Berlin dreams in music and often doesn’t sleep to dream since, here, the music plays on. From Nov 17th to 20th, SCOPE Festival graced the cultural mecca’s Kreuzberg where four venues brought the humbled mysteries of the North to the stages and ears of those who knew to be where and when. An essence of jazz and folk re-interpretations, XJAZZ Berlin and We Jazz Helsinki pumped in culture- to and for- those tired of the complacent ‘boom boom’.
Thursday evening of the typically tech-house ‘Watergate’, the eye-candy venue on the Spree opened with the graceful sounds of the piano led Kari Ikonen Trio, jolly in their interpretations that eve. The Berliner X Helsinki Ensemble, offered as the main course exclusively for SCOPE, brought together 12 talented performers. Master of ceremonies with his tell-tale tarnished trumpet, the effortlessly gentle but pronounced notes of Studnitzky led the ensemble’s dance of improvisation with a wordy and precise rhythm.
Discord or solitude
Bold and whispering in a glass room, the horns inclusive of Timo Lassy on the tenor-sax, made themselves known in discord or solitude, then united in synchrony or play. Uri Gincel’s dancing fingers on the Rhodes piano played with animation and vigorous groove, while Abdissa Assefa filled out the air with shakers and slips of organic percussion.
A rare break in the jazz theme followed in the last performance, with the rough rap rebel Noah Kin. Fast on the tongue and hazy with the beat, the crowd danced and swayed with beers in hand to the ‘Rebel Rebel’. Those who could sneak away to the neighboring ‘Coba’ bar caught a breeze of Linear John’s jazz-infused electronica shuffle. The rhythm and soft familiar voice you’d take with you on a road trip, “Hits With A Twist”, as does his new album with the same name.
Friday night proved to be a favorite for this Berliner, at the FluxFM venue- FluxBau
The collaboration of Berlin’s consistently innovative Dejan Terzic on the liberated drums with virtuoso rhythm, Parisian Alexandra Grimal’s voice, poetics, and sweet saxophone, as well as Helsinki’s Kalle Kalima on the living electric guitar. Just because I get goosebumps, does it mean you would? Probably. Elementally the trio is strong, cerebrally unpredictable and wild even, and collaboratively entirely compelling. Jazz metal? No, I think it’s called free and experimental. The scrapes and whisper of the drums, the pounding, the vocals reading Goethe’s ‘Prometheus’ piece, the heavy rifts and hair guitar. Moved and moving.
The crowds pour in for the second act, Berliners surely, and just as many Finns. Berlin’s admired live and hazy electronica boy Jaakko Eino Kalevi, (there’s a song in case you fret with the pronunciation), is performing with a unique 9 piece configuration of Finnish friends and a small ‘symphony’ of instruments. The execution of his classic Töölö Labyrinth album is climactic and vivid, and the girls in the crowd dance, despite or in favor of, the jazz.
Seventies: stay back
Though the program has several Saturday offerings, I reserve my final strength for the Sunday hurrah at Bi Nuu, Lido’s other hotspot. Tonight, it’s the big band jazz psychedelia of Jimi Tenor & the Afro-beat band Kabu Kabu, opened by the blue lo-fi groove of BubaWiiAa. Jimi tries to swoon the crowd, with his dapper tuxedo of floral print. Seventies: stay back.
Moving from the saxophone to the Korg keys, occasionally singing something of a Bowie impersonation, the jazz is standard and not, sometimes adorned with the pound of bongo drummers and African percussives, as well as flutes that create some kind of beach theme before the funk kicks back in.
It eventually ends, and we sleep again. A lovely weekend with acoustic memories and a stellar reminder that jazz is living, dynamic, and very varied. Find your approachable version, and move your own mind. Maybe in Helsinki too.