Music & clubs

Jazzfest: Jazz without borders

Ready for a world of jazz? From the genre's roots in the US to its far-flung offshoot in Norway, Jazzfest gathers 150 musicians at the Festspiele, A-Trane and Lido to celebrate its 54th edition (Oct 31-Nov 5).

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Photo by Camille Blake

British jazz luminary Richard Williams is curating the annual festival for the third and last time, so a little thematic emphasis on Brexit doesn’t come as a surprise. Under the banner of Berlin-London Conversation, musicians from both cities join forces at A-Trane (Nov 2-4, 21:00). And speaking of EU limbo, Norway provides two of this year’s highlights. With his latest composition Abstracts from Norway, NDR Bigband leader Geir Lysne reflects on his home country with plenty of brass at Haus der Berliner Festspiele (Nov 2, 20:00), whereas the Trondheim Voices (vocal improv a la Björk’s Medúlla) make use of the organ at Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche played by Kit Downes (Nov 5, 15:00).

America, meanwhile, is sending over some of its heaviest hitters – starting with drummer, composer and freshly crowned MacArthur Genius Tyshawn Sorey. As Jazzfest’s first-ever ‘artist in residence’, he’ll perform four times with his own trio and various German musicians, culminating in a large-scale improv piece that will also close out the festival (Nov 5, 19:00, Festspiele). Trumpet virtuoso Ambrose Akinmusire (pictured) takes us all the way to the Mississippi State Penitentiary with the premiere of a piece centred around rare song recordings of Mattie Mae Thomas, who was imprisoned there in 1939. And if you’re a Wilco fan, you won’t want to miss guitarist Nels Cline and his ‘Lovers’ reinterpreting old American Songbook ballads, Gábor Szabó, Sonic Youth and Cline’s own compositions (Nov 4, 18:30, Festspiele).

Not jazzy enough for you? Aside from Jazzfest, we’ll be visited by three veritable kings of the genre in November: Ethiopian legend Mulatu Astatke hitting Gretchen for the second time this year (Nov 1, 21:00); free jazz pioneer Pharoah Sanders at Festsaal Kreuzberg (Nov 14, 21:00); and fusion maestro Herbie Hancock at Admiralspalast (Nov 21, 19:00).