'No Walls' Between Russian and German Jazz

Manuel Miethe

Silke Eberhard Trio

Moscow's Goethe Institute's fifth annual Autumn Jazz festival features five concerts in September and October.

This fall, for the fifth time, Moscow's Goethe Institute is hosting its Autumn Jazz festival, featuring artists who reflect the depth and variety of the German jazz scene.

"Particular attention is paid to experimental jazz and different approaches to improvisation," said Astrid Wege, head of cultural programs at the institute and the festival's organizer. "We work with Russian partners to prepare for the festival, since it's very important to introduce musicians from Germany to the local scene. This is an important aspect of our festival, as well as the idea of creating an international platform for performers and fans of complex jazz."

Five concerts will be held as part of this year's festival, which has as its theme "No Walls." The first concert, which took place Sept. 23, featured the Silke Eberhard Trio, organized by saxophonist and composer Silke Eberhard with Jan Roder on bass and Kay Lübke on drums. Eberhard herself also plays the clarinet, and admits she has a difficult time deciding which instrument she prefers, saying, "There's something special about both of them."

Eberhard draws inspiration from the musical achievements of her predecessors. She says she focuses particularly on the avant-garde jazz performers of the 1960s. Eberhard characterizes her own music as "free jazz."

One of her biggest inspirations is 1960s era multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy. One of his compositions, "Number Eight (Lotsa Potsa)" gave Eberhard the idea for the name of another ensemble she organizes, Potsa Lotsa. This group began as a quartet, and later gained three members and was renamed Potsa Lotsa Plus.

The September "No Walls" concert was the Russian debut for the Silke Eberhard Trio, but Eberhard, who has traveled all over Europe and the United States said she was able to find common ground with her new audience. One piece in the jazz band's repertoire is a very composition dedicated to the dogs Strelka and Belka, who became the first canines in space in August 1960.

The Silke Eberhard Trio, which has played together since 2007, has won much acclaim from both the public and their colleagues. Viennese musician Christoph Wagner wrote in a review of the group in Neue Zürcher Zeitung in 2008, “deftly and nonchalantly, the trio lays down that casual modern jazz, which succeeds in containing the visceral power of creative improvisation within the boundaries of reason and smacks of sophisticated post-bop whose harmonies and rhythms have been given a steady footing. Predictability is masterfully averted, and no solo overlaps another. What's more, the leading and supporting instruments continually trade places; there is no permanent leader, with all three performers contributing equally."

The Autumn Jazz festival gave Moscow jazz enthusiasts the chance to witness this musical disorder that lays the foundation for wonderful improvisation to come from a chaos of sound.

The second concert on the festival program, held Oct. 1, showcased another trio, the Pablo Held Jazz Trio. Pablo Held (piano), Robert Landfermann (bass), and Jonas Burgwinkel (drums) have been together for 10 years and are well known in Europe. Their style is relaxed, measured, melodic ­— good classic jazz.

The third festival concert, on Oct. 8, features one of the most unusual jazz groups around. The Tradition Trio is famed for their love of expressive improvisation. This band only has one German, trombonist Johannes (Hannes) Bauer, who began his career in groups performing soul hits. Alan Silva, an American, is considered by critics the leader and "ideologue" of the trio. His main instrument is the bass, but the 76-year-old musician also plays the piano, drums, cello, and electric violin. British Drummer Roger Turner has been awarded two prizes from the Arts Council of Great Britain, rounds out the group.

The fourth concert is a solo show by Johanna Borchert, in which she will perform as a pianist, composer, and singer. Borchert began as a jazz pianist. She recorded the album FM Biography with guitarist and master of modern avant garde music Fred Frith and other musicians, music from which she regularly performs on her own now, according to the site Jazz.ru. Her solo shows are also more experimental; she often uses a piano and electronics. She will perform Oct. 15.

On the festival's last evening, Oct. 23, German multimedia artist Alfred 23 Hart will take the stage with Japanese guitarist Kazuhisa Uchihashi, who is known for his varied noise experiments, for which he uses the wooden vibrating daxophone.

All concerts are held at the Dom Cultural Center, 24 Bolshoi Ovechennikovsky Per. at 8 p.m.


Russia - Germany 2015
Russia - Germany 2015
Despite the difficult political climate and economic downturn, German companies remain committed to Russia. Read about the challenges facing them, as well as success stories in this supplement.
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