15 October 2016

Rings true, what they say

It’ a common refrain that the standard of musicians in Berlin is very high. I went to one of many jam sessions in Berlin, this one at the ZigZag club, and I can only confirm it. The host band was as good as I can even imagine! A trumpet tone to die for, soft and fat like a flugelhorn but not, playing some long devastating runs and lovely melodic snippets and space around them all. Astounding harmonic flexibility that saw the piano all over and outside the structure. I could follow most (with great pleasure) even if I felt one got beyond me (and perhaps the rest of the band). But this was hugely driving and infectious and an improvisational tour de force in the modern jazz vein. Bass was immensely strong, along with drums. No let off in intensity or commitment, but there were changes of feel and groove all over. Bass could lay out syncopated lines with firmness and power but also with dense improv, both embellishing the obligatos and laying out wonderfully expressive solos. This was a jam so I got up. The bass was strung with gut (and Spirocore E string) and I can confirm it was a handful, so there was plenty of strength in Paul’s hands as well as in his ideas. A later addition to the host band was guitar, and he, too, was strong as. Happy to sit out but wonderfully effective when he played, soloing idiosyncratically in short bursts or comping some interesting chords. Then the jammers. Mostly not in the ballpark of the hosts, but none-the-less worthwhile and skilled. I liked that no charts were allowed. Pianist and host band and jam leader, Uri, was colourfully damning of their use and it worked. We negotiated known tunes and sometimes just faked it and so learnt from the experience and grew confidence in our ears. A true jazz lesson learnt there. Then, the jokes and good-natured chatter and drinks after. This was a memorable night and perhaps the best exposure to jazz in Berlin that I could imagine. And there are numerous other jam sessions around this town, most nights, amongst a plethora of jazz venues, then there’s the experimental scene too. And, of course, the classical scene, Berlin Philharmonic and the rest.

ZigZag jazz club staged its weekly Tuesday night jam sessions. The host band was led by Uri Gincel (piano) with Sebastian Studnitzky (trumpet), Paul Kleber (bass) and Tobi Backhaus (drums). Igor Osypov (guitar) sat in with this band later.

  • Jazz guide Berlin
  • Jazzy Berlin - jam sessions
  • Experimental music & free jazz in Berlin
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