Schmutz Guide to XJazz Festival 2017

By Nolan Parker
4 months

Here we go again, it’s XJazz time!!

Kicking off next week, from May 3rd to the 7th, XJazz is a unique festival when put in the context of the Berlin live music landscape. One of the main goals of XJazz is to blur and break the boundaries of jazz, experimental electronic, neo-classical and other genres to give Berlin something not always witnessed. XJazz is also a multi-venue, multi-day event, taking place in some of the most iconic venues in the city including Funkhaus Berlin, Emmauskirche, Bi Nuu, Lido, Prince Charles, Privatclub, Monarch and Watergate. No other Berlin music festival offers such an eclectic roster of artists, performing in such unique spaces. The Schmutz team is especially keen to see the performances at the historical Funkhaus and Emmauskirche.

Every year XJazz Festival has an international partner that forms the backbone of the booking and performances taking place. This year XJazz has announced Poland as their partner. The two countries have always had a passionate cultural exchange, inside the musical arena and out. For this year’s festival, XJazz has organized an exchange of artists to come to Berlin and collaborate with local musicians. This special line-up includes The Berlin x Warsaw Ensemble collaboration, Stargaze featuring Käptn Peng & Malikah and Wallis Bird performing together with Berlin musicians. What Schmutz has got for you jazz cats is a little guide to XJazz 2017 with our favorite shows and recommended listening for good measure with a playlist. Dig it, ya jive turkeys!


The festival starts out with a bang in what is probably the most unique event space of the festival, Emmauskirche. The collaboration of Cyminology & Korhan Erel will be the act to christen the church on behalf of the festival. This collab is comprised of the Berlin quartette Cyminology and the sound architect Korhan Erel, and will be serving up minimalistic improvisations and compositions starting at 18:00. Following Cyminology & Korhan Erel we get the pleasure of the Berlin based composer Martyn Heyne in Emmauskirche. With his one guitar, drum machine, pedals and loops, Heyne builds variations on a theme until you forget where you started but can’t wait to arrive where you’re going. The third act of the evening is Dillon. With her engaging vocals and experimental take on pop music, she’ll fill Emmauskirche to the rafters with emotion. To round out this whopper of an opening night we’ve got the drones and jazz saxophone of Rain Sultanov & Isfar Sarabski. This performance is especially not to be missed if you’re interested in the cultural development of Azerbaijan. Sultanov has been an integral part of the jazz scene in Azerbaijan and that history can be felt when listening to his compositions. Rolf Kühn will also be playing a show at 19:45 at Watergate on the 4th. The legendary German clarinetist will be opening Watergate for the night but have no fear, if you miss him tonight he’ll be playing with his brother at Funkhaus on Sunday the 7th.

Friday, May 5th:
Schmutz will be doing a bit of venue hopping to catch the shows we’re feeling. Our first stop is the XBerg classic, Lido. Our buds in Liima will be gushing their world and jazz informed versions of pop and indie. They kick off at 21:15 sharp, giving us enough time to catch them and then hustle back over to Emmauskirche to catch Federico Albanese at 01:00 (technically on Saturday morning, but this is Berlin…). Albanese’s works are akin to the great modern minimalist composers, think Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Federico Albanese’s performance will reach for and fill every nook and cranny of Emmauskirche.
Saturday May, 6th:
Third day’s a charm! With the evening of Saturday the 6th, we see more Schmutz buddies rolling through XJazz Festival. Opening the night in Emmauskirche we’ve got the Portland, Oregon virtuoso Peter Broderick. Broderick is hot off the heels of his two 2016 releases, Partners and Grunewald (check out our album review for Partners here). The latter was recorded in just one night just outside of Berlin in the Grunewald Church. His work on this mini-album is minimal while at the same time creating a growing sense of corners to be explored, begging the listener to listen to the record over and over. Our next recommendation is right around the corner at Privatclub with Chat Noir. They’ll be taking the stage at 21:30. Chat Noir have been around the block and have expanded their sound over the years to include electronics and sequencers, producing what we’ll see at Privatclub, their doomed out jazz feels.
Sunday, May 7th:
For the closing night of XJazz Festival 2017, they have certainly saved some of the best for last. All of the shows tonight will take place at Berlin’s now legendary GRD Radio Headquarters turned venue and recording studio, Funkhaus Berlin. Opening the closer, we have Rolf and Joachim Kühn, two brothers that have been shaping and reshaping the idea of jazz for decades. They’re not often seen round these parts, so best to get out to Funkhaus for this 17:00 show early. Though there are the wonderful acts of Jacob Collier and Matthew Halsall & Dwight Trible making up the meat of this jazz sandwich, Schmutz is brimming with excitement for the closer of the entire festival Pantha du Prince. His takes influence from all over the musical map: jazz (obviously), classical, hip-hop, ambient, noise, etc. His closing set, sure to turn dance party, will be one for the books.
Check out the official XJazz website here for full listings and tickets for all the excellent gigs for their 2017 festival!

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