Berlin Jazz Clubs and Émile Parisien Quartet

Mike Russell’s Funky Soul Kitchen at Quasimodo – http://www.mikerussell.de

With so much happening in Berlin deciding where to go and what to do gets complicated. Berlin’s jazz clubs are a perfect nighttime venue for me. The atmosphere is comfortable and friendly – the music fantastic! Most clubs are small and fill up fast, so the challenge is booking a space before performances sell out.

Gauthier Toux Trio Live at b-flat – Peter C Theis

Booking 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 for you… Jazz clubs don’t always take credit cards or have apps that allow you to book performances and download tickets on your phone.

Quasimodo – MyCityHighlight

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 sell your space.

Jazz Club A-Trane – Kauperts

Most evenings those with and without reservations line up outside popular jazz clubs. Box offices open 30 – 60 minutes before the performance begins.

I’ve visited these Berlin jazz clubs and describe them below:

  • A-Trane International Jazz Club
  • b-flat Acoustic Music + Jazz Club
  • Quasimodo
  • Junction Live Music Club
Prince at Quasimodo – Photographer Unknown

A-Trane International Jazz Club

A-Trane in Charlottenburg was founded in 1992. Performances begin at 9 pm and on Saturdays there’s a jam session “Jazz after Midnight”. Occasionally they have an earlier performance. The small club holds a max of 100 guests. It’s a popular JazzFest venue and my favorite club in Berlin!

Some artists who’ve appeared at A-Trane include Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Diana Krall, Dave Grusin, Lee Ritenour, and 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. He and his staff help with tickets.

b-flat Berlin Mitte

The club is named after John Coltrane (nicknamed “Trane”), “reminiscent of the unequaled Duke Ellington standard – Take the A Train :o)”!

I saw the Émile Parisien Quartet at A-Trane – a phenomenal performance which I’ll describe later in this post.

A-Trane Owner Sedal Sardan – YouTube

b-flat Acoustic Music + Jazz Club

Popular b-flat is in Mitte District. Two musician brothers – Jannis Zoto and Thanassis Zoto – and actor, producer, writer André Hennecke founded the club in 1995.

Jannis Zotos b-flat – David Beecroft

Architect Claudius Pratsch designed the club’s acoustics. B-flat is known for “diverse and lively” performances. Many well-known artists appear at the club, including Randy Brecker, Joe Sample, Harry Connick Jr., and Brad Mehldau.

Quasimodo

Quasimodo in Charlottenburg is one of the “oldest live music clubs on the Berlin cultural landscape”. In 1975 Genoese Giorgio Carioti took over the existing club, renamed it Quasimodo, and made it one of the most important live jazz clubs in Berlin.

Quasimodo – c Quasimodo GmbH

International stars like Branford Marsalis, Prince, and Chaka Khan have appeared at Quasimodo. The club is beneath the Delphi Film Palace and the Quasimodo Restaurant. It’s known as a “musical place of worship for quality jazz, blues, rock, Latin, soul, and funk”.

Giorgio Carioti Quasimodo – Foto Emilio Esbardo

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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.”

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A-Trane – c visitBerlin.de Foto Pierre Adenis

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” 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 Jam Junction Live Music Club – Brixton Buzz

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“Jazz, pop, blues, Brasil, rap, and funk – anything goes at the Junction.”

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Emile Parisien Quartet – c ACT Sylvaim Gripoix

Émile Parisien Quartet at A-Trane

Last night I saw the Émile Parisien Quartet perform at A-Trane. It was incredible!!! The performance at 9 pm was fully booked, but they had an earlier session, and I was able to get a reservation. What’s even better, I was invited to take a closer seat only a few feet from the musicians! Watching them perform was as exciting as listening to their music.

French saxophonist and composer Émile Parisien is a phenomenon who “lives every moment of his music and makes it dance”.  His talented quartet includes:

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“The Parisien Quartet plays music that maybe only French people can. It’s intellectual and nefarious, provocative and witty, anarchic and disciplined.”

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Julien Touery © Emmanuelle Vial 2013

Parisien attended Marciac Jazz College and the Conservatory of Toulouse where he studied both classical and contemporary music. He moved to Paris in 2000 and founded his own quartet.

Julien Loutelier – http://www.julienloutelier.com

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 his compositions.

Known as a “jazz visionary” Parisien’s many distinctions and awards include:

Ivan Gélugne Bass – http://www.jazzimbild.at

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“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.”

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Emile Parisien Quartet – c ACT Sylvaim Gripoix

The group captured the audience completely and held their attention every minute. A-Trane is 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.

Emile Parisien Quartet – c ACT Sylvaim Gripoix

The group just released a new CD – Double Screening – and were signing copies at the club. I’ll return for more A-Trane performances, but none like the Émile Parisien Quartet!

Berlin Jazz Festival November 2018

Jazzfest 2018

Berlin hosted its 2018 Jazz Festival from November 1 through 4. Founded in 1964 as Berliner JazztageJazzfest Berlin is one of Europe’s most renowned music festivals. Over four days, Artistic Director Nadine Deventer orchestrated multiple concerts with sold-out performances focusing on contemporary European jazz.

Jazzfest Berlin Director Nadine Deventer

The main stage was Berlin’s modern theater building – the Haus der Berliner Festspiele – which seats about 1000. Other performances were held at jazz clubs, landmarks, and businesses throughout Berlin’s diverse neighborhoods.

I watched two concerts, one at Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and the other at the House of the Berliner Festspiele. Both featured outstanding contemporary jazz artists!

New Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Neo-romanesque Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (Gedächtniskirche) is the symbolic centre of West Berlin. There are two buildings in the “Gedächtniskirche ensemble” – the ruins of the pre-WWII church (called the “hollow tooth”) and a beautiful new church symbolizing the “desire to build up Berlin in the post-war period”.

Inside Remains of Pre WWII Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

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Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is a Berlin landmark and “memorial against war and destruction”.

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Kaiser Wilhelm Church Before WWII Bombings

The stark remains of the original church are like a tube encased in stained-glass windows. The acoustics were fantastic, and it was a great venue for Threads of Estonia.

Ceiling New Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Haus der Berliner Festspiele

The Haus der Berliner Festspiele, known as the “Theater of the Free People’s Stage,” opened in 1963. In 1999 it was sold to an investor and in 2001 reopened as the “Haus der Berliner Festspiele”. The large theater is used year-round as the stage for events and festivals featuring international artists of all disciplines. It’s a bustling venue!

Threads of Estonia – Maria Faust and Kara-Lis Coverdale

The audience was mostly German, with few foreigners in the crowd, except the French couple seated in front of me who kissed their way through the concert.

Maria Faust Alto Saxophonist

Maria Faust

Composer Maria Faust plays alto saxophone and her group consists of a tenor saxophone, piano, cello, and two double basses. The music is avant-garde and a delight for those who appreciate contemporary jazz.

Maria Faust

Award-winning Faust is described as a “phenomenon”. She grew up “under the Soviet Star in Kurressare on the Estonian island of Saaremaa”. Conducting was a part of Faust’s classic and contemporary music education.

“Disarming openness and originality” characterize Faust’s many projects. Her search for the “musical expression of the elemental depths and abysses of our existence” is expressed in her recent chamber music work “Machina“. I thoroughly enjoyed the concert. The brilliant music definitely gets inside your head.

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“If you close your eyes, a kind of Nordic Saudade (longing) opens up: waves, chugging engine noises, sudden silence, heavy fog, and breaking light form a soulful, breathing, intimate whole.”

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Kara-Lis Coverdale

Illusive composer and organ soloist Kara-Lis Coverdale is Canadian with Estonian roots. Her electronic music is unique and hard to describe – “flowing beautiful sound has never been her thing”. She played with little light except that shimmering from the stained-glass windows and didn’t appear before or after her performance.

Coverdale is involved in Berlin’s MaerzMusik scene. Berlin hosts a 2019 MaerzMusik festival from March 16 to 25. The festival “combines the diverse currents within contemporary music with a contrasting panorama of renowned artists worldwide”.

Kara-Lis Coverdale

Coverdale has been “absorbing Nordic religious music since she was a teenager”. She’s church organist and choirmaster at the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. John in Montreal. Coverdale is known as a “troublemaker who mixes hip-hop with the hymnals at her day job”. She composed the abstract piece “Extended Shadows” especially for her performance at Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.

Berliner Festspiele | MaerzMusik 2016 "The Long Now" Kraftwerk, 19/20.03.2016

MaerzMusik Festival Haus der Berliner Festspiele – taz.de

Kim Myhr / Mary Halvorson Octet / Bill Frisell

This rich performance included excellent back-to-back concerts on the main stage at Haus der Berliner Festspiele. The crowd was young and enthusiastic.

Kim Myhr

Norwegian composer, sound artist, and guitarist Kim Myhr is “concerned with creating a slowly developing, multi-layered sound cosmos that is so saturated with details that you believe you’re swimming in it” – not sure I understand that… Myhr is a “voice of Norway’s creative experimental music scene”.

Kim Myhr – Electric and Acoustic Guitar (c) Orfee Schuijt

An active composer Myhr writes music for chamber ensembles, electroacoustic settings, and theatrical projects. His performance included electric, bass, and acoustic guitars and three percussionists. His album You | me “is a work with a continuous pulse in which everything derives from a single musical idea”.

Mary Halvorson Octet

Guitarist Mary Halvorson’s Octet was the “highly anticipated culmination of her New York-based Jazzfest residence”. She spent two week-long residencies at New York’s legendary Village Vanguard jazz club and is one of the “most distinctive and original improvisers of her time”.

Mary Halvorson Guitarist – Bomb Magazine

Halvorson’s popular octet includes pedal steel guitar, trumpet, tenor saxophones, trombone, bass, and drums. She’s produced a phenomenal 27 albums in three years and is extremely popular in Berlin. Her album Away With You is highly praised.

Mary Halvorson Octet

Bill Frisell

Bill Frisell has long been a favorite of mine! I love his gentle sound, a contrast to the sounds of other performers during the evening. He was popular in the Bay Area and I remember his music when I was living in San Francisco.

Bill Frisell Guitar Soloist – Press Photo

Frisell attended renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston and lived in New York City. His distinctive, easy-to-listen-to music is sometimes described as “somewhere between Bonnie Raitt and John Zorn”.

Last year Frisell produced a duo album with bassist Thomas Morgan followed by a solo album “Music Is”.  He begins a tour of solo concerts here in Berlin.