With so much happening in Berlin, deciding where to go and what to do can get complicated. The jazz clubs are a perfect nighttime venue for me. It’s a comfortable, friendly atmosphere with fantastic music! Most clubs are small and fill up fast, so the challenge is booking yourself before performances sell out.
Booking Berlin Jazz Performances
There are a few helpful local websites – Jazzity and Guide to the Jazzy Side of Berlin – but they don’t book your ticket. Jazz clubs don’t always take credit cards or have apps that allow you to book performances and download tickets on your phone.
If you can’t book in advance, the only choice is to show up and hope for the best. If you make a reservation but don’t arrive on time to pay – they will sell your space.
Most evenings those with and without reservations line up outside Berlin jazz clubs. Box offices open 30 – 60 minutes before performances begin.
I’ve visited these Berlin jazz clubs and describe them below:
- A-Trane International Jazz Club
- b-flat Acoustic Music + Jazz Club
- Junction Live Music Club
A-Trane International Jazz Club
A-Trane in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf was founded in 1992. Performances begin at 9 pm, with a late Saturday jam session, “Jazz after Midnight,” and an occasional early performance. The small club holds a max of 100 guests. It’s a popular JazzFest venue and my favorite club in Berlin!
Famous artists who’ve appeared at A-Trane include Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Diana Krall, Dave Grusin, Lee Ritenour, and many others. The owner is “Turkish-born ex-graphic artist and basketball player” Sedal Sardan. In 2013, Sedal won the German ECHO music award for jazz promotion.
The club is named after John Coltrane (nicknamed “Trane”), “reminiscent of the unequaled Duke Ellington standard – Take the A Train”!
I saw the Émile Parisien Quartet at A-Trane – a phenomenal performance which I’ll describe later in this post. This quartet produces high-quality jazz!
b-flat Acoustic Music + Jazz Club
Architect Claudius Pratsch designed the club’s acoustics. B-flat is known for its “diverse, lively” performances. Many well-known artists appear at the club, including Randy Brecker, Harry Connick Jr., Joe Sample, and Brad Mehldau.
Quasimodo in Charlottenburg is one of the “oldest live music clubs on the Berlin cultural landscape”. In 1975 Genoese Giorgio Carioti acquired the club, renamed it Quasimodo, and made it one of the most important live jazz clubs in Berlin.
International stars like Branford Marsalis, Prince, and Chaka Khan have appeared at Quasimodo. The club is beneath the Delphi Film Palace and Quasimodo Restaurant. It’s a “musical place of worship for quality jazz, blues, rock, Latin, soul, and funk”.
At Quasimodo, “fans from all over the world meet like old friends in a cozy ambiance somewhere between tradition and modernity, united by the music.”
Junction Live Music Club
Junction is in the heart of Kreuzberg a few blocks from my apartment. After German Reunification in 1989, Junction “held its position in Berlin’s nightlife” even when other neighborhoods became more popular music venues.
Junction is “divided into two parts” – café and bar (above) and live music club (below). Every night the basement remains “the place for live music” in Berlin.
“Jazz, pop, blues, Brasil, rap, and funk – anything goes at the Junction.”
Émile Parisien Quartet at A-Trane
Last night I saw the Émile Parisien Quartet perform at A-Trane. It was incredible!! The 9 pm performance was fully booked, but I got a ticket for an earlier session. What’s even better, I was invited to take a closer seat only a few feet from the musicians! Watching them perform was almost as exciting as listening to their music.
French saxophonist, composer Émile Parisien is a phenomenon who “lives every moment of his music and makes it dance”. His talented quartet includes:
- Émile Parisien – Soprano and Alto Saxophone
- Julien Touery – Piano
- Ivan Gélugne – Double Bass
- Julien Loutellier – Drums
“The Parisien Quartet plays music that maybe only French people can. It’s intellectual and nefarious, provocative and witty, anarchic and disciplined.”
Parisien performs at festivals like Jazz in Marciac and has played with well-known musicians including Wynton Marsalis, Christian McBride, Johnny Griffin, and Bobby Hutcherson. Classical and contemporary composers Hector Berlioz, Igor Stravinsky, Richard Wagner, John Coltrane, and Wayne Shorter inspire him.
Known as a “jazz visionary” Parisien’s many distinctions and awards include:
- Export Office Award 2018
- Victoires du Jazz Award 2017 Sfumato Album of the Year
- ECHO Jazz Deutscher Musikpreis 2017
- 2015 ECHO Jazz Best International Ensemble
- Victoires du Jazz 2014 Artist of the Year
- 2012 Prix Django Reinhardt Best French Jazz Musician
- Talent of Jazz of the Sacem Action Fund for 3 years in a row
“The reference points on Parisien’s personal musical map are wide. They range from France’s popular folk traditions to the compositional rigour of contemporary classical music and abstract free jazz.”
The group captured the audience completely and held their attention every minute. A-Trane has a relaxed environment and the animated movements and humor of the musicians were a treat. They played outstanding original compositions written by Parisien and other members of the quartet. It’s clear they’re professionals who love their music deeply and perform from the heart.
The group just released a CD – Double Screening – and were signing copies at the club. I’ll return for more A-Trane performances, but none quite like the incredible Émile Parisien Quartet!