Music & clubs

Jazzed-up jazz

The annual Xjazz festival offers a contemporary look at the genre’s legacy. Catch it May 8-12 at various venues in Kreuzberg 61.

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Photo by Nathan Bajar

The annual Xjazz festival offers a contemporary look at the genre’s legacy.

Jazz is often considered the classical music of the USA, and just like rock, hip hop and techno, it’s gotten a thorough whitewashing and found a following back here in the Old World. Launched in 2014, Xjazz evaluates the genre’s status in our increasingly globalized world. The “X” can be read as a cross – as in Xberg, where the festival takes place – but also as a multiplication symbol, where jazz gets cross-pollinated with other musical approaches.

Brooklyn-based Madison McFerrin (May 11, 19:00, photo) builds songs exclusively on the human voice. But she’s nothing like those cliché college a cappella cover bands – instead offering exuberant, layered originals that live up to the legacy of her father, Bobby. Minneapolis’s The Bad Plus (May 10, 19:30), on the other hand, are known for their instrumental interpretations, abstracting Nirvana, Kraftwerk and Aphex Twin through piano, bass and drums.

Those are the lineup’s two lone American acts, and the rest of the world gets repped as well: London’s Kate Tempest (May 8, 20:00) is an interesting choice, as she isn’t even really a musician but has won the Mercury Music Prize as a poet and spoken-word recording artist. Nneka (May 10, 19:30) from Nigeria is a singer and rapper who reaches toward reggae and Afrobeat, while Rymden (May 10, 21:00) is a sort of Scandinavian supergroup with a more traditional but still forward-thinking approach.

Of course, Germany doesn’t get neglected. Stalwart trio Brandt Brauer Frick (May 10, 21:30) and deep-house producer Henrik Schwarz (May 8, 19:30) apply a Teutonic pulse to jazz, the former previewing their next album and the latter performing with Amsterdam’s Alma Quartet on strings. You can also check out up-and-coming local acts such as the nine-piece Wanubalé (May 9, 18:00), incorporating funk and dub, or vocalist and beatmaker J. Lamotta (May 10, 20:00), who also plays the pocket trumpet. The five-day affair is spread over various venues, from punk institution SO36 to luxury gentrifier Orania Berlin. If you’re looking to jazz up this month, X marks the spot.

Xjazz May 8-12 Full programme and venues at