And there’s a link with Jimmy Guiffre’s trio style?
PO: Yes, it’s not far from this kind of aesthetic.
LJN: What gave you the idea to begin the Jazzdor Festival?
PO: The funny thing is- it was not my idea! It was about 11 years ago, I had a phone call from Le Bureau d’Export de la Musique Française in Berlin. In those days it was Patrice Hourbette. He called me because I was supposed to be a kind of specialist regarding German-French cooperation in music, because of organising things in Strasbourg and Germany. He said, ‘Hey, Philippe, what do you think about organising a new festival in Berlin?’ I said, ‘Patrice, just wait for a day or two for me to think about it,’ because we had no money. We had to build something new from nothing. And so finally, we found a small amount of money at the beginning to make it possible. We had great support from the Bureau d’Export, and our first partner was SACEM- the alter-ego of the PRS in Britain. We got the support of the City of Strasbourg and the Ministry of Culture, and step by step we found the money to make it real.
LJN: What does ‘Jazzdor’ mean?
PO: The first edition of the Festival was in a small club, a Café-Concert called L’Ange d’Or, the Golden Angel. That’s why they called the Festival ‘Jazzdor’. But now that’s forgotten and everybody knows what kind of jazz it is. The main thing is for the Festival to be a platform for young French jazz, and for promoting French-German jazz projects, which is really important for us. It’s also a platform for music professionals, which means every evening we have 70-80 people there: musicians, booking agents, label managers, festival directors. We invite them into our network from France and Germany and sometimes from the UK, Holland, Denmark and some Eastern European countries too.
FULL 2016 JAZZDOR BERLIN PROGRAMME
20:00 to 21:00 DEJAN TERZIC “AXIOM” WITH CHRIS SPEED, BOJAN Z AND MATT PENMAN
21:00 to 22:00 BERNARD STRUBER JAZZTETT “LA SYMPHONY DÉJOUÉÉ”
20:00 to 21:00 JOACHIM KÜHN & EMILE PARISIEN – PREMIERE
21:00 to 22:00.DOMINIQUE PIFARELY QUARTET
22:00 to 23:00 SYLVAIN RIFFLET “MECHANICS”
20:00 to 21:00 NAÎSSAM JALAL & RHYTHMS OF RESISTANCE
21:00 to 22:00 THEO CECCALDI / VALENTIN CECCALDI / RONNY GRAUPE / CHRISTIAN LILLINGER “qÖÖlp”
22:00 to 23:15 ELECTRIC VOCUHILA
20:00 to 21:00 ROBERTO NEGRO & THÉO CECCALDI “DANSE DE SALON”
21:00 to 22:00 UN POCO LOCO
22:00 to 23:30 LE BAL DES FAUX FRÈRES feat. MARC DUCRET