2014 is quite a year for anniversaries in Berlin– 25 years since the re-unification of the city; the 10th Festival of Lights; the 170th birthday of Berlin Zoo; and at the end of this month, the 50th Berlin Jazzfest.
One of the oldest jazz festivals in Europe, it started in 1964 as Berliner Jazztage, and has hosted over 5000 artists and over 1000 bands since it began – now that’s a lot of jazz! Taking place all around the city, this year’s festival is ideal for Sofitel guests, with many of the venues – including Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Akademie der Künste, Delphi Filmpalast and Emperor-William-Memorial-Church – close by to the hotel.
Among the performers you can catch the acclaimed (and loud) Norwegian instrumental jazz rock group Hedvig Mollestad Trio; Cologne’s WDR Big Band, who will be performing music with a political slant to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall; the subversive and nuttily-named New Yorker ‘jazz rebels’ Mostly Other People Do The Killing; and German musician Silke Eberhard and her trio Potsa Lotsa.
There will also be a Jazz Film Night at the beautiful art deco Delphi Filmpalast cinema off Kantsrasse, with screenings of Clint Eastwood’s Bird, the Oscar-winning Charlie Parker biopic from 1988, starring Forrest Whitaker as the virtuoso American saxophonist; Bertrand Tavernier’s extraordinary Round Midnight (1986), starring actual jazz man Dexter Gordon as a musician struggling with alcoholism; and Play Your Own Thing, a documentary about jazz in Europe from 2006.
The closing event of the festival will be at Haus der Berliner Festspiele – five minutes stroll from Sofitel Ku’damm – with the band Brass Mask evoking New Orleans– the birthplace of jazz – and Mardi Grass.
“If you’ll have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know”, New Orleans-born jazz legend Louis Armstrong once said. Thankfully, you won’t have to ask where it is, because I’ve just told you.
Photographs © Julia Naglestad/Oliver Potratz/Alexander Richter/Ines Kaiser/Simon Hegenberg/Manuel Miethe
Jazzfest Berlin, 30th October-2nd November, various venues; visit the Jazzfest website here