Feature/Interview

Interview with Philippe Ochem (Jazzdor Strasbourg 6-20 November)

The full programme for this year’s Festival Jazzdor (Strasbourg, 6-20 November 2020) has just been published. The planning for this year’s festival has meant frequent amendments as rules and practical considerations have changed. The festival programme – full list below – involves around 15 different venues. Festival director Philippe Ochem – who is also President of AJC (Association Jazzé Croisé), the main body combining and representing organisations (festivals, venues, theatres, cultural centres and clubs) involved in disseminating jazz in France – spoke to Sebastian:

Philippe Ochem. Photo credit Abdesslam Mirdass

“It is complicated. But at the same time we have learned to be remarkably supple,” says Philippe Ochem. “When you are restricted you have to deal with the situation as it is. There are bound to be more changes, that is more or less certain.” The planning of this year’s festival has been an exercise in dealing with the knock-on effects of constant changes in rules both nationally and internationally.

One by one, the Americans who had been booked – such as the duo of John Scofield and Dave Holland, trumpeter Avishai Cohen and violinist Mat Maneri – have been obliged to cancel. But there have been European bands to replace them, and the result is an eclectic programme which includes premieres and new contexts, and also plays to Jazzdor’s strengths, notably a strong awareness of the broader scene in Europe. (The full programme is below.)

Ochem sounds remarkably calm as he goes through the factors he and his team have been dealing with: “There are problems with Germany, there are problems navigating between the red zones in France and Germany… and there will be new challenges too. We don’t know what the situation will actually be once we get to November.” The situation with the musicians they are able to book has just been one of the factors to keep front-of-mind. The number of seats in halls that the organisers are able to fill has also been a moving target, and the concept of selling groups of seats to people living at the same address is a nightmare for box offices to deal with.

That said, Ochem knows that, as a publicly subsidised cultural organisation in Strasbourg, and in France, the organisation he leads has been spared the threats affecting others in the sector. “We are clearly not in the position of a lot of promoters of new music who are under the obligation to earn their keep from ticket sales. We have a totally different financing model. And when I say we are lucky I am talking about France in general, where culture is heavily subsidised by the government and the regions and cities.”

The response of the French public sector to the crisis has been to ensure that Jazzdor’s financing and contractual obligations and the staff remain intact: “We all stayed on full time – except that for four months we were away from work. Right now everyone is back at work.”

And the response has been joined up and coherent too: “Everyone has been supportive, in fact. From the state in the form of the Ministry of Culture, to the region, the city, the département, they have all – and not just for us but for all the cultural and artistic entities in Strasbourg – kept all the financing that they give in place.”

I asked Ochem if streaming might be the way forward, and for him it is not something he sees as a priority: “Quite honestly, for me streamed concerts are not a solution, it is not a plan we have. Our plan, even if we are just at half-capacity, is to do everything we can to make the concerts happen. Streaming is not even a Plan B. We are going to do the concerts, unless we are forbidden from holding them.” The events in October where Jazzdor’s season will be launched and a curtain-raiser event for the festival will be the exceptions here, and will be streamed in order to get the message out .

Berlin/ Dresden and Budapest

In our conversation, Ochem talked about two interesting projects in development. Jazzdor in Strasbourg has a long experience of fostering collaborations between German and French artists. “We have been playing the Franco-German card for about 20 years. It first came to fruition with a partnership with the culture department of the town of Offenburg in Baden Wuerttemberg, and thereafter with the festival in Berlin. We are – fingers crossed – planning to be back in Berlin in June 2021. And we are working at taking a ‘little extension’ of the festival to Dresden. Strasbourg and Dresden are twin cities, so the idea is to have four French or French-German projects that are also taken to Dresden.”

The second plan involves Hungary. “We also have in our plans the project of a Jazzdor Strasbourg Budapest, to be held at Budapest Music Center. It was originally planned for 2021 but for the moment we are looking at holding it in 2022. We work on a lot of things and have done for some years. It is difficult for the time being but it is definitely a project, and we will see if spring 2022 can work.”

The new season programme for Jazzdor

FULL PROGRAMME FOR JAZZDOR STRASBOURG 2020

Friday 6 November
1. MATTHIEU METZGER / PAUL BROUSSEAU “SOURCE”
2. PAOLO FRESU “TEMPO DI CHET”

Saturday 7 November
3. AKOSH S. SOLO
4. KAJA DRAKSLER SOLO
5. WOLLNY/PARISIEN + PAPANOSH/MINVIELLE

Sunday 8 November
6. PAOLO ANGELI
7. AKOSH S. TRIO
8. STEIDLE “KILLING POPES” INVITE LEÏLA MARTIAL & MARC DUCRET – CRÉATION + DUCRET “LADY M”

Tuesday 10 November
9. KEPLER
10. ENRICO RAVA “80 YEARS OF MUSIC”
11. BARRY GUY/MAYA HOMBURGER/RAMON LOPEZ/METTE RASMUSSEN

Wednesday 11 November
12. MUSIQUES EN CHANTIER
13. RYMDEN + PERRAUD/WEBER/FLORENT FEAT. PORTAL

Thursday 12 November
14. YOU
15. REVERSE WINCHESTER + KOMA SAXO

Friday 13 November
16. NOSAX NOCLAR
17. POHJOLA/KALLIO “ANIMAL IMAGE” + RIFFLET/IRABAGON “REBELLION(S)”

Saturday 14 November.
18. LILA BAZOOKA
19. OSTRAKINDA + FRANÇOIS HOULE “GENERA” SEXTET

Sunday 15 November
20. SATCHI
21. COUTURIER/LECHNER + RAINER BÖHM QUARTET

Tuesday 17 November
22. LOUIS SCLAVIS “CHARACTERS ON THE WALL”

Wednesday 18 November
23. “HOMMES QUI MARCHENT”
Discussion: The Canterbury Scene

Thursday 19 November
24. MICHAEL ALIZON “EXPANDING UNIVERSE” RELEASE PARTY
25. AMAR SUNDY QUARTET
26. SOFT MACHINE, ROBERT WYATT – THE CANTERBURY SCENE

Friday 20 November
27. ANDY EMLER MEGAOCTET

This interview is a co-publication with Citizen Jazz

LINK: Jazzdor website 

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